Booking a special offer on Airbnb is like stepping into a condo that would otherwise serve long-term renters in Montreal.
• Also read: Amid a housing crisis, millions to an Airbnb king
Our Bureau of Investigation spent the night of May 30-31 at the Richmond, a Griffintown building where 47 three-story condos are sublet by Sonder.
The accommodation was booked through Airbnb. We absolutely had to rent for two nights. Total Cost: $460.22 Bill includes $100 cleaning fee, GST, QST and 3.5% property tax.
After payment, we were redirected to the California-based company’s app to continue the process.
When the application was approved, the access codes to enter the building and room were sent to us.
When we arrived, we had to fill out a register of the building’s entrances and exits by hand.
There was only one security guard who does not work for Sonder but for the owner of the building.
“Unlike traditional hotels, many Sonders have no front desk staff,” the instructions sent to us read. We could ask Kate Anne, a special worker in the Philippines, questions about the mobile app.
The door of each room was equipped with a tactile keypad with numbers.
In the apartment, a 3 1⁄2 of about 550 square feet, there is in particular a TV with Google Chromecast, a washer-dryer duo and a kitchen with a dishwasher, oven and refrigerator, as well as air conditioning.
Our investigative agency tried to speak to local tenants and landlords to find out about their experiences. However, we came across a building manager who asked us to stop questioning them.
FROM 43 ACCOMMODATION TO HOTEL
Photo Pierre Paul Poulin
In 2017, the City of Montreal sold a landmark building a stone’s throw from the courthouse to Cours de Brésoles Inc.
In very poor condition, the building was sold at a loss after a public bid for $1.4 million.
The company first presented the city with a project for 43 residential units. Six months after receiving the permit, the client changed their request to convert the building into a 46-apartment “hotel”. They will be rented out by the Sonder company for a short time – once the conversion is complete.
“The project would not have been possible without the contract with Sonder,” says Alberto Bernardi, President of the owner company. The project is based on the agreement with Sonder from the start. »
He explains that these will be luxury rooms for business travelers.
A CLINIC BECOMES “AIRBNB”
Pierre-Paul Poulin / The Diary
In 2017, the municipality of Ville-Marie agreed to change the zoning of a building on rue Saint-Denis to create a medical clinic and offices.
Two months after receiving the permit, Développements Quorum Mtl struck a lease with Sonder and then asked the city to change its permit to build 21 apartments.
These are now available for short-term rental, especially on Airbnb.
The developer, Quorum Mtl, has not responded to an email.
A 52 HOTEL ?
Jean Francois Cloutier
A lease was signed by Sonder with Swatow Developments at the end of 2021 to rent four floors in Plaza Swatow in Chinatown.
Swatow’s largest shareholder is a company numbered Quebec, which itself has shareholders in the Seychelles and the British Virgin Islands.
“There are already 51 hotels within a kilometer of Chinatown. Do we really need a 52nd hotel? said May Chiu, a member of the Chinatown Task Force.
Short-term rental giant Sonder has been embroiled in several disputes and controversies in the United States in recent years.
In New York, a building near the New York Stock Exchange where Sonder sublet dozens of apartments was the focus of at least three lawsuits.
In April 2020, two longtime residents of the building specifically sued their landlord and Sonder over an alleged nightmare stemming from Sonder’s presence.
Among other things, they denounced drug trafficking and harassment in the building. “Sonder is the worst neighbor imaginable,” they claimed.
According to the court record, settlement talks took place in November 2021.
In Boston, the Boston Herald reported in late 2019 that Sonder had received multiple fines related to short-term rentals.
“These were 9 potential fines and they were all dismissed as being wrongly issued for compliant properties or for properties not operated by Sonder. We haven’t had to pay any fines and our properties comply with Boston regulations,” the firm defended via email.
In San Francisco, in July 2020, Sonder sued a builder for termination of a lease, citing the effects of the pandemic. An agreement was reached, but last year the owner sued Sonder for his part because there was still a tenant who, according to the agreement, was supposed to move out.
In Long Island City, Sonder was sued by a building owner in August 2020 for $2.5 million for breach of contract. Sonder was to lease an entire hotel. “We have made use of a contractual right of termination that we are entitled to due to non-compliance with the contractual conditions,” explains Sonder.