October 22, 2015 / 8:24 PM / 2 years ago

Quebec's proposed Airbnb regulations a Canadian first

QUEBEC CITY, Quebec (Reuters) - Quebec is poised to become Canada's first jurisdiction to regulate the home-sharing website Airbnb, after legislation proposed Thursday would subject all owners of rental accommodations for tourists and business travelers to the same rules.

Regular users of Airbnb, which helps owners rent out their homes, would have to respect the same municipal zoning bylaws and obtain the same government authorization as hotel and bed-and-breakfast operators, a new bill introduced in Quebec's provincial parliament says.

The Quebec regulations come as the short-term home rental site faces global battles with lawmakers in cities like San Francisco, New York and Barcelona on how their users' properties should be zoned and taxed. In September, Reuters reported that Airbnb is expected to double its nightly bookings this year to 80 million.

Under the Quebec law, which is supported by the province's major political parties, violators would face fines between C$500 ($381.71) and C$100,000, with the amount rising to more than C$200,000 for repeat corporate offenders.

Users of sites like Airbnb will also be charged the provincial hospitality tax paid by hotels, which ranges from 2 to 3.5 percent depending on the region.

The law would only apply to Quebecers renting out their homes to the public on a regular basis, a government spokesman said.

Quebec Tourism Minister Dominique Vien said the new legislation follows complaints by the province's hospitality industry that they are at a competitive disadvantage to regular AirBNB users, who are neither taxed nor subject to the same licensing rules as them.

“Everyone is going to play on the same rink,” Vien said, using a hockey analogy.

Vien stressed that she isn't targeting Airbnb or other Internet sharing sites.

“It is not illegal to go on an Airbnb or any other site,” she said, comparing sharing-service web postings to notices on a supermarket bulletin board.

Asked for its reaction, a communications firm retained by Airbnb referred to a previous Oct. 22 statement by the company that said it would "continue to work with the government to clarify the details of this proposal, but (is) pleased that the government recognizes that Airbnb hosts are typically not businesses or professionals."

The new law would also increase the number of Quebec tourism inspectors from two to 18, with the cost of the new hires to be paid fully by the hotel and hospitality industry.

Reporting By Kevin Dougherty in Quebec City and Allison Lampert in Montreal

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