Firewalls removed to earn more on Airbnb
A lawyer has to contend with a lawsuit over the removal of fire walls from a building in Old Montreal, very close to the one that burned down last week, in order to increase rental capacity on Airbnb.
Four tenants of a building located on rue Notre-Dame Ouest filed in 2021 a lawsuit at the Montreal courthouse in which they claim a total of $330,000. They are targeting a real estate investment firm chaired by a Montreal lawyer named Émile Fattal.
According to their allegations, the firm illegally operated apartments for short-term rental on Airbnb, which made their lives impossible and put their safety at risk.
“On September 14, 2019, renovations to fire doors are taking place […] in order to enlarge the dwellings and increase their capacity. These renovations destroy the walls of the fire doors adjoining the plaintiff's dwelling”, alleges in particular one of the tenants, Éric Pelletier, in the appeal.
The building is located in the same very touristy area where a tragic fire left two dead and five missing on Thursday.
Smell of smoke
En June 2018, the smell of smoke had already spread through the building, according to another tenant, James Peters.
He said he had to call 911 to avoid a fire. The firefighters' visit would have revealed that the smoke was the result of a cigar left lit in a flower box filled with fertilizer, in a dwelling.
That's not all, because a “accumulation of garbage and snow” would also have blocked the door on the back alley, “thereby affecting the safety of the plaintiff who cannot use the door as an emergency exit in the event of a fire”, it is alleged.
Montréal was aware of these prohibited activities and a City employee allegedly produced a statement to this effect in 2020, according to the lawsuit.
The building owner allegedly denied having any problems with tourist visitors.
He was also well aware of the short-term rental business, as leases specified that the rental on Airbnb was intended.
It can be read in English in the highlighted passage on a lease filed in evidence that the short-term rental on Airbnb was intended and that, for this reason, it would have escaped the jurisdiction of the Court housing administration.
Many other nuisances are listed in the appeal. Premises were reportedly advertised on Airbnb during the pandemic as being perfect for hosting groups.
Remains of dead animals in the walls would have attracted flies and cockroaches to an apartment.
In May 2022, the lawyer's firm requested that certain allegations be withdrawn from the legal action, saying in particular that they were hearsay.
In October 2021 , she also placed all the blame on the tenants who sublet on Airbnb, arguing that, if there had been damage, the latter should be held solely responsible. The firm's full defense has not yet been produced in court.
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