POLITICS

Quebec says people who rent private rooms should be taxed and regulated

04/29/2015 06:18 EDT | Updated 08/05/2015 10:59 EDT
MONTREAL - Quebec's tourism minister is considering clamping down on popular home-renting services such as Airbnb in order to "level the playing field."

The Quebec government wants to make people pay taxes if they rent out their homes or rooms for profit and be subject to the same regulations as registered hoteliers, Dominique Vien said Wednesday.

"We want them to contribute in the same way that hoteliers do," she said.

Home-renting sites such as Airbnb have become increasingly popular worldwide in recent years as tourists are offered hundreds of different rooms for rent in many cities at prices that are often lower than those of standard hotel rooms.

Quebecers who want to rent rooms face fines if they don't have a permit.

Airbnb, which is headquartered in San Francisco, has been operating in Montreal since 2009.

The room-renting company allows virtually anyone to list a room for rent on its website and collect reservations and money.

The company produced a report last year noting that between April 2013 and March 2014, "2,900 Montreal hosts welcomed guests into their homes" through the Airbnb site.

"The number of guests using Airbnb has grown steadily since 2009," it said.

Eve Pare, president of the Hotel Association of Greater Montreal, said companies such as Airbnb are in a legislative "grey zone" and she welcomed the government's call for regulation.

She said she couldn't quantify how much money Montreal-area hotels lose every year due to sites such as Airbnb, but she noted the room-rental services generally bring down prices.

Pare said hotels in the city are subject to many regulations and that the rules were written before the Internet emerged.

"It's a great opportunity to clarify the rules of the game," she added.

Vien said the government is working on a bill but she wouldn't give many details about its contents or when it will be tabled in the national assembly.