The Quebec government has tabled a bill to crack down on illegal accommodation by penalizing those who regularly rent out lodgings without a permit.
This bill doesn't target people who occasionally rent out their home or a room through home-sharing services such as Airbnb, but it takes aim at those who rent out one or more properties to tourists on a regular basis.
Bill 67 defines just who is a tourist and differentiates between tourist accommodation and occasional accommodation. It proposes stiff fines against those who offer unlicensed tourist accommodation, ranging from $5,000 to $50,000. It also increases the number of accommodation inspectors to 16 from the current two.
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Renting out private houses and apartments has become increasingly popular, thanks to fast-growing websites such as Airbnb that help tourists find short-term accommodation in homes and apartments around the world – often at a substantially cheaper price than hotels.
"We are not targeting these collaborative platforms, and we don't wish to constrain their existence. What we want is for people who run tourist accommodation in Quebec to follow the established rules," Quebec Tourism Minister Dominique Vien said.
Vien defined a tourist accommodation as one that is rented out on a regular basis and publicly advertised.
Hotels complain of unfair competition
Over the last few years, Quebec's hotel industry has said the new trend toward home-sharing is cutting into its members' profits.
People in the hotel industry say it's unfair competition because individuals who rent out their homes, or a room in their homes, are doing so without a permit.
"We cannot ignore the situation or pretend it doesn't exist," Vien said last spring, when the issue of legislating the practice was first raised.
On its public policy blog, Airbnb welcomed the bill, saying it clearly differentiates professional tourism businesses and non-professional hosts "who make up the majority of the Airbnb community."
"By introducing clear and simple rules for home sharing, Quebec will join the growing list of destinations around the world that are implementing progressive rules that increase consumer choice and support regular people for whom this income is an economic lifeline," Airbnb spokesperson Patrick Robinson said.
If the bill is adopted, Quebec would be the first province in Canada to crack down on the practice of renting rooms without a permit.