“Closed” Airbnb accommodations and contested fines in Montreal

A squad of City of Montreal inspectors set up last year to identify and crack down on illegal tourist residences in three boroughs of the metropolis has succeeded in recent weeks in forcing a tenant to stop renting the seven accommodations. of a building in Plateau-Mont-Royal on Airbnb-type platforms. Meanwhile, other Montrealers caught by this squad are contesting the offense notices they received in court.

The head of housing on the executive committee, Benoit Dorais, gave a press briefing Wednesday morning in the city center in the company of Marie-Claude Parent, the coordinator of this squad of three inspectors who have been operating since July in the City boroughs -Marie, the South-West and the Plateau-Mont-Royal. According to a report presented Wednesday morning by Ms. Parent, to date, 19 infraction reports have been issued to offenders out of a total of 42 reports drawn up by inspectors. The latter also carried out 394 housing inspections, most of the time following complaints from citizens.

For these inspectors, the challenge is significant, since although municipal regulations delimit specific sectors in the three boroughs in question where tourist residences are permitted, it is often difficult to prove that an owner is acting illegally, since provincial legislation allows an owner to rent their primary residence on platforms such as Airbnb. For each accommodation that they suspect of being an illegal tourist residence, City inspectors must therefore put together a file of several dozen pages confirming – with supporting photos – that the operation of the premises contravenes the regulations. in force.

A tenant pinned

However, in certain cases, the patience of inspectors pays off. This is how this squad succeeded in recent weeks – with the collaboration of the owner of the premises – to crack down on a tenant who rented seven accommodations in the same building on platforms such as Airbnb. “We can tell you that our inspectors worked hard and managed to close [ces résidences de tourisme] », rejoiced Ms. Parent, specifying that the accommodation in question has since returned to the traditional rental market. “We were able to give housing back to the population. »

Several tickets ranging from $1,000 to $4,000 issued to Montreal owners and tenants are, however, contested by them. A first hearing will take place on April 28 before the Municipal Court, during which the City and its inspectors will have to defend the validity of the fines issued before a judge. However, the City does not intend to give up in an attempt to bring Montrealers who illegally operate tourist residences into line.

“It’s not because they received a report that we will stop. They are even more in our sights. We will work doubly hard to close them with recurrences,” insists Marie-Claude Parent.

By collaborating with the City’s legal affairs department, the inspectors of this squad have also managed to reduce the administrative burden they have to go through before being able to issue a ticket to an offender, explained Benoit Dorais. The City is therefore confident that the number of fines issued could increase in the coming months.

The official opposition, Ensemble Montréal, did not fail to criticize this first assessment of the activities of this squad on Wednesday. “The few reports of offenses submitted demonstrate the administration’s inability to enforce the regulations on short-term tourist rentals,” lamented in writing the advisor to the party’s housing spokesperson, Julien. Hénault-Ratelle, according to whom too few inspectors were dedicated to this squad.

The silence of Revenu Québec

City inspectors regularly send all the files they compile to Revenu Québec, which is responsible for applying the Tourist Accommodation Act. Its inspectors can also issue fines ranging from $2,500 to $25,000 for an individual and from $5,000 to $50,000 for a company illegally operating tourist residences. However, the organization never follows up on the files transferred to it by this squad, deplores Benoit Dorais, who is also mayor of the South-West.

“What we are looking for is to have the best collaboration with the government of Quebec in order to ensure that the excellent work that is done by our inspectors serves a purpose,” said the elected official, who thus calls for better “collaboration” from Revenu Québec with the City so that more tourist residences can return “to the rental market”, in the midst of the housing crisis.

Joined by The duty, Revenu Québec ensures that its resources “maintain constant discussions with the special squad set up by the City of Montreal”. However, “in order not to harm its intervention strategies, the organization does not reveal its inspection and investigation techniques,” continues the government agency.

A report available on the Revenu Québec website indicates that these inspectors issued 428 violations in the Montreal region under the Tourist Accommodation Actbetween the 1er April and December 31, 2023. These led to 279 convictions totaling nearly $1.2 million.

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