Private rentals an alternative to hotels for TIFF visitors
Published Thursday, September 4, 2008 2:34PM EDT
Last Updated Friday, May 18, 2012 8:57PM EDT
TORONTO - Continental breakfasts, wake-up calls and mini-bars have never particularly appealed to filmmaker Astra Taylor, who's in town for the Toronto International Film Festival.
When the 28-year-old travels, she prefers to trade what she considers generic, expensive accommodations for bargain-priced, homey digs.
Taylor is among film industry professionals who have booked short-term rentals during their stay here -- either from private individuals giving up their apartments or from small companies that offer fully furnished rooms near the big attraction.
"We just would rather be somewhere with character and with some love put into it," said the New York-based Canadian documentarian, who is premiering her film "Examined Life" at the festival.
"It's so much better to be in an environment that's lived in . . . You're visiting a city that's not your home and it's nice to experience it for a moment as if it were."
Taylor was scouring rental listings about a month before the festival. For $700 she scored a one-bedroom sublet for 10 days in the eclectic neighbourhood of Kensington Market. She's putting up her parents in a Little Italy bachelor pad for $299 a week.
Such arrangements, frequently booked through popular online classified sites like the free Craigslist.com, are viewed by both parties to the transaction as win-win.
Weekly rates are often a steal compared to the centrally located, high-priced hotels. Rooms at the fully booked Soho Metropolitan hotel, for example, cost between $400 and $800 per night.
And private renters, who don't mind crashing on someone else's couch while a stranger takes over their space, can take in a tidy sum -- often a whole month's rent over the 10 days.
"I was just like, all right, let's try it. It works," said Dan Rajagopalan, who was coaxed by a friend in real estate to offer his 35th-floor suite for rent during the festival at $125 a night (minimum six nights).
"I've seen it in other places, I've stayed in other places, and I'm like, wow, these guys are making good money doing short-term (rentals)."
People who do short-term arrangements can usually ask higher prices than normal rental rates, said Chris Antipas, board of directors' vice-president for the Association of Condominium Managers of Ontario.
"What you get on a one-week, two-week basis may be substantially higher than what you can get on a long-term, guaranteed revenue," he said.
Homeowners may view the cash as low-fret revenue, he said, because there are few legal implications to worry about, such as the tenants not moving out.
"Most of them are, I guess, of affluent background, so there isn't much concern that there's going to be damage in the unit," Antipas added.
According to the province's Residential Tenancies Act, a subtenant is liable to the tenant in these situations -- although the tenant remains liable to the landlord.
But condo owners must first turn to their corporations's bible -- its declaration and bylaws -- to determine whether short-term rentals are permitted, said Armand Conant, a condo lawyer with Heenan Blaikie LLP.
As of mid-July, more than 40 listings for film fest rentals were posted on Craigslist alone.
Another 20 or so listings for temporary, fully furnished high-end suites in condos in the heart of downtown were being offered on the Multiple Listing Service, run by the Canadian Real Estate Association.
Vince Brescia, president and CEO of the Federation of Rental-housing Providers of Ontario, said it's likely a good number of transitory arrangements are flying under the radar -- although in most cases, a landlord is supposed to be apprised first of a subletting agreement.
"Just for convenience purposes, I suspect the tenants might be trying to skip that step," he said, because the rental period is so brief and subletting may require the landlord doing time-consuming background checks.
It's that simplicity of a "handshake deal" that attracts people like Taylor to the short-term rental. Comfort without the fuss is how Glenn Hughes describes it.
As the founder of the Loft Group, a rentals company with five fully furnished lofts that he and his partner frequently rent to the film community, he says maintaining privacy -- especially for high-profile stars -- is key.
"It's nice to walk out your door and know that there's no paparazzi there."