Winnipeg condominium owners call for regulations and taxes on short-term rentals

A number of Winnipeg condominium owners describe short-term suite rentals in their buildings as “horrendous,” resulting in sleepless nights and multiple calls for emergency services.

Short term units are often marketed through web-based sites such as Airbnb and Nest Host. 

The residents were at the city’s executive policy committee (EPC) in support of a pair of motions to have Winnipeg develop regulations and apply accommodation taxes on the rentals. 

Councillors on EPC voted 7-0 to have the civil service prepare a report laying the groundwork for new rules and charges.

“My neighbouring Airbnb units have been used for parties, which usually results in loud music and noises late into the night, at the minimum, said Sinan Leylek, who sits on the 311 Hargrave (Glasshouse) Condo Corporation Board.

“But also verbal and physical fights. I have had party-goers hop over the glass on my high-rise balcony and bang on my window at three in the morning,”

Leylek said his survey of the building has identified approximately 50 Airbnb suites in the Glasshouse building, with all the units, on his floor short-term rentals, other than his own.

It has meant calls to 911, false fire alarms and guests in the short-term rentals throwing glass and other items off the balcony windows. 

A few blocks away at the Ashdown Warehouse in the Exchange District, there are similar complaints; perhaps even more graphic.

Penny McMillan, the chair of the building’s Condominium Board, told councillors that there were fewer problems before the pandemic, as many short-term renters were business people who were quiet, did their work and left.

Now she describes it is “horrendous.” 

“Last year it exploded in a way that was completely beyond anything we might have expected,” she said.

McMillan described yelling, screaming and swearing at anytime of the day or night.

“You are in a hallway. It’s just like a sidewalk. It’s very close. And you are suddenly facing a sex trade worker or drug user. Individuals who are there for a fix, because the pimp or supplier is selling drugs out of the next door condominium,” McMillan told EPC members. 

Penny McInnis with the condominium corporation of the Ashdown Warehouse says the short-term renters frequently violate public health orders. (Trevor Brine/CBC )

McMillan says the building manager is now “on a first-name basis with police and  “it’s not safe and we are all helpless.” 

Both Leylek and McMillan said there are constant breaches of public health orders; short-term renters often refuse to wear masks in common areas and have parties in the suites. 

Counc. Markus Chambers (St. Norbert – Seine River) and Counc. Kevin Klein (Charleswood-Tuxedo-Westwood) made a pair of motions calling for city staff to develop rules around the short-stay suites.

Scott Jocelyn, the president of the Manitoba Hotel Association, joined in on the request, saying the use of suites for this purpose has become an industry.

“The fact is, short term rentals are businesses. Sometimes big businesses, There are operators that own many units and essentially operate as unregulated hotels,” Jocelyn told the committee. 

A spokesperson for Airbnb responded to the concerns of the condominium owners via email. 

“Airbnb is currently the only short-term rental platform to ban parties globally and maintain a 24/7 Neighbourhood Support Line and we continue to prioritize the safety of communities,” a spokesperson wrote in an email. 

“We look forward to working with the City of Winnipeg to ensure that it is able to fully benefit from the type of travel enabled by Airbnb.”