‘It’s not the Holiday Inn’: Montreal residents denounce Airbnb rentals

Manon Wascher says the Guy St. apartment complex where she’s lived for 30 years has turned into an “Airbnb nightmare,” with an atmosphere of sisterhood permeating the building.

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The noise of people throwing up at 3 am, of neighbors opening their windows to shout “I love you, Montreal!” at any time of the night and an atmosphere of fraternity invading the building.

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That’s how Manon Wascher describes the “Airbnb nightmare” she’s been through since the sale of the apartment complex she lives in on Guy St. four years ago.

Wascher says between 30 and 50 of the building’s 230 units are rented out on the popular travel website.

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“Yesterday I saw a group come out of the elevator with their instruments and equipment. … The other day there was a guy in a towel going to the pool,” said Wascher, who lives in the building for 30 years. “Like, seriously? This one is continuous and constant. They took a building intended for residential use and turned it into a hotel.”

Manon Wascher says 30 to 50 of the 230 units in her Guy St. building are rented out on Airbnb.
Manon Wascher says 30 to 50 of the 230 units in her Guy St. building are rented out on Airbnb. “These people who come here, it’s like they have their worst behavior.” Photo by John Mahoney /Montreal Gazette

Listings in the building cost around $130 a night and attract groups of three to six people who often stay in one-bedroom units, according to Wascher and two other residents. On Saturday afternoon, young men in bathing suits gathered around a room on the 33rd floor, with one shouting “This is the place bro!” as he opened a beer.

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The influx of Airbnb guests wreaked havoc on the building’s elevators and blocked its laundry room, according to two of the residents.

“One elevator was out of service for nine months,” Wascher said. “When one of the three elevators is down, it really makes it difficult to get in and out of the building.”

In the reviews of the apartment complex on shouldyourent.com, users describe Airbnb units as noisy and disruptive. Many of the Airbnb rooms posted on the website are hosted by someone called “Edris”, whose profile has 29 listings.

The relationship between the hosts and CAPREIT (Canadian Apartment Properties Real Estate Investment Trust) – the Toronto-based company that bought the building for $40 million in 2015 – is unclear. Three residents told the Montreal Gazette that Airbnb hosts have an office on the second floor of the building.

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A message to CAPREIT COO Mark Kenney has not been returned at the time of writing. Airbnb could not immediately be reached for comment.

Under new rules adopted by the Quebec government last year, the units in the building will have to be authorized by the city of Montreal and by the Quebec Ministry of Tourism. Unit managers will also have to pay business and property taxes starting May 1.

“They will be subject to inspections by Revenu Québec. They will need to get a special permit to rent the unit,” said Sandra O’Connor, spokeswoman for the Department of Tourism. “They will also be subject to any zoning restrictions imposed by the city.”

The influx of Airbnb units in Montreal has taken 4,500 apartments off the market, adding to one of the tightest rental markets in nearly 20 years, according to a study by McGill University.

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There are some 5,100 Airbnb listings in Ville-Marie alone and around 19,500 across the island. It’s according to the site insideairbnb.comwhich tracks the number of listings in cities around the world.

A 2018 study suggests that Airbnb visitors directly support 3,300 jobs in Montreal and contributed $189 million to Quebec’s GDP in 2017.

Councilor Cathy Wong says she receives daily complaints from neighbors of Airbnb units in Ville-Marie. She documented each complaint and cross-referenced addresses with city zoning regulations.

“About 95% of them are illegal (under the new law),” said Wong, councilor for the Peter McGill district of Ville-Marie. “We are compiling addresses and preparing a list for Revenu Québec inspectors. We are looking forward to May 1st to see what will happen.

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An advocate says the presence of so many Airbnb listings erodes tenants’ rights.

“By taking rental housing away for commercial purposes, you are making landlords much more powerful than they already are,” said Marie-José Corriveau, spokesperson for the defense group for the rights of tenants FRAPRU.

“There is so little housing available that people will be willing to accept rent increases and living conditions that they might not otherwise accept. It tipped the scales almost entirely in favor of the owners.

Corriveau says she’s skeptical the new regulations will have much effect on the number of Airbnb units in Montreal.

“There won’t be enough inspectors to enforce the rules,” she said. “If this were taken more seriously, people would routinely check Airbnb’s website and fine those who break the rules. But those resources aren’t in place.

Although CAPREIT representatives did not return the Montreal Gazette interview request, Wascher says he was told that Airbnb units “are here to stay.”

“I’m sure that in May it won’t be resolved. I’m sure if this will be resolved – which I doubt – it will take years,” Wascher said. “It’s not the Holiday Inn. These people who come here, it’s like they have their worst behavior.

“This building was not made to accommodate tourists. This is supposed to be our house.

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