- A woman alleges that a real estate group is using pressure tactics to force her out of her Montreal apartment.
- We spoke to her and her neighbours about their experiences.
- We also reached out to the real estate company, but its representatives declined to comment.
We spoke to three Verdun residents who have been fighting against forced evictions. This week, we heard the story of Karine Laviolette and her over one year-long battle against one of the most powerful real-estate development firms in Montreal: LS Capital Group. Laviolette is an elderly woman who has been living on 3e Avenue in Verdun for a few years. Over the past year and a half, Karine and her neighbours say they have been struggling against the LS Capital Group.
LS Capital describes itself as "a real estate asset management investment firm. Our competitive advantage is finding and securing undervalued properties, and through our construction and management experience, we are able to revitalize or develop them to their full market value potential."
"I first heard about my eviction on the 10th of December. LS Capital Group bought the building on the 1st of November. That same week, they put lockboxes with the tenant's keys outside the building so that workers can come in and out," says Karine Laviolette.
She says she has been facing intimidation tactics and has even had unannounced intruders in her home. For Karine and her neighbours, LS Capital is in the business of taking people's homes away.
"I'm a fighter," says Laviolette. "They won't make me leave that easily."
Intimidation and Confusion
"Before December, they sent us a paper that told me to send my rent checks to their company. When I got my eviction papers, I contested it but my neighbour who was here for 30 years decided to leave. A mother with her son was also evicted," says Laviolette.
According to Laviolette, many of her neighbours around 2e and 3e Avenues in Verdun are facing pressure from LS Capital Group. They've all experienced similar intimidation tactics from LS Captial, she alleges.
"My neighbours on the other side of the street were threatened with eviction and decided to stay but his rent went from around $550 a month to around $1400 because his building was sold after they renovated it."
Above: The original letter sent by LS Capital announcing the transfer of ownership.
"It's intentionally confusing. The Regie and LS Capital Group have all these papers you have to sign and it's not clear which ones you have to sign and where and in what order. Another neighbour of mine signed a wrong paper and they evicted her. She came home one day and everything was locked."
Laviolette has also had to deal with questionable bank transactions. According to her, one of her rent cheques was deposited with $200 less than what she actually wrote.
"For Karine, it was awful because they told her she was not paying it. Which wasn't true at all," says her neighbour Felix-Antoine Carignan. "It took her over a month to get confirmation from the company."
"LS Groupe doesn't consider us "renters," says Laviolette. "They call us 'doors' and they have around 200-300 'doors.'"
"When they were doing renovations, they left their garbage containers in my parking space behind my apartment. After weeks of loud construction, the Verdun borough inspector realized that they didn't have work permits," says Laviolette.
Laviolette tells me that her lease agreement stipulates that she has exclusive access to her parking space, something which wasn't respected.
Translation: Notice of Major Work Order - All windows, bathroom fixtures, floors, doors and baseboards must be replaced. New paint, ceramic, gyprock, electrical and plumbing lines are required.
Apparently, workers would park wherever they wanted to and would show up to do unnecessary cosmetic renovations despite not having the work permits.
Above: The neighbouring apartment clearly displays a work cease order from the borough authorities.
"It didn't matter, because the company still sent workers over to the house despite a cease-and-desist order from the borough," says neighbour Lindsay O'Donnell. "I personally saw a guy who was covered in paint coming in and out of Karine's house when she's not home."
Laviolette says that she doesn't fear for her safety necessarily, but does fear what could happen to her possessions or that they'll change the locks on her when she's out.
"It doesn't even matter to them if I'm home," says Karine. "I called the police one evening after two men just entered my house. I wasn't expecting them, I was just sitting in my living room."
Frustration and Anger
"It's a constant stress and you have to be aware of all the small details. We've been living like this for a year and a half and we're fed up," says Carignan.
Above, from left to right: Karine Laviolette, Lindsay O'Donnell & her daughter, Felix-Antoine Carignan.
According to the residents, LS Capital sends them a seemingly endless stream of papers and contracts that they require you to sign.
"If you want to do repair something in your own apartment, for example, someone will show up and ask you why you're doing that," says Laviolette.
"I haven't left my apartment in almost four months. I'm scared to leave my house because I don't know what will happen when I'm gone."
Is What LS Capital Doing Legal?
LS Capital is required by law to notify tenants at least 6 months before any eviction notice. However, the Regie du Logement stipulates that "owners can only evict a tenant when they want to divide up the rental unit, demolish it, enlarge it or change what it is used for," no matter what.
While it's no longer on their website, LS Capital Group boasted that they have a "95% tenant removal rate."
Above: This printout of LS Capital's website was dated 03/18/2019 and was provided by Karine Laviolette.
"And what's worse is that we're legally allowed to stay here. We all signed a lease and have a contract. There's no legal ground that the LS Capital Group has to forcefully evict people," says Carignan.
"The law doesn't fit reality. They can get around it by doing random renovations and then raise the rents."
"LS Capital Group is one of the worst developers in Montreal," says O'Donnell, "I can't give you an exact number, but just on 3rd Avenue, we're a lot."
MTL Blog reached out to LS Capital but they declined to comment.
"It has to stop and we have to do something," says Carignan. "We're lucky that there's a movement now to raise awareness about the issue."
"I'm personally very surprised that they're been no action and no awareness about this until now," says Laviolette.
"The city says they want to help with affordable housing but all we hear is promises and no action."
In part two, we'll be discussing efforts of tenant advocacy group Verdun, Ensemble Contre la Gentrification. Stay tuned.