Montreal mayor says new team will crack down on illegal short-term rentals
The City of Montreal says a team of investigators tasked with cracking down on illegal Airbnbs will be in place by June.
A plan was first announced in the days following the Old Montreal fire that left two people dead and five missing.
However, the city says a plan had been in the works since December.
The heritage building that burned down last Thursday contained multiple illegal Airbnb units at the time of the fire, despite short-term rentals being outlawed in Old Montreal.
As of Wednesday, Airbnb displayed several listings in Old Montreal and Verdun, where a similar bylaw applies.
The city says the problem is particularly bad in three Montreal boroughs: Ville Marie, the Plateau and the Southwest.
City investigators will comb through short-term rental sites, resulting in potential fines of up to $2,000 for hosts breaking the rules.
The city also says it will share its information with Revenue Quebec, which could fine hosts up to $25,000.
Tenants rights advocate Arnold Bennett says he is skeptical of the plan because Airbnb is just one of many platforms where units are rented, and the city doesn’t have enough inspectors to enforce the rules.
"We are in a housing crisis," said Bennett. "And we have a lot of apartments that are not for Montrealers. They are for tourists because people make more money with that."
CAUSE OF FIRE STILL UNKNOWN
Authorities are not yet able to say what caused the fire that has left two dead and five more missing, or whether the building was up to code, according to Montreal fire department operations chief Martin Guilbault.
CTV News has reached out to both the property owner and the city to find out when the building was last inspected, but neither responded to questions by deadline.
The site of last week's fire was a heritage building, built in 1890, and served as the headquarters of the Ogilvy flour mill.
Like many buildings in Old Montreal, it has stood through several adaptations to fire safety regulations. Being "up to code" can mean different things depending on the age, location, or use of the building.
That makes for a significant challenge for the city to ensure every building owner follows the rules, said Tony Porowski, president of InterNACHI-Québec AIIICQ, an association of real estate inspectors in Canada.
"At this point, we can safely say it’s understaffed," said Porowski, who is a building inspector.
It’s impossible for the city to know just how many buildings in Montreal are not up to code, he said.
"They’re not equipped with a sufficient number of inspectors to effectively carry out this objective," he said.
Porowski said he hopes governments act quickly to update how they ensure safety across the province.
"It often boils down to dollars and cents," he said.
Quebec Premier François Legault admitted more needs to be done to ensure all buildings are up to code.
"We have to make sure that all our buildings are in good shape, and in the case of a fire, that all the exits are available rapidly," he said.
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