After hours of listening to those renting the Airbnb unit screaming, fighting and partying, Azman left to stay at her boyfriend’s. When she returned in the morning, a police car and the building now featured bullet damage.
A Toronto police spokesperson said they received a call around 3:33 a.m. on Sunday after reports of gun shots.
A neighbour told police they had seen someone run into the street and flash what they thought was a gun. Police said no one was located with injuries at the home, but they did locate bullet holes.
“Last night I couldn’t sleep,” said Azman. “This is the first time I’m feeling like very unsafe living in my own house.”
While pointing out the three pockmarks left from bullets on her and her neighbour’s home, Azman discovered another bullet in the front garden.
“We need to protect this street,” said Azman, noting her concern is not just for her and her 15-year-old son, but her neighbours as well.
While this is the first time a party at the Airbnb has resulted in gunfire, Azman said she has voiced concerns over loud parties before. Two weeks ago, she said a band from France used the unit to record music late into the night.
Azman said the homes’ owner Nevil Keogh hasn’t been taking the issue seriously enough and isn’t confident he can prevent further parties.
“It could be good for a couple of months and then this could happen again,” she said.
Keogh told Global News the complaints about loud parties were “exaggerated” and said he rented primarily to families. Later in a written statement, Keogh said “despite extensive interviews and a face-to-face meeting, the young women who stayed at our house let things get out of hand.” He added that his family was shaken by the weekend gunfire.
“We would never want anything to happen to our neighbours who we care about, so we are taking our house off the short-term rental market,” wrote Keogh.
Toronto-Danforth Coun. Paula Fletcher said Keogh’s home shouldn’t have been hosting Airbnb rentals in the first place.
“This is an illegal Airbnb,” said Fletcher, noting the city’s bylaws on short-term rentals which were currently upheld at the Local Planning Appeals Tribunal.
Under the city’s rules for short-term rentals (less than 28-consecutive days), only people using their principal residence can rent a unit on Airbnb. But a city spokesperson said in an email that staff are only responding to issues on a complaint basis.
Fletcher said the city needs to move faster to begin enforcing the bylaw. “I’m writing to them to say ‘when will (the rules) be in place?’” she said.
This hasn’t been the first time a party at an Airbnb ended with violence. Following a Halloween shooting in a San Francisco suburb, the company took steps to crack down on open parties advertising on social media.
But Airbnb’s policy doesn’t impact parties that are approved by hosts. The company does provide ways to report rowdy parties, with the threat of removing an account.
Airbnb spokesperson Lindsey Scully said in a statement that the company is outraged at the reported behaviour over the weekend.
“We have removed the booking guest from our community and suspended the listing as we investigate further,” she wrote.
Fairbnb Canada, an advocacy group calling for a crackdown on short-term rentals, told Global News this latest incident shows the policy isn’t working.
“To our knowledge, Airbnb has not removed any known party houses in Toronto,” said Thorben Wieditz in an email.