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Short-term landlords launch court appeal of Toronto’s Airbnb rules

Short-term landlords launch court appeal of Toronto’s Airbnb rules
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The city says it will move ahead with its short-term rental bylaws even though seven landlords for Airbnb-style rentals announced Tuesday they plan to ask a divisional court for leave to appeal the rules that were upheld last month by a provincial planning tribunal.

The landlords use their properties exclusively as tourist rentals rather than homes. Under Toronto’s new bylaw, that would no longer be allowed. Short-term rentals would be restricted to a landlord’s principal residence.

Their lawyer Jason Cherniak said the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (LPAT) Nov. 18 decision contained errors in law.

He said the LPAT failed to determine whether short-term rentals were having a measurable effect on housing affordability.

It also should have ruled on whether short-term rentals — defined under the new city bylaw as less than 28 days — were legal under the old bylaws. The new bylaw specifies the 28 days applies to the rental of a principal residence and a secondary suite — but does not specify that term for rentals outside of a principal residence, Cherniak said.

He said the tribunal has left the door open for existing short-term rental operators to be allowed to continue their business.

If the city allowed short-term rentals prior to the new bylaw, it has to explicitly change the rules to cover all types of residential rentals, including those outside a principal residence, he said.

Short-term rental rules won’t solve housing crisis but they will help, city planner tells tribunal

Fairbnb, a coalition of housing advocates, academics and hotel industry representatives, said the appeal is counter to the public interest.

“There is a lot of money to be made by ghost hotels operating in violation of existing rules and regulations. This is a last ditch effort to throw more of their proceeds at an attempt to continue uses that are not permitted,” said Thorben Wieditz of the pro-regulation group.

Fairbnb agrees with the city that homesharing would still be allowed under the new rules — but limited to 180 days a year for a landlord’s entire principal residence. Landlords could also rent up to three bedrooms in their principal residence year round.

The divisional court could order the LPAT to consider the landlords’ points or it could reject the LPAT decision altogether, Cherniak said. The least likely outcome would be for the court to order the LPAT to set another hearing of the landlords’ appeal of the city rules.

Toronto’s short-term rental bylaw was approved by council in December 2017 and was supposed to take effect in June 2018. But the city held off pending the outcome of the LPAT hearings.

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Another landlord, Alexis Leino, whose legal fees are being paid by Airbnb, won’t be part of the divisional court application, said his lawyer Sarah Corman. It’s possible, she said, he could still ask the LPAT to review the Nov. 18 decision within the 30 days allowed.

Last month’s LPAT ruling was hailed as a major victory for tenants in the city who have been evicted at increasing rates because landlords can make more money renting on a short-term basis. The LPAT heard that as many as 5,000 homes could be returned to the long-term rental market under the new Airbnb restrictions.
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