Canada's Condominium Magazine
Imagine coming home from work one day and finding a stranger making a cup of tea in your kitchen. This is what happened to a Toronto woman last spring. The stranger was a legitimate guest who had booked a room in the woman’s condo through Airbnb. The room the guest had booked was the woman’s own bedroom. She posted a picture of the room with the stranger’s clothes lying all over the place. The room had been listed for rent, unknown to the woman, by her roommate.
Aside from the incredible irresponsibility on the roommate’s part—the woman owns the condo and sublets to the roommate, who rented the room out without telling the woman—the presence of an overnight renter in a condo is problematic for other reasons. It probably violates the rules and regulations, or by-laws, of the condominium corporation. It could be illegal.
Most condo owners don’t want to see their buildings turned into hotels, with “guests” coming and going at all hours. It doesn’t matter that the vast majority of Airbnb users are perfectly respectable, responsible people, there’s an obvious security issue here. As well, renters in nice condo buildings expect to be able to use the common elements; the pool, the sauna, the fitness equipment. These are actually featured in many Airbnb listings to make the places look more appealing. Would you want to share your building’s facilities with strangers?
Check the condo declaration first
Condo owners who are thinking about making a little extra money by renting out their homes, or rooms in those homes, through Airbnb or the like should first consult their condo declaration. If it specifies that units are limited to the use of private single families (however they are defined) and excludes non-related persons from sharing a unit, and further specifies a minimum allowable time for renting the unit, then renting to strangers for one or two nights at a time is most likely not permitted. The language may vary, but the message will be clear.
Condo boards don’t always enforce this type of rule, but if the rule is on the books, it is enforceable. A complaint from a neighbour or security personnel on site is all it would take to get the board roused up to take action.
The condo may also be in an area that is not zoned for commercial use like short-term rentals, though that is not so likely in a place like downtown Toronto. What is and is not permitted will be specified in local municipal by-laws.
Still another consideration is insurance. Anyone renting out his or her home to a stranger runs the risk of damages to the property. This can happen even in the best hotels in the world. Coming home and finding that a guest has trashed the place would be bad enough, worse if the host’s insurance did not cover those damages. It could get even worse than that, though, if the guest damaged property belonging to the corporation—the common elements. If the corporation’s insurance doesn’t cover short-term rentals, the host would almost certainly be held responsible. Short-term leasing could even put the corporation’s insurance in jeopardy, and may be expressly forbidden in the policy.
Airbnb is perfectly legal, of course. It’s extremely popular around the world, and growing more so all the time. But Condo owners have more to consider than other homeowners do, namely their community neighbours and the rules of the corporation.