Booking a Sonder listing on Airbnb is like walking into a rental condo building that might otherwise serve Montreal renters long-term.
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Our Bureau of Investigation spent the night of May 30-31 in Richmond, a building in Griffintown where Sonder sublets 47 condominiums on three floors.
The accommodation was booked on Airbnb. We absolutely had to rent for two nights. Total cost: $460.22 Bill includes cleaning fee of $100, GST, QST and 3.5% lodging tax.
After payment, we were redirected to the California-based company’s app to continue the process.
When the application was approved, we were sent the access codes that will be used to enter the building and the room.
When we arrived, we had to fill out a log in and out of the building 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 do not have front desk staff,” the instructions sent to us read. We might ask Kate Anne, a Sonder employee in the Philippines, questions about the mobile app.
The door to each room was equipped with a touch pad with numbers.
Inside the apartment, a roughly 550-square-foot 3 1⁄2, highlights a TV with Google Chromecast, a washer-dryer duo, and a kitchen with a dishwasher, oven, and refrigerator and air conditioning.
Our Bureau of Investigation reached out to tenants and landlords on the site to learn about their experience. However, we ran into a building manager who asked us to stop questioning them.
FROM 43 ACCOMMODATIONS TO A HOTEL
Photo Pierre-Paul Poulin
In 2017, the City of Montreal sold a heritage building, located a stone’s throw from the courthouse, to Cours de Brésoles inc.
In very poor condition, the building was sold at a loss of $1.4 million, following a public bid.
The company first presented a project of 43 homes to the City Council. Six months after obtaining his permit, the builder modified his application to transform the building into a “hotel” with 46 apartments. The Sonder company will rent them on a short-term basis—when the reconstruction is finished.
“The project would not have been viable if it had not been for the contract with Sonder”, says the president of the owner company, Alberto Bernardi. The project is based on the agreement with Sonder from the beginning. »
He explains that these will be luxury spaces for business travelers.
A CLINIC BECOMES “AIRBNB”
Pierre-Paul Poulin / The Diary
In 2017, the municipality of Ville-Marie agreed to rezoning a building on rue Saint-Denis for the creation of a medical clinic and offices.
Two months after obtaining their permit, Développements Quorum Mtl signed a lease with Sonder and then applied to the city to amend their permit to develop 21 apartments.
These are now available for short-term rentals, especially on Airbnb.
The developer, Quorum Mtl, did not respond to an email.
a 52 HOTEL ?
Jean Francois Cloutier
A lease was signed in late 2021 by Sonder with the firm Swatow Developments for the lease of four floors at Plaza Swatow in Chinatown.
Swatow’s largest shareholder is a Quebec numbered company which in turn has shareholders in the Seychelles and the British Virgin Islands.
“There are already 51 hotels within a kilometer radius of Chinatown. Do we really need a hotel number 52? 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 in which Sonder was subletting dozens of apartments has been the subject of at least three lawsuits.
In April 2020, two long-term residents of the building sued their landlord and Sonder in particular for what they claimed was a nightmare due to Sonder’s presence.
Among other things, they denounced drug trafficking and harassment in the building. “Sonder is the worst neighbor anyone can imagine,” they alleged.
According to the court file, settlement discussions were taking place in November 2021.
In Boston, the boston herald reported in late 2019 that Sonder had received multiple fines in connection with short-term rental.
“These were 9 potential citations, and all were dismissed because they were incorrectly issued to eligible properties or properties that were not operated by Sonder. We have not had to pay any fines and our properties comply with Boston regulations, ”the firm defended itself by email.
In San Francisco, Sonder in July 2020 sued a building owner to terminate a lease, citing the impact of the pandemic. A settlement was reached, but the landlord in turn sued Sonder last year because a tenant who was to leave under the settlement was still present.
In Long Island City, Sonder was sued in August 2020 by a building owner for US$2.5 million for breach of contract. Sonder was expected to rent an entire hotel. “We exercised a right of contractual rescission that we had for breach of the terms of the contract,” Sonder justified.