In all of Old Montreal, it is forbidden to rent apartments to tourists. However, there are hundreds of these illegal accommodations on Airbnb. The City does not carry out inspections to enforce its regulations on tourist residences, relying on the Government of Quebec, whose inspectors do not have the mandate to apply municipal regulations.

Whether it’s a bed in a pseudo “youth hostel” dormitory at $34 a night or a loft with a modern renovated stone wall at $2,000 a night, offers abound for Old Montreal, on Airbnb and other online tourist rental platforms.

Some of the victims of the fire that ravaged a heritage building in Place D’Youville last Thursday were tourists who had rented a room or an apartment there for a few days, according to the Montreal Fire Department.

On Airbnb, there are more than 1,000 listings of accommodations or rooms in Old Montreal.

How is this possible, when such short-term rental tourist residences are prohibited there by municipal zoning? What does the City do to enforce its bylaws?

Officially, there are only “10 establishments having the use of ‘tourist residence’ in the historic sector of Old Montreal,” said a spokesperson for the borough of Ville-Marie, Kim Nantais, who responded in writing last week. to questions from La Presse.

These establishments benefit from acquired rights and were already in operation when the borough adopted, in 2018, its by-law limiting tourist rentals to the area of ​​rue Sainte-Catherine, between rue Atateken and rue Saint-Mathieu.

“No new establishment has obtained a certificate of occupancy for this use since 2018,” adds Ms. Nantais.

Are there municipal inspectors to enforce the bylaw? No, replies Ms. Nantais.

“Short-term rental (tourist accommodation) is the responsibility of the Quebec government, which must issue a classification certificate and an establishment number,” she explains. When a complaint is filed with the Borough of Ville-Marie, it is forwarded to Revenu Québec, which is mandated to carry out inspections, investigations and to issue statements of offense relating to the application of the Act. on tourist accommodation. »

Verification made with Revenu Québec, we are told that their inspectors “do not have the mandate to apply municipal regulations, but rather the Act respecting tourist accommodation”, indicates the spokesperson, Mylène Gagnon, in a response. writing sent to La Presse last Tuesday.

“A municipality sees to compliance with its regulations, in particular through its urban planning inspectors who can find violations. It can request that prohibited uses cease and, if required, bring legal proceedings to this end, “said Jean-Manuel Téotonio, spokesperson for the Ministry of Tourism, in an email sent Thursday.

The Tourist Accommodation Act requires that accommodations rented on a short-term basis to tourists be registered with the Corporation de l’industrie touristique du Québec (CITQ) and that their registration number be displayed at their entrance and on their advertisement. , published online or elsewhere. Owners who do not have this registration number may be penalized by Revenu Québec.

In fact, a minority of online ads on the Airbnb site for accommodation in Quebec display a CITQ number.

In most Montreal boroughs, you must first have obtained an occupancy permit for commercial activity in order to register with the CITQ. Elsewhere, you must obtain a notice of compliance from your municipality.

Why not ask Airbnb to require the CITQ number before posting ads?

“The legislative and regulatory provisions relating to the display of the registration number […] apply to the operator of a tourist accommodation establishment and not to those who distribute the accommodation offer”, replies M . Teotonio.

In the office of Mayor Valérie Plante, we deny being lax about the measures taken to enforce these bans.

“Since 2018, our boroughs have been working to regulate and oversee the practice of short-term rentals in Montreal. Zoning rules have been changed in several boroughs to limit the practice to specific sectors. For its part, the Quebec government has given the necessary powers to Revenu Québec inspectors to enforce the Tourist Accommodation Act, “said press officer Marikym Gaudrault in a written response sent Saturday evening.

“For years, the City has been sounding the alarm to obtain the necessary resources from Revenu Québec to crack down on offenders. With the arrival of the new regulations from the Government of Quebec on March 25, we reiterate the urgency of going even further to regulate illegal tourist accommodation practices. »

The Corporation of Quebec Property Owners (CORPIQ) has also called in the past for stricter application of the law governing short-term tourist rentals. According to a survey of 1,200 of its members last year, 4.78% said they had found themselves in situations where tenants, without the landlord’s permission, had illegally sublet accommodation on a platform such as Airbnb.

For their part, Airbnb representatives did not respond to La Presse’s request for an interview.

Number of listings in Montreal according to the Inside Airbnb site: 14,000