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Toronto's first short-term rental fine considered exception to the rule

The owner of a Willowdale home that was the site of a shooting in March was fined $10,000 for violating city bylaws.

The home, shown here in this file photo, was the scene of a March 2016 shooting.

Torstar News Service

The home, shown here in this file photo, was the scene of a March 2016 shooting.

A hefty fine doled out to the owner of a Willowdale home involved in short-term rentals shouldn’t be considered the new norm, a Toronto expert said. 

“I think this is a fairly extreme example of a host in terms of their behaviour,” said Daniel Guttentag, an assistant professor at the Ted Rogers School of Hospitality and Tourism Management. “I don’t think that this sort of fine is going to be typical.” 

A judge handed down the $10,000 penalty Wednesday after the owner was found in violation of a North York bylaw that requires short-term rentals be for seven days or more.

The Willowdale home was the site of large parties, neighbours told the city, and brought a constant turnover of strangers into the neighbourhood. There was a shooting there last March. 

City staff are in the midst of figuring out how to deal with short-term rentals and will make recommendations to city council in June.

The Willowdale house hasn’t been on Airbnb for some time and wasn’t being rented through the company’s website when the shooting happened, company spokesman Christopher Nulty said in an email. 

If anything, he said, stories like this “underline Airbnb’s commitment” to working with the city on regulations. 

Thorben Wieditz, a spokesperson for the Fairbnb coalition that’s lobbying for regulation, believes the Willowdale case will serve as a deterrent to those flouting bylaws.

“There are many ways to send a signal to hosts and, in particular to commercial hosts, that they have to pay for it one way or another,” he said.

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