Quebec tables bill to tighten screws on Airbnb, other short-term rental platforms

Quebec Minister of Tourism Caroline Proulx has tabled a bill that takes aim at illegal tourist accommodations. (John MacDougall/Getty Images - image credit)
Quebec Minister of Tourism Caroline Proulx has tabled a bill that takes aim at illegal tourist accommodations. (John MacDougall/Getty Images - image credit)

The Quebec government has presented legislation that, if passed, will force Airbnb and other short-term rental platforms to crack down on illegal listings or face hefty fines.

Bill 25, An Act to fight illegal tourist accommodation, was tabled Tuesday at the National Assembly by Tourism Minister Caroline Proulx.

It looks to regulate short-term rentals and require digital platforms to ensure that the accommodations listed on their websites comply with Quebec and municipal laws.

It comes in the wake of a deadly March fire in an Old Montreal heritage building that killed seven people — including six staying in Airbnbs. After the fire, Proulx vowed to table a bill before the end of May.

The bill would prohibit online advertising of accommodations without an up-to-date registration number and a valid ministerial certificate. A short-term rental contract for a stay in a tourist accommodation that is not registered in accordance with the law would also be prohibited.

"With the new standards, with the cities and boroughs, I believe there will be a great deal of compliance," said Proulx at a Thursday news conference.

The Quebec government already requires people who offer short-term accommodations to be registered with the province. Now, the companies that run the platforms would be responsible for enforcing a series of new rules.

Under the proposed law, companies like Airbnb would be obligated to keep records of each advertised accommodation's registration certificate.

Companies would also have to validate the registration numbers of those establishments and designate a Quebec-based representative to make it easier to actually reach someone from Airbnb, Proulx said.

The bill also provides for the creation of a public register of tourist accommodations, to be maintained by the tourism minister or by a body recognized by the minister.

Lastly, the bill includes sanctions for any contravention of law once it's approved. Fines against individuals would range between $5,000 to $50,000, while companies could face fines of $10,000 to $100,000 per posting.

"If they put online five ads that are false, it is five times $100,000. [If] it is 10 ads, it's going to be 10 fines. So we're really saying they have to comply to Quebec's law," said Proulx.

"These are the new rules that you'll have to operate [under], and if you don't, here are the consequences of not playing the game."

In a statement to CBC following the tabling of the bill, Airbnb said it is reviewing the proposed changes.

"We will have more to say upon further review," said Nathan Rotman, the regional policy lead for Canada.

Less than a third of Montreal ads legal

After the fatal fire, Airbnb vowed to purge all uncertified listings in Quebec from its online platform and require all new listings to have certificate numbers.

According to a census carried out by the Regroupement des Comités Logement et Associations de Tenants du Québec (RCLALQ), nearly 30,000 ads were posted just in February on Airbnb, with 79 per cent of them not certified.

Nearly half of these ads were located in Montreal — at a time when long-term housing is scarce and costly.

Inside Airbnb, a group whose goal is to provide data and advocacy about Airbnb's impact on residential communities, released a report on April 15, showing that there were 3,764 units available for short-term rental in Montreal.

Short term means less than 32 days.

All had a registration number, according to Airbnb, but a deeper dive showed that at least 2,678 of these listings fell into a category where two or more listings had the same government number, which could potentially be illegal.

According to Inside Airbnb's data, less than a third of Montreal ads would meet the new standards proposed by the Quebec government. The rest of the ads would need to be removed.