Another Montreal borough tightens bylaws to restrict Airbnb rentals to commercial districts

FILE. Martin Bureau/AFP via Getty Images

First, it was Ville-Marie, then the Plateau-Mont-Royal.

Then, on Monday night, Rosemont-La Petite-Patrie adopted a new regulation that restricts short-term rentals to the commercial portion of St-Hubert Street, known as the Plaza St-Hubert.

It’s a move the boroughs are making to try to curb the number of lost rental units to platforms such as Airbnb.

“It’s a very big problem all over central Montreal and we think that the Plaza St-Hubert is a good location for this type of activity,” said Rosemont-La Petite-Patrie city councillor Christine Gosselin.

“In order to limit it, we have to permit it somewhere.”

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

But adopting stricter bylaws doesn’t necessarily lead to results, based on the statistics compiled by the website Inside Airbnb. Despite bylaws in place since 2018 restricting short-term rentals to commercial zones in the Ville-Marie and Plateau-Mont-Royal boroughs, thousands of rental unit are currently operating illegally.

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“It’s never going to be perfect,” said Gosselin, who remains convinced the new bylaw will make a difference.

“It will help with clamping down on the phenomena because we’ve only allowed for 1 percent of our territory to be open to this type of activity.”

But others believe it will take more than municipal bylaws to fix the problem.

“It’s actually illegal in this zone,” said Manon Wascher in an interview on Tuesday regarding her fight against illegal Airbnbs in her Ville-Marie apartment building.

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Her landlord insists he’s attempted but failed on many occasion to evict tenants who are operating illegal Airbnbs, despite the current bylaw in place since 2018.

“The onus is put on the landlord to prove that a tenant is carrying on Airbnb activities and that process is extremely complicated,” said Mark Kenney, CEO and president of Capreit, the company that owns the building at 2250 Guy Street.

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“The way Airbnb works, it doesn’t disclose the actual apartment number and sometimes doesn’t even disclose the actual address.”

Global News has reached out to Airbnb for comment.

READ MORE: ‘This was not the first time’: Renewed calls for action after 3 shot dead at Toronto Airbnb

A new provincial regulation will make it mandatory for tenants to obtain permission from their landlords before renting their units starting May 1. But with only a handful of inspectors at both the municipal and provincial levels, many worry that it’s unlikely more restrictions will help.

“At the end of the day, people are running these businesses knowing today that they’re breaking the law,” Kenney said, adding that he has also reported many tenants to Revenu Quebec in the hopes that they’ll be held accountable for essentially operating an illegal business out of his rental units.

“We’re challenged at the Régie du logement (rental board) in proving that a tenant is operating an illegal business and we’re challenged with getting a response from Revenu Quebec.”

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