The number of listings on Airbnb has dropped by half in Montreal since the platform’s decision to remove illegal listings in Quebec. And while homeowners are trying to regularize their situation, others are using fake registration numbers.

According to data obtained from the Inside Airbnb site, which monitors activity on the rental platform, there were 6,987 ads posted there for Montreal on Wednesday, compared to 14,289 last weekend. More than half of the ads have therefore been removed.

Of the 6,987 units offered, 40% were short-term rentals, whereas this proportion was previously 83%.

Inside Airbnb reports that 58% of total listings have a Corporation de l’industrie touristique du Québec (CITQ) registration number, but 100% of short-term listings have such a number.

La Presse has found that some landlords have upgraded their accommodation to the category of rentals over 28 days, which exempts them from the Tourist Accommodation Act, but they still accept rental requests for shorter periods. long, depending on what is specified in the advertisements.

A search of the accommodations still available also brings to light several problematic situations.

For example, an ad for a “Charming Airbnb with a view of the Clock Tower in Old Montreal” displays a CITQ number corresponding to a chalet located in Austin, in the Eastern Townships.

Remember that municipal zoning does not allow “tourist residences” in Old Montreal. Tourist rental is only permitted for a main residence, for which you must still register with the CITQ.

The numbers indicated in several other listings for accommodation in Old Montreal are unknown in the Bonjour Québec search tool.

One Airbnb user even listed the number “123,456” on their listing.

The same registration number is often shared by several apartments, while the law requires the registration of each dwelling.

Elsewhere too, accommodation advertised in places where tourist rental is prohibited display the same registration number, which does not yield any results following a search. Such is the case with five apartments near Jean-Talon Market in Little Italy, offered by host Tiffany. In this borough, Rosemont–La Petite-Patrie, commercial tourist residences are only authorized on Plaza St-Hubert.

These manipulations make the RCLALQ say that “the alleged removal by Airbnb of the illegal advertisements is window dressing”.

“Airbnb sends landlords a message suggesting that they opt for long-term rentals, i.e. more than 31 days”, denounces the RCLALQ, an assertion that we were able to verify by consulting one of these messages.

Many owners obtain a CITQ number fraudulently by pretending that the advertised accommodation is their main residence, according to Murray Cox, founder of the Inside Airbnb site, who denounces short-term rentals because of their impact on the rental stock.

Mr. Cox believes that by encouraging users to advertise their listings for periods longer than 31 days, Airbnb is pushing them into a gray area: they no longer have to comply with the Tourist Accommodation Act, but they also risk of not respecting the laws intended to protect tenants, according to him.

The Ministry of Tourism claims to be aware of the problem. “The law requires landlords of all categories of accommodation recognized by law to obtain and display, wherever they promote it, a registration number. Although landlords have this obligation, we see that several platforms promote accommodation without a number or with a false registration number,” said spokesperson Jean-Manuel Téotonio, in a written response to our questions.

It recalls the desire of the Minister of Tourism, Caroline Proulx, to table a bill in the coming weeks to revise the Act respecting tourist accommodation, in order to hold Airbnb and other platforms of its kind accountable, which will not be able to publish only duly certified accommodation offers, under penalty of penalties.

In the meantime, those who provide tourist accommodation without a permit still face fines.

Airbnb spokesperson says ‘hosts’ are encouraged to comply with local laws, and governments are offered the City Portal to help them enforce their laws and find unnumbered listings valid registration.