All unauthorized Airbnb listings in Quebec to be removed from app, company says

On Friday, Airbnb announced plans to remove all unauthorized listings from Quebec from its app.  (Yuya Shino/Reuters - image credit)
On Friday, Airbnb announced plans to remove all unauthorized listings from Quebec from its app. (Yuya Shino/Reuters - image credit)

A week after a deadly fire ravaged a building in Old Montreal that included units available for rent on Airbnb, the company says it plans to remove all Quebec listings that have not been authorized by the provincial government.

Four deaths have been confirmed following the fire. Three other people are missing.

The fire renewed concerns about the proliferation of short-term rentals that are not registered with the Quebec government and are, therefore, illegal.

There have been calls for the province and the city of Montreal to ramp up efforts to crack down on illegal short-term rentals, given the possibility that many of them present safety hazards that go unchecked.

On Friday, Airbnb spokesperson Mattie Zazueta said the company sent a letter to Quebec's tourism minister informing her of its plan to "remove existing listings" without a permit.

Doing so could mean wiping out the vast majority of Quebec listings on Airbnb.

In Montreal, for example, more than 90 per cent of short-term rental units listed on Airbnb are not authorized, according to an independent watchdog group, Inside Airbnb.

Rowan Kennedy/CBC
Rowan Kennedy/CBC

Zazueta said the company will "launch a registration field requiring all new listings to provide a permit number."

The spokesperson also said Airbnb will "provide the government of Quebec with the Airbnb city portal tool to support increased host compliance."

The spokesperson did not specify when these changes will be implemented. Quebec's tourism minister met with Airbnb officials on Thursday.

"These measures build on our years-long efforts to work with local and provincial officials on short-term rental rules that help address community concerns and also preserve a vital source of supplemental income for residents," Zazueta wrote.

"Taking these actions does not negate the need to continue to work together to improve the CITQ registration system to ensure that Quebecers are able to supplement their incomes, especially in times of economic uncertainty."

The office of Quebec Tourism Minister Caroline Proulx said it is "satisfied with Airbnb's decision" and wants other short-term rental platforms to do the same.

In 2021, the Quebec government passed the Act respecting tourist accommodation establishments.

Since then, operators of short-term rentals need to register with the province, and with that comes a registration number. That's mainly to make sure operators pay taxes.

Cities like Montreal, and its boroughs, have rules outlining where short-term rentals are allowed. Experts say the way responsibilities are divided between municipalities leads to few inspections, very little enforcement and many people getting away with running illegal short-term rentals.

Airbnb's announcement won't change the province's plans to strengthen its law on short-term rentals, the tourism minister's officer said.

Search efforts for the people missing since the fire continued on Friday.