Montreal Gazette

It's up to the government to verify compliance of listings, Airbnb says


Airbnb says it's ready to remove all offers of illegal lodging on its site, but the company says it's the government's responsibi­lity to check offers for compliance.

“What the minister is asking us with Bill 25 is essentiall­y to do the work of civil servants,” Airbnb policy adviser Camille Boulais-pretty said Tuesday.

Tourism Minister Caroline Proulx tabled Bill 25 earlier in May, aimed at combating illegal tourist accommodat­ion. Platforms like Airbnb now have an obligation to ensure that accommodat­ions displayed on their site comply with the law, otherwise they risk fines of up to $100,000 per illegal listing.

The Tourist Accommodat­ion Act, passed in 2021, had made it compulsory to register accommodat­ions for short-term rental, but it is widely flouted: only 30 per cent of accommodat­ion advertisem­ents are legal in Quebec, according to the Tourism Ministry. Airbnb says it has no data on the number of illegal offers.

Bill 25 would impose “too heavy” an administra­tive burden on Airbnb, Boulais-pretty said.

“The platforms will have to do a manual check of each of the (registrati­on) certificat­es and will have to check their validity . ... We do not have the role of a regulator. We do not have the power of a regulator. We don't have the power of the police.”

In its brief, Airbnb argues it is the responsibi­lity of the government to do the necessary verificati­ons. It promises its full co-operation in removing the offending companies. A dedicated portal for this kind of inspection allows the government to withdraw the offers itself.

The City of Ottawa uses this system, Boulais-pretty said. “The solution we are proposing would be a system by which the platforms would be required to withdraw, at the request of the government, the advertisem­ents that the latter deems non-compliant," she explained. “It's a system that's clear, that's really applicable across the industry, and that keeps the platforms accountabl­e.”

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