Quebec is a great place to be a tenant, even though most people really don't know it. In so many ways, the province, or specifically the Régie du logement du Québec, gives a lot of power to a tenant renting an apartment.
The trouble is, most tenants aren't fully aware of their rights, and this ignorance leads to some pretty awful situations.
Take a recent tenant-landlord situation in the Plateau as a prime example. Last week, it was reported that an owner of a series of apartments in a building on de l’Esplanade (just above Mont-Royal) basically kicked out residents in a rather clever way.
As told in Journal Métro, the building-owner told tenants the apartments "needed" renovations, and that they had to move out. The landlord gave tenants a few months of notice, then asked them to sign an agreement stating that they would vacate at the designated time.
Now, all that sounds on the level, until you get into the specifics. Some of the tenants in the de l'Esplanade building (and nearby lodgings owned by the same landlord) had been living in their apartment for decades, so the surprise need for renovations came out of nowhere.
No alternative lodgings were offered to tenants and little compensation for the move itself was provided. All they got was a letter saying they had to move out by a specific time because the landlord said so. Essentially, the tenants were evicted without even realizing it.
Even worse, tenants reported that the owner was letting the building fall into a state of disrepair. In doing so, the owner was pretty much prompting tenants to leave while also justifying the proposed renovations.
And this isn't an isolated incident. The comité logement du Plateau-Mont-Royal (CLPMR) has stated that 22% of all calls they receive in a year relate to evictions and relocation problems, with the CLPMR citing the "evict, renovate, and raise rent" strategy as a frequently used tactic among landlords.
When you consider the opportunity to make extra money, it comes as no surprise that landlords would evict Plateau residents out of their apartments. By kicking tenants out, then enacting minor renovations, a landlord can get new tenants and charge them double or triple the original rent.
And since the Plateau is an increasingly sought-after neighbourhood to live in, people are willing to pay.
While the Journal Métro story focuses on older residents getting kicked out of the apartments in the Plateau (as does a Global News article about a long-time resident of Little Italy who will be evicted), evictions are also forced upon younger Montrealers, namely students.
About a year ago, landlords were kicking 20-something and students out of their apartments, only to remake undivided apartments with multiple bedrooms into seperate units with higher rent. We'd be surprised if the practice didn't continue, because the need to make more money off of real estate is ever-present.
But while it would be very easy to demonize the landlords of the Plateau who would forcibly remove renters both young and old, a certain amount of blame needs to be placed upon the tenants themselves.
The CLPMR notes how a fraction of tenants who have been asked by their landlords to move out (at least in the case of the de l'Esplanade incident) actually filed any form of complaint with the Régie du logement. The rest did next to nothing.
Tenants simply aren't aware of their rights, nor their options when faced with an eviction notice. Thinking it is their only option, tenants simply sign off on an agreement to vacate, thus leaving them with no other choice but to leave.
But no tenant needs to take the kind of sneaky practices being employed by certain Plateau landlords (and no doubt elsewhere in Montreal) lying down. So read up on your rights, and if ever, organizations like the CLPMR are around to help.