Ontario bans Airbnb and short-term vacation rentals during pandemic

Under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act, Airbnb rentals will only be allowed for those in need of housing


The province of Ontario has temporarily banned Airbnb and other short-term rentals during the coronavirus pandemic.

Issued under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act, the ruling stipulates that as of 11:59 pm on April 4, short-term rentals are only permitted for individuals “who are in need of housing during the emergency period.” 

On April 3, the provincial government updated the list of essential businesses that are allowed to stay open during the pandemic, culling the list from 74 to 44. The emergency order will be in effect for 14 days and could be extended. 

If found breaking the emergency law, individual hosts could face fines up to $100,000 and $10,000,000 for corporations.

Motels, hotels and student residences are not affected by the new ruling.

“While this ban leaves the door open to legitimate use, it effectively shuts down still-occurring party rentals and non-essential travel,” said Thorben Wieditz of Fairbnb Canada, in a statement. A coalition of affordable housing advocates, hotel workers and residents, Fairbnb has been calling on the province to prohibit short-term rentals during the pandemic.

Earlier this month, some condo buildings known for a high percentage of Airbnb units like ICE condos at York and Lake Share West and Maple Leaf Square condos on Bremner have prohibited short-term stays. At ICE, management told residents that any bookings for less than 28 days had to be cancelled.

In Toronto, Airbnb hosts who list multiple properties – commonly known as “ghost hotels” – are feeling the brunt of the decimation of the tourism and hospitality industry, with some debating selling their properties rather than renting out long-term.

In a letter dated March 17, Airbnb’s public policy director Alex Dagg wrote to deputy prime minister Chrystia Freeland asking the federal government for sales tax relief for hosts, employment insurance for hosts who do not qualify for EI and allow hosts to defer taxable income.

“Leisure travel should not occur right now and we have encouraged our host and guest community to follow all restrictions,” said Dagg in a statement to NOW Magazine. “We’re glad the Province of Ontario recognizes the many situations where short-term rentals remain an available resource during this crisis, including for frontline responders, other workers requiring isolation and those sheltering in place during this crisis.”

On April 3, Airbnb announced new rules, including prohibiting listing titles “that could be interpreted as exploiting the pandemic, such as marketing around escaping COVID-19” and promoting a listing as being “well stocked on limited resources such as hand sanitizer or toilet paper.”

@SamEdwardsTO

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