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Toronto condo owner decries restrictions on Airbnb home sharing

Council will soon be considering short-term rental regulations but as one Toronto condominium owner is learning, the city’s proposed regulations may not solve all disputes.

Toronto condo owner Nick Christoforou is headed for arbitration with his building's board after he was told he violated condo rules around short-term rentals.

CARLOS OSORIO / Torstar News Service Order this photo

Toronto condo owner Nick Christoforou is headed for arbitration with his building's board after he was told he violated condo rules around short-term rentals.

Toronto council will soon consider short-term rental regulations allowing homeowners to use online services like Airbnb, with conditions.

But as one Toronto condominium owner is learning, what’s proposed likely won’t solve all disputes.

Nick Christoforou, 53, is heading to arbitration with his condo board after he said he rented out his spare bedroom to one professional at a time through Airbnb for a total of 70 nights between 2016 and 2017.

The Radio City condo board, which did not respond to requests for comment for this story, says he violated the corporation’s rules prohibiting renting or leasing a unit for less than six months, or using it as a rooming or boarding house, it said in a letter sent to Christoforou in April 2016. Christoforou denies these allegations.

“In some respects it’s a technical argument over what activity is and is not permitted by the rules of the building because the rules are worded in a particular way,” said Christoforou’s lawyer Tim Duggan.

The condo board told residents it was concerned short-term or rental-sharing arrangements would increase security costs, adversely affect property values and lead to abuse and increased wear and tear of amenities, according to an email sent April 2017.

“I don’t think what I was doing is unreasonable. I’m living in my place, and hosting people after I’ve screened them. It’s not a burden to the rest of the condo building,” said Christoforou, adding since the dispute escalated this past summer, he’s stopped using Airbnb,

Regardless of what council decides at its meeting starting Dec. 5, condo boards, under provincial legislation, still have final say if they want to make their rules more restrictive, which staff acknowledges in their report presented to the licensing and standards committee Nov. 14.

“We try to stay out of the way of the relationships between condo boards and tenants,” said Carleton Grant, City of Toronto policy director. “If condo boards allow (short-term rentals), then tenants can participate.”

The number of Airbnb listings in Toronto tripled from 2014 to 2016 and 10,800 listed properties were rented in 2016, according to the city.

City staff has put forward three tactics to eliminate potential disruptions and nuisances caused by Airbnb guests, and stop the city’s housing stock from being converted to short-term rental units, said a staff report.

These tactics include zoning changes to permit short-term rentals in the homeowner’s residence, a registry and licensing program, and taxation.

The registry would require participating residents to sign up with the city and pay an annual licensing fee. Companies like Airbnb would need to secure a license, only advertise registered homes and crack down on listings that cause neighbourhood problems.

Christoforou said the proposed regulations are all ones he’d be happy to comply with, but doesn’t agree that condo boards should have the power to ban Airbnb from buildings altogether.

“It should be a fundamental right of any homeowner, even a condo owner, to have guests in their home without permission from the board, whether it is relatives staying for the weekend or a friend or boyfriend sharing expenses, or someone else through Airbnb,” Christoforou said.

Christoforou has started a GoFundMe page to help him pay for the arbitration process and “save home sharing for condo owners.”

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