MONTREAL — Short-term rental company Airbnb said Friday it would pull listings in Quebec that don't have a permit from the provincial government, eight days after a fatal fire destroyed a historic Old Montreal building that housed illegal rentals.
Four bodies have so far been pulled from the building and three people remain missing in the rubble of Édifice William-Watson-Ogilvie, constructed in 1890. Some of those missing had rented their accommodations on Airbnb. In 2018, Airbnb-style short-term rentals were made illegal in the area where the building is located.
In a letter Friday to Quebec Tourism Minister Caroline Proulx, Airbnb said that it would remove listings across the province that don't have a permit from the agency that manages the province's tourist accommodation act. It also said that in the coming days it will require new listings to include the permit number. The company also promised to give the provincial government access to the Airbnb City Portal — a tool it says helps communities enforce rules and understand its local footprint.
"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," the company wrote.
The letter was signed by Nathan Rotman, Airbnb's representative for Canada and the northeastern United States. He was one of two employees of the company who met Thursday in Quebec City with Proulx.
Proulx said in a statement following the meeting she had made clear she was determined to tighten the rules surrounding rentals and to make shared-accommodation platforms more accountable. She also vowed to revise the law by June 9 to ensure listings include the permit number.
In a statement shared Friday by her spokesperson, Proulx said she was pleased with Airbnb's measures. "I am satisfied with Airbnb's decision to comply with our legislation as I demanded yesterday during our meeting," Proulx said.
"I also ask other platforms to comply; however, I remain firm on my intention to tighten the (law)."
Earlier this week, Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante accused San Francisco-based Airbnb of "washing its hands" of the problem of illegal rentals in cities across the province.
On Friday, she welcomed the company's announcement. "Airbnb's decision to comply with the law and remove illegal listings from its site was necessary," Plante wrote on Twitter.
She called on other platforms to follow Airbnb's move and remove illegal, short-term rentals from their sites.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 24, 2023.
Sidhartha Banerjee, The Canadian Press