A New Brunswick tenants’ rights organization is calling for municipalities to regulate AirBnbs following a deadly fire in Montreal.

Nichola Taylor, chair of ACORN NB, says AirBnbs should be registered with municipalities and inspected on a regular basis.

“It’s a no-brainer,” she said, “but unfortunately it’s not being done.”

On Monday, officials said seven bodies have now been recovered after a March 16 fire tore through a heritage building in Old Montreal which housed several illegal Airbnb units, as reported by the Montreal Gazette.

Taylor said ACORN wants cities in New Brunswick to impose a licensing structure for Airbnbs in order to register short-term rentals, and conduct regular health and safety inspections, similar to what is expected of restaurants or hotels.

Issues with fire safety could have been avoided, she said.

“More needs to be done to prevent more tragedies from happening.”

According to data from Inside AirBnB, a global data aggregator of the short-term rental giant, there are more than 3,000 Airbnbs across New Brunswick, with 78 per cent of them entire house and apartment rentals.

Of those 3,100, 349 of those are in Saint John, 219 are in Fredericton and 545 are in Moncton.

Erin White, spokesperson for the City of Saint John, said all properties, commercial and residential, have standard permit requirements. All safety and fire regulations are included in the permitting process, she said. 

Isabelle LeBlanc, spokesperson for the City of Moncton, said the city doesn’t know how many short-rental properties are in Moncton as it relies on data from AirDNA, a data firm which publishes analytics on the short-term rental market.

The data supplied by the company, she said, “fluctuates constantly.”

She added the city is exploring the possibility of short-term rental licensing and regulations, and will be looking to work with other municipalities in New Brunswick for a provincial framework.

The City of Charlottetown enacted regulations on short-term rentals on March 28, stating only a “principal residence” can be used as a short-term rental operation.

The regulations say short-term rentals aren’t allowed in apartments, and limits the number of bookings permitted at a time, among other restrictions, according to a press release.

In Halifax, as of Sept. 1, all short-term rentals are required to be registered with the municipality. That includes a host’s primary residence and an income-generating property, according to a fact sheet from the city.

Taylor said municipalities should move quickly to ensure another tragedy doesn’t hit close to home.

“It shouldn’t have been allowed to happen,” she said.

New Brunswick’s three largest municipalities have the power to collect tourism accommodation levies, an additional tax on hotel bills which go toward tourism promotion.

But the three cities currently aren’t collecting that fee from Airbnb operators, the Telegraph-Journal previously reported, though some small towns, like Saint Andrews, keep track of the number of short-term rentals in the popular seaside vacation town in order to enact the levy.

With files from Barbara Simpson and Postmedia

By Marlo Glass, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Apr 04, 2023

This item reprinted with permission from   Telegraph-Journal   Saint John, New Brunswick
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