Every year, thousands of international students come to Canada and choose to call Montreal home while they complete their studies.
I can't imagine what it would be like to travel across the world, say goodbye to your family and set up in a whole new city... but, of course, the promise of an awesome education is often enough.
So it was absolutely heartbreaking to encounter the group of boys that were living in the apartment pictured below, which has been overridden with bed bugs, cockroaches and trash.
Yes, this is Montreal.
The boys living at 4860 Queen Mary reached out to us via Twitter earlier this week, sharing this video of the outside of their apartment, an alley that sits between 4860 and 4870 Queen Mary Road.
I went by to see the building myself... and when I got there, this was the sign that welcomed me.
When I spoke with the boys, they let me know that this had been going on for weeks and with the recent heat the smell was coming into their kitchen window on a regular basis.
They also mentioned that several other tenants had expressed their concern over the bugs and trash, wondering when it would all be dealt with.
In speaking with the landlord of 4860 Queen Mary it became abundantly clear what the main issue was: who did the trash belong to? And without knowing that... whose responsibility is it to have it removed?
Because the trash sits between two buildings with different owners the conversation has been a steady back and forth between the landlord at 4860 and the property manager for the Akelius-owned 4870.
Below is a photo of the alley in question.
Above is a photo of the alley between the two Akelius-owned buildings just adjacent.
Dealing with the trash implies ownership of it, which has created a stubborn back-and-forth while the tenants of both buildings suffer.
In speaking with a representative from Akelius, they let us know that they have every intention of dealing with the issue promptly. In fact, they even mentioned sending a concierge over to the apartment today to see what he could get done before potentially calling a junk removal service to handle the rest.
The boys' landlord did say he was willing to get something done, but insisted that it wasn't his sole responsibility and wanted support, either physically or financially, from Akelius, whom he claims he has spoken with several times about the issue.
The rep from Akelius that we spoke with seemed to be ready to act today, which could mean good things for all tenants.
When it comes to bug infestations, the law is very clear. It's the tenant's responsibility to inform the landlord of the issue and it then becomes the landlord's responsibility to deal with the bugs. The landlord at 4860 assured me that he was in the process of dealing with the bed bugs. I still told the boys they should maybe find a new place.
Since visiting the apartment the Borough of Cote-des-Neiges-Notre-Dame-de-Grace has responded to the boys, hopefully in an effort to get the issue dealt with.
But my question spreads to the rest of the International students... and students from anywhere, really, who still don't know that the Regie exists to help them. Or that the law is often on their side.
These boys had just come from another apartment, also infested with bedbugs (welcome to cheap rentals, boys), where they were bullied into paying for the extermination.
Now they're worried that after speaking with me, their landlord will kick them out.
How do we, as a community, better invite these students?
Because here's how I feel: of all the countries in the world, of all the cities in Canada, of all the boroughs in Montreal, they chose this one.
They chose Cote-des-Neiges (and we all know how much I love Cote-des-Neiges).
And this little garbage display? Not the way I want them to remember their time here.
UPDATE: By 4PM yesterday, July 25th, most of the garbage was quickly dealt with. These photos were shared with us by Akelius' Customer Relations and Marketing Manager who should be appreciated for dealing with this issue as quickly as they did.