Toronto has made its first conviction of an Airbnb user, after the company that owns a house where a shooting happened earlier this year pleaded guilty to a zoning bylaw regulation.
The house, in Willowdale, which had been subject to numerous complaints, was found to be rented out to a couple from Ottawa for four nights when licensing inspectors visited the property in October 2015, Toronto Star
There were also a number of occasions in October and November when city inspectors called to the house and found that it was being rented out on a short-term basis, with visitors from California, Quebec and Prince Edward Island paying up to $199 a night, city prosecutor Geoffrey Uyeno said in court.
From internet searches, Uyeno also found that the house was advertised as sleeping up to 12 people, with five or six bedrooms, and three bathrooms.
An incident on March 20, when party-goers emerged from the house after a man was shot in the head, was not referenced during the hearing, which concerned only a specific zoning bylaw violation.
The house has not been rented out and has been vacant for the last six months, Uyeno noted.
Existing North York bylaws, which continue to apply while a consistent system is revised, state that short-term home rentals must be for seven days or more.
A guilty plea was entered on Tuesday at the Toronto East Court in Scarborough by Yan Pan Zhao, on behalf of the company, 2391324 Ontario, which owns the house on 5 Glenelia Ave.
Zhao said his wife Dan Wei is the sole officer and director of the numbered company.
The conviction is the first for the city’s municipal and licensing department in the area of short-term vacation rentals such as Airbnb and VRBO, though there are 25 active investigations related to short-term rentals ongoing, the report said.
Toronto city council staff are looking at how the area’s short-term rental market can be regulated, as the home-sharing industry continues to boom.
Airbnb data shows that 9,460 rooms or entire units in Toronto were rented on the platform in 2015 — up double from 2014, the report said.
Justice of the peace Gerry Altobello agreed to delay sentencing until January on the grounds that the property would be put on the market in the next seven days, with a purchase and sale agreement expected to follow.
“The defendant wants to come back with the cleanest of hands,” Uyeno said in court. “They have hired a real estate agent and intend to put it on the market.”
The maximum penalty for a conviction is $50,000, though the justice of the peace has discretion at sentencing, including issuing a conviction with no penalty.
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