Thu. May 19th, 2022

One of the hottest trends of the summer may soon be explored by city councilors and city staff in Toronto.

The popularity of private pool rentals in the backyard has risen since May – and is reaping huge revenue for some pool owners in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), according to Swimply, the online platform that shows them. But they also cause severe headaches for some neighbors.

“A single pool rental location in my department disrupted several families’ enjoyment of their properties this summer,” said Deputy Mayor Denzil MInnan-Wong in a proposal to the council Monday that urges city staff to look at regulating the industry.

“In Toronto, we should expect this service to grow significantly for next year’s pool season. The next six months are the ideal time to analyze this issue and develop an approach to managing it next summer.”

Homeowners have increasingly used Swimply, which acts as the “matchmaker”, according to the company’s vice president of growth Sonny Mayugba, between those with unused backyard pools and people who pay by the hour to take a dip.

Alina Dusa and her husband, Marco Sosa, say the constant buzz from the neighbor’s pool parties has left them stressed and scared. They want to see the city stop short-term pool rentals altogether. (Sam Nar / CBC)

The California-based service expanded to GTA in the summer of 2020, with only about a dozen pool owners attending, according to Mayugba.

By the end of this past summer, nearly 1,000 hosts had signed up, he said. And he expects the number of pools available in GTA to be three to five times higher by next summer.

But that growth has worried some people.

A page from Swimply’s Toronto section shows pools across the GTA that can be rented for up to $ 150 an hour. The company’s vice president of growth, Sonny Mayugba, says the number of hosts has jumped from just 12 by 2020 to almost 1,000 by the end of this past summer. (Swimply)

Minnan-Wong said in his department, Don Valley East, that he has heard horror stories from voters, and therefore he is introducing the proposal on the possibility of regulating platforms for renting backyard pools.

But that’s not enough for residents of a neighborhood near Eglinton Avenue East and Victoria Park Avenue, where a homeowner rented out his pool using Swimply.

‘There was noise all the time’

“It’s very, very scary,” Alina Dusa told CBC Toronto. “A lot of traffic, cars, people hanging out on the street, even at night … drunk people fall on the neighbors’ lawns and stay there for hours.

“We couldn’t go out in the backyard anymore because there was noise all the time.”

She and some of her neighbors do not want the pool rental service regulated. They want it shut down forever.

Deputy Mayor Denzil Minnan-Wong, representing Section 16, Don Valley East, will ask the council to refer city staff to investigate the short-term pool rental industry, which is growing in the GTA by leaps and bounds. (Mike Smee / CBC)

Two years ago, after complaints about noisy parties on short-term stays offered by online services like Airbnb, the city began to regulate this industry. By the end of 2019, those who enter their units must live on the property, register in the city and pay a municipal tax.

While Swimply’s website has a page explaining how unhappy neighbors can help shut down irresponsible hosts, Dusa said the company did not help her despite repeated complaints.

In that case, the hosts eventually voluntarily stopped hosting after the city accused them of violating health department rules.

But another angry neighbor, Ilesh Engineer, said the city should do more.

“I appeal to the city and concerned officials to do something about this – it should be stopped permanently,” he said. “City-wide … Ontario-wide, I would say.”

Minnan-Wong wants staff to investigate some of the issues that arise “and if we are to regulate it, we should.”

He said that although some existing city rules could be used to shut down unruly pool owners – such as zoning regulations that prohibit people from making money from renting out their pool, guidelines for property standards, noise regulations or public health regulations – enforcing those measures could take time.

New rules could be ready by next summer

Minnan-Wong said now is the time to look into regulating the industry, while most pools are closed during the winter.

He said new rules, if justified after a staff survey, could be in place by next summer, when he expects the number of pools for hire to have grown even more – an assessment Mayugba agrees.

“It really is a thriving market and these hosts [are] delivers great experiences, “he said. They make some good money and of course the guests just love it. “

He said pool rental rates range from $ 15 an hour to $ 150. His business takes a cut of 15 percent of revenue. Mayugba said neighbors can file complaints by phone, email or live chat.

And if a complaint turns out to be valid?

‘Families use this to get exercise’

“If anyone violates these Terms of Service, we obviously have the option to shut these things down,” Mayugba said. “And many times, these things shut down in real time.

“We’ve had a couple of occasions where people don’t represent the experience they say they were going to where they said,‘ Hey, we’re coming with two people, ’and they show up with 10. We get ahead of it then as fast as we can. “

But problem visitors are few and far between, Mayugba said. Most tenants, he said, are small families who just want to cool off.

“Ninety percent of the booking comes from mothers with children, mother and father with children, father with children,” he said.

“It’s families that use this to get exercise.”

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