Montreal tenant, landlord want to stop encroachment of illegal Airbnb rentals: ‘It’s a nightmare’

Manon Wascher is outraged that her downtown apartment building is now home to up to 50 Airbnb rental units. Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020. Anne Leclair/Global News

A Montreal woman is livid with the growing number of Airbnb rental units in her downtown apartment building.

Despite a municipal bylaw making short-term rentals illegal in that zone, the tenant believes a mini-Airbnb business is operating out of a second-floor apartment.

A local city councillor and the building’s landlord both argue that the current laws aren’t allowing them to put a stop to the problematic practice of short-term rentals.

“It’s frustrating and tiring to be putting this much energy into just trying to live normally,” said Manon Wascher.

“I’m living legally. Let’s have something done about what’s being done illegally.”

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Wascher, a mother and college professor, moved into her apartment at 2250 Guy St. close to 30 years ago. She says it was a beautiful community of tenants until the building was sold four years ago.

Now, she claims up to 50 units in the building are being rented on Airbnb.

She complains short-term renters use the pool and gym and cause long waits for the elevator and laundry facilities. The extra noise and traffic, she says, have become unbearable for her family.

“I can hear people vomiting,” she said. “Just the other day I walk into the elevator and there’s a man in a towel; it’s not appropriate.”

Wascher feels her multiple complaints to the landlord have fallen on deaf ears. But the building’s owner, a company called Capreit, claims it’s also trying to tackle the problem.

“It’s a nightmare. People don’t declare to us that they’re running an illegal business,” said Mark Kenney, CEO and president of Capreit.

“We attempt to go through the Régie du logement (rental board) and have these tenants evicted for running businesses but we’re not successful.”

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A quick Airbnb search shows dozens of available units in the building, some of which are advertised for as low as $29 per night.

According to Wascher, at least one Airbnb host is operating multiple units under multiple names, even using one apartment on the second floor as an office. Dozens of sets of keys are visible through the window.

The city councillor for the Ville-Marie borough and Peter-McGill district insists it’s illegal under the current bylaws, but admits it’s hard to enforce.

“We’re going to need much more than only these two bylaws to be able to bring changes, and that’s why we’re really waiting impatiently for the provincial law,” said Cathy Wong, who is currently compiling a list of complaints to eventually hand over the provincial authorities.

“We’re keeping a list of all the Airbnbs that are illegal currently so that we can share them with Revenu Quebec when the new provincial law will be enforced.”

A new provincial law regulating short-term rentals in expected to take effect on May 1. But a solution can’t come quickly enough for Wascher.

“What I want is peace and quiet, I don’t want to live in a hotel or motel I want to live in a home like everyone else does,” she said.

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In a statement to Global News, Airbnb didn’t comment on the specific case, but said it was committed to continuing its discussions with the Quebec government “on a reasonable approach to regulation.”

Alexandra Dagg, Airbnb’s director of public policy, also pointed to the company’s work as a member of the recently-created committee to modernize Quebec’s system of classifying short-term accommodations as an example of that commitment.

“We look forward to reviewing the upcoming report that will outline recommendations for the government on modernizing legislation for short-term rentals,” she said.

The company has also worked on new guest standards to address issues of excessive noise, unauthorized guests, unauthorized parking, unauthorized smoking and major cleanliness concerns.

Violating the new standards will result in a warning for a first offence, while further offences could lead to your account being suspended or removed.

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As for bothered neighbours, they can get in touch with Airbnb via the Airbnb Neighbour Tool.

The company says it is also working on a neighbour hotline.

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