Why and How to Find a Legal Family-Friendly Vacation Rental in Montreal, Canada
As we’ve written about before, many municipalities are implementing regulations around short term home rentals (STR), and cracking down on illegal short term rentals. In some instances, this is leaving renters in a lurch, forced to evacuate an illegal rental with no notice or support from either the hosts or the STR platforms.
Family-friendly destination Montreal, Canada has been making headlines recently for its crackdown of illegal AirBNB rentals - particularly its practice of cutting all lockboxes found on public property in the popular Plateau neighborhood. This means that renters may arrive at their destination only to discover that they can’t access the short term accommodations they rented for their family vacation.
More and more, the onus is falling on renters to ensure that the AirBNB, HomeAway or other short term rental that they’ve booked online is legally registered with the local municipality.
How do you ensure that you are renting a legal short term rental in Montreal?
It can be difficult to determine whether the short term rental you are interested in booking is legal. That’s because there are layers of regulation - provincial, municipal, as well as by borough.
Hosts renting out their primary residence are not required (though may choose) to get a classification certificate. Certain areas in downtown Montreal are not permitted to have a short-term rental property, and there are stipulations about the distance between AirBNB rentals. This makes it next to impossible for a visitor to ascertain whether the rental they are interested in booking is legal.
Tip #1: Ask Your Montreal Host For a Classification Certificate
Although not all hosts are required to get a classification certificate, asking for the host’s certification information is a good start.
Hosts that are renting out a secondary or investment property must have CITQ certification, as should hosts which rent, rather than own, their unit. The classification certificate is in the form of a sign, so hosts requiring certification should be able to provide a photograph of this sign if asked.
If a host is the the primary homeowner of their property, and does not require certification, they should state this, and provide accurate details about the regulations.
If a host becomes evasive to your inquiry, consider this a sign to continue your search.
The Littlest Passport reached out to seven Montreal hosts on the popular home sharing website AirBNB, all of whom were part of the AirBNB Plus program and tagged as being family friendly. (AirBNB Plus is a program that profiles highly reviewed hosts and homes, in which AirBNB has visited the home, verified the accuracy of the listing, and deemed the home to be thoughtfully designed, well maintained and well equipped. These verified AirBNB listings are meant to assure guests that they will have a comfortable, hassle free stay).
The Littlest Passport asked each of the hosts, as part of a booking inquiry, whether the host had the required classification certificate. Of the seven hosts, two declined the request to book; one acknowledged that they were operating without a certificate and “it hadn’t been a problem so far”, two stated that they had the certificate (though neither host provided proof); one host responded that their home was on one of two streets in the Plateau that allowed for rentals (though certification would still be required - which she did not confirm); and the seventh host explained that she did not have a certificate, since she was a primary homeowner.
Tip #2: Use Quebec’s tourism agency website to search verified legal short term rentals
Tourisme Quebec, the province’s tourism agency, also operates a website that features legal short term rentals. Owners of legal, registered short term rentals can market their homes on this website, though the site is used mostly by professional rental companies, property management companies, and a few savvy home owners - meaning that the site does not include all legal STRs in Montreal.
If you are familiar with Montreal’s neighborhoods and where you’d like to stay, you can use the site’s map view to select options within a particular neighborhood.
Unfortunately, the website’s search functionality is highly limited and clunky, making any accommodation search incredibly time consuming. Visitors can search by region and city (if visiting Montreal, you’ll want to select Montreal from both the Region and City drop downs); one “Service” (aka amenity; we recommend selecting Kitchen or Kitchenette to narrow results to true private homes), and Tourisme Quebec’s rating of the property (like hotels, the number of stars a property receives correlates to its amenities and services, rather than it’s quality).
There is no way to filter down on kid-friendly rentals - either by the amenities they offer (like cribs, high chairs, toys, etc) or the apartment’s appropriateness for little ones (covered fireplaces, stairs, etc.).
Tip #3: If a property provides self check-in, ask whether the property uses keyless entry or a lock box
As mentioned at the beginning of this post, Montreal’s most aggressive tactic to crack down on illegal short term rentals is to cut all lock boxes on public property. If a host uses lock boxes to store keys for guests, you’re at greater risk of arriving in Montreal only to discover you can’t access your rental.
Three additional tips when searching for a kid-friendly short term rental in Montreal:
1) Beware of external stairs
Many charming Montreal properties have external staircases. If traveling with babies or toddlers, you may wish to avoid such stairs, especially if you will be lugging strollers (and little ones) up and down the stairs regularly. If staying in the winter (November-April), these stairs can be especially treacherous after a snowfall or freezing rain.
2) Ensure the property has air conditioning, or heating that can be controlled by thermostat
Montreal’s temperatures are extreme - extremely cold in winter and hot in the summer. To ensure your children’s comfort, you’ll want to ensure you can control the heat during winter stays, and that there is (at minimum) a window AC in your and your child’s bedroom or (ideally) central air.
3) If searching in the Plateau, The Littlest Passport’s top-ranked Montreal neighborhood for kids, stick to renting from primary homeowners and not commercial rental companies
In the Plateau, commercial companies may only rent out on the business-heavy St Laurent and St Denis streets. These streets are populated with heavy street traffic and several bars, some of which may operate until 4am, making noise a possible issue.