Montreal landlord Gerry Galiatsatos is joining a growing chorus of voices who say that Quebec's law to regulate online home-sharing services such as Airbnb "is clearly not working."
Galiatsatos was shocked to learn that his downtown condo, which he rents out, was listed on Airbnb.
In the last several months, his tenants rented out the condo unit at least 65 times.
"There's reviews. We're talking about many, many reviews of people who are reviewing my condo that they rented out basically…. And Airbnb is strictly forbidden in the entire building," Galiatsatos said.
So now the condo association is fining him $1,250.
"I am getting charged a whole bunch of penalties … and it's their right to. In the rules, you can charge up to $250 a day in penalties."
Galiatsatos confronted his tenants, and the listing has since been taken down. He now has legal fees to pay since he's hired a lawyer to go after the tenants.
He says his story proves that more must be done to regulate the online home-sharing service industry.
"Right now all the burden is on the owners," Galiatsatos said. "There needs to be a way where there is transparency, you know who is doing it legally, you know who is paying their taxes."
Bill 67 'a total failure'
According to Bill 67, which was adopted into law by the Quebec government in December 2015, tenants must advise their landlords they will be renting out to tourists.
The law also includes measures such as:
- Obliging regular users to obtain a classification certificate from the Ministry of Tourism.
- Charging regular users a lodging tax of 3.5 per cent.
- Increasing the number of provincial inspectors from two to 18 to enforce the legislation.
But figures obtained by CBC/Radio Canada show that, despite the law, most people listing their homes on tourism rental sites don't have a certificate from the ministry
For example, in Montreal, on platforms such as Airbnb, VRBO or HomeAway, there are 9,700 listings. Only 42 of them are certified.
"It's just a total failure. It doesn't work," said Québec Solidaire MNA Amir Khadir
The conviction rate is also low.
The province has gone from having two inspectors to 27. Since the law came into effect, 700 warning notices were issued across Quebec. It resulted in 233 inspections.
Up until March 2017, there were 18 violations — none of them in Montreal.
According to Khadir, one problem with the current law is that it does not oblige "occasional users" to be accredited with the Tourism Ministry, as long as each accommodation does not exceed 31 consecutive days.
Only people who rent out their place on a "regular basis" must be certified, but the law does not define what a "regular user" is.
Khadir tabled a motion in the National Assembly on Wednesday, urging the government to adopt the Amsterdam model, where people who rent out their homes for more than 61 days annually would need to be certified.
The Quebec Tenants Association says it's imperative that Bill 67 be enforced.
"There are foreseen consequences — fines, inspections, a regulated structure — but it must be applied," said association spokesperson Maxime Roy-Allard. "If you have a dwelling that is rented year-round, it's less available housing."
More inspectors coming, province says
Quebec Tourism Minister Julie Boulet said more inspectors will be hired as a way to crack down on illegal tourism accommodations — but the inspectors will be from Revenu Québec.
"In this regard, we will entrust a portion of the inspection powers of the tourism ministry to Revenu Québec to ensure compliance with the legislation and the tax obligations of the users," Boulet told CBC in a statement.
"The decision to transfer the inspection and investigation responsibilities to Revenu Québec will allow it to put forward its expertise and advanced research techniques in the fight against illegal tourism accommodation."
Boulet said she will propose amendments to the legislation so that this measure can be put in place.
She added that her ministry will look at Khadir's motion on the matter.