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Tenants concerned about renovictions get advice at City Hall meeting

The concern expressed by the residents of five buildings on Kildare Road and Sir Walter Scott over the presence of new owners and a fear of renoviction has resulted in the formation of a tenants association, the engagement of a lawyer and clear line drawn in the sand.

The audience at Monday's meeting.

When Groupe CLV sold the five buildings in February to a group Gestion Galleon, residents sounded the alarm over suspicious evening visits from company representatives offering some tenants cash incentives to leave. This triggered worries about potential renovictions. The latter occurs when landlords use non-urgent renovations as a pretext to force tenants to vacate.  Landlords may harass tenants to force them out, and some send illegal lease non-renewal notices.

Councillor Dida Berku (a tenants rights lawyer for 40 years ) and myself have been very active on the file since day one. Mayor Mitchell Brownstein has been following the situation closely. Now our Urban Planning Department has stepped in. This type of action is fairly unprecedented. I have been on council for 18 years and in my District there are 16 rental buildings (and eight high rise condos). Tenant-landlord disputes occur in all of these buildings and I hear about them. We always have to draw a fine line between by-law infractions which we can intervene on or a dispute between a tenant and landlord which precludes us from intervening. That being said, our involvement in working with tenants to help stave off any serious problems is not something we have done in my time in office.

Catherine Plawutsky

On March  25, our library helped organize a special information meeting for tenants of the five building with  LogisAction,  which provides assistance to tenants in NDG and finds solutions to problems related to their rental situation. It was good to see some of the leaders of the tenants association. We provided the use of our auditorium for free. Attendees signed in when they arrived. Councillor Berku, myself and Mayor Brownstein made opening remarks. Lawyer Justin Demers was on hand and Catherine Plawutsky from Logis Action gave a very informative presentation. 

Earlier in the day, our Associate City Manager Tanya Abramovitch held a meeting with the Urban Planning Department.  It is very important to emphasize that the e-mail to address any infractions is  [email protected] 

According to Tanya, the great majority of complaints the department has received, through in person appearances, phone calls, and emails, have related to threats, the rent cheques, and things that are not ones the city can do anything about. Those are complaints for the Régie du logement or even the police, and we have told them that.

There are certain things that are in the purview of the city, and certain things that are not. Elevators, electricity, plumbing, and ventilation of buildings this size are under the purview of the Régie du bâtiment du Québec (RBQ).  Things like emergency lights, blocked exits, sprinklers, fire alarms, imminent walls of bricks falling, and defective generators are under the responsibility of the SIM. It is always better for the tenants to call directly, since they see things at all hours and live the reality. The RBQ says they will respond within 30 days but it is never that long.  We can make a complaint (and did for the elevator), but us calling versus residents does not move things along faster. The elevator complaint has been deposited at the RBQ, and the property owners have been informed that it has

In our by-laws, permits are required for most work, including the replacement of floors, cabinets, opening a wall, things that touch Gyproc. This is different than in Montreal, where for minor interior work you do not need a permit. Tanya points out that this is fortunate, because it forces the property owners to apply for permits for even small work on one unit.  Our Urban Planning Department also proactively contacted the property owners and let them know that they need a permit to do basically anything, and that they can’t even change the sign outside without going through the city. As of today, not a single permit request exists for any of these buildings. The department will not issue any if one is requested until our director of Urban Planning returns anyway. Our renoviction bylaw, adopted last fall,  only applies in the context of a permit, not before.  Urban Planning will flag Tanya immediately  if any permit request comes in for any of these buildings.

At the information session I informed  tenants that it would be helpful if they can tell us if they hear any sounds of construction (sawing, hammering, etc). If they dothey should contact Urban Planning  by email and let them know right away. We   will then send an inspector to check it out. If it’s on a weekend, we will pick it up on Monday and do what  is needed.

In the past, when these buildings were CLV-owned, there were certain complaints that occurred.  CLV took care of them right away. Our Urban Planning team is concerned that new owners may let this slip. If, for instance, there is any vermin,   contact Urban Planning directly. The department is keeping a log of complaints about these addresses for things that pertain to us. If there is anything to note, it will be flagged.

We do not have the resources to go and visit these buildings on a daily basis if there is no cause to do so. As soon as there is cause, we will log it and go. Having a lawyer on their team compiling a list of complaints would be helpful.

The owners are very aware that we are watching them closely. If there is movement, we will be ready,

The city cannot intervene on everything that is going on. Tenants need to exercise their rights, organize and help each other.  



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