Apartment owner has right to change locks on tenant for Airbnb abuse, Régie rules

Quebec's rental board has ruled a Verdun landlord has the right to change the locks on a tenant to stop him from renting out his apartment every night, in a decision that could have consequences for other Airbnb users in the province.

'He has not slept in the unit one night,' property manager says

Quebec property owners are grappling with how to deal with tenants who rent out their home on Airbnb.

Quebec's rental board has ruled a Verdun landlord has the right to change the locks on a tenant to stop him from renting out his apartment every night, in a decision that could have consequences for other Airbnb users in the province.

In the July 26 ruling, the Régie du logement said the tenant, Quan Sheng Li, must stop renting out the apartment and continue to pay rent to the landlord. 

The property is owned by Summit Property Management. Tristan Pungartnik, the company's director of operations, said the unit was being rented out constantly through the popular online vacation-home rental site.

"For example, in the month of August, it was booked every night except for two," Pungartnik told CBC Montreal's Daybreak, explaining that he tracked the rentals on Airbnb's website. 

"I actually took my laptop in court and showed the judge."

The ruling specified that the property owner could change the locks because the tenant is living outside the country. 

Quan Sheng Li will be allowed to regain access to the apartment if he decides to live there, the Régie ruled.

The tenant declined a request for comment.

Does the ruling set a precedent?

Summit Property Management had been fighting the case for two years. The continual flow of short-term renters had led to complaints about noise and smoking from the tenants of other units, Pungartnik said.

One week it could be a quiet couple, the next week it could be a bachelor party.- Tristan Pungartnik, director of operations at Summit Property Management

"We need to protect the interests of our tenants who are actually there 12 months of the year ... I personally wouldn't want a new neighbour every week. One week it could be a quiet couple, the next week it could be a bachelor party," he said.

A Quebec law that went into effect in April requires owners who frequently rent out their properties to obtain the same provincial certification as hotel and bed-and-breakfast operators.

However, it's still not entirely clear what property owners have the right to do to stop tenants from turning their apartment into a hotel, or if this ruling will apply to landlords dealing with renters living in Canada, Pungartnik said.

"We tried different things because it was somewhat new to us," he said.

"He initially signed the unit to live in it. However, he has not slept in the unit one night."

Ted Wright, a consultant on rental board affairs at the Westmount Legal Clinic, said the province doesn't give the rental board enough resources to solve this problem.

He said landlords should inspect the unit they are renting out if they suspect something is awry. 

"If indeed there are problems, send a legal letter," he said.

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