Montrealer feels ‘grateful’ to be alive after surviving deadly heritage building fire

Click to play video: 'Fire survivor, housing groups calling for more action against illegal short-term rentals'
Fire survivor, housing groups calling for more action against illegal short-term rentals
WATCH: Airbnb claims it has pulled all short-term rental listings in Quebec without a registration number off its platform. The change comes nearly two weeks after a deadly fire in Old Montreal that was home to several illegal Airbnb units. As Global’s Felicia Parrillo reports, some say it's a good first step to clamping down on illegal short-term rentals, but believe more should be done. – Mar 29, 2023

Carling Sioui says she feels lucky to be alive after she survived a deadly fire in Old Montreal almost two weeks ago.

Sioui was sleeping in a loft, rented by her friend on Airbnb, at 135 Du Port, when they were awoken by a nearby fire alarm.

“We heard these alarms and we thought at first that it was a small, localized fire because ours wasn’t ringing. But then within a few seconds, ours was ringing — we heard screams and we heard things like either breaking or falling, and we realized this was something big and we had to get out of the building,” she said.

Sioui says there were two large windows in the room, one that was sealed shut and another that was sealed only with tape.

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She and her friend managed to escape through the window and onto the ledge, where they were eventually rescued by firefighters.

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“I feel guilty for being alive, but also grateful,” said Sioui.

In the wake of the fire, officials said the property was hosting several illegal Airbnbs.

The tragedy prompted the housing marketplace to announce last week that it would pull listings in Quebec that don’t have a permit from the provincial government.

A spokesperson for Airbnb told Global News that on Tuesday, all short-term rental listings without a registration number were deactivated, though they were unable to say how many were taken down.

Hosts were informed of the change via email — listings affected are those that host short-term rentals of less than 31 days.

Those hosting long-term stays are not required to register with the Ministry of Quebec.

Montreal’s mayor says she sees the change as a first step on clamping down on illegal short-term rental listings, but says more needs to be done to make sure those listings don’t pop up on other platforms.

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“I think there has to be more conversations because we expect the market will adapt,” said Plante.

And a Montreal tenants’ rights association says limiting Airbnb doesn’t go far enough.

“It is also really too easy for a lot of places in Quebec to convert long term rental dwellings into short term rentals,” said Cédric Dussault, spokesperson for the Regroupement des comités logement et associations de locataires du Québec (RCLALQ).

“This is what has led us to the situation we are in today.”

Dussault says online housing platforms are a major reason for the province’s current housing shortage, and is advocating for them to be banned outright.

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