Short-term rentals cause Hazel St. row

[attach]1661[/attach][attach]1662[/attach]A dispute between two neighbours on a sleepy avenue in the Beach has escalated to a fever pitch with neighbours taking sides, city inspectors brought out to assess the situation and a councillor at her wits’ end.

“It’s time to put it to rest,” said an exasperated Councillor Sandra Bussin.

The trouble is over 8 Hazel Ave., a newly renovated home valued over $1 million that owner Stuart Defreitas has been renting out to travellers and his clients in the real estate business.

He spent a reported $400,000 renovating the property and chooses short-terms rentals in order to have it available whenever he want its. The rest of the time, he rents it out.

“Why not?” asked Defreitas, in a phone interview. “In my situation it would be stupid of me not to (have) other people use my property when I’m not.”

But for the DeSousa family next door and some of their neighbours, the situation is less than desirable.

“It’s not safe for kids having transients in on a nightly basis,” said William DeSousa, who lives next door with his wife and his two young children.

Beyond the perceived safety threat, DeSousa said he’s tired of the noise.

“During the film festival last year he had it rented out to a whole bunch of paparazzi types. There were taxis coming every 20 minutes,” he said. “We’re on a very small street and it does bring a heavy volume of traffic.”

DeSousa also cites a weekend stag party that was so rowdy he had to bring his kids inside.

“It’s not really something we need to be exposed to,” said DeSousa.

In an email to Bussin dated Feb. 22, Hazel Avenue resident Shelly Spence complained of a wedding in the backyard “that ruined every neighbours’ weekend.”

Defreitas admitted the stag party was a mistake and said these days, he only rents the property to single families.

“I screen the people that come here. I call references,” said Defreitas, who said he only rents the house for profit about 30 days a year.

“I don’t want to disturb my neighbours,” he said.

For Bussin, the issue is clear.

“I had sent out every single department to review this, including parking issues. The owner is completely within the law,” she said.

For Defreitas’s home to be considered a violation of the zoning, it would have to meet the definition of a hotel, said Armando Barbini, of the city’s Building Division.

“I don’t think you’ll find that it is going to fit that (definition),” Barbini said. “People lease their houses all the time, we don’t tell them how long they can lease them for.”

DeSousa wants that changed. He’s attempting to rally support from his neighbours to see zoning bylaws amended to disallow this type of rental.

Where the DeSousas see a bustling business interrupting their idyllic residential street, Bussin sees it as no different than other
short-term rentals.

“I cannot figure out what kind of bylaw that would be, that would preclude this but not all the other scenarios,” Bussin said. “Even if I were in favour of it I’m not sure how the legal department would craft this bylaw.”

In the meantime, the relationship between the once-friendly neighbours is souring.

At a May 12 Committee of Adjustment meeting where Defreitas was applying for permission to build a garage on his property, DeSousa showed up with photos and documents that were enough to convince the committee to reject Defreitas’ request. Now Defreitas is seeking legal counsel to stop what he terms harassment.

“It’s a beautiful street and I know there’s a little more use going on than one might like, but I’m not sure what the goal is,” Bussin said. “There’s an unpleasant atmosphere that’s being created.”