SNOWDON - Kurt John and his friend, Than Trung Nguyen, were the last two residents still living in the building at 4840 Bourret Avenue when the CDN-NDG permits and inspections department ordered everyone out.
“We got notice in September to leave the building in six months. That means at the end of February. My lease was good until the end of June. I didn’t want to take the compensation offer but I didn’t seem to have much of a choice,” said Kurt John. The landlord, Haim Elkabas, clearly wanted the tenants out.
On Nov. 21, the building’s 34 units were declared unfit for living. “Thanh moved out the same day,” says Kurt John.
Thanh was relocated to a temporary apartment after the city inspectors came. “His fire escape was blocked and the bathroom ceiling had caved in because of the construction going on. So it was deemed unsafe for him.”
Kurt stayed a while longer. “My lease was good until the big July 1 moving day. But the owner had been putting pressure on us to leave before that. My housing lawyer said the compensation he offered to me was not enough, so I had to go back
and talk to him,” he said.
His health started to suffer from stress and lack of sleep. He says that tenants had to deal with both soaring electricity bills and a landlord many saw as «difficult.»
Kurt used the oven and a portable heater to stay warm. “When they took the bricks off you could feel the cold coming in.” They were also taking off the balconies. It was making a lot of noise and vibrations. Some cracks appeared inside where my mom and my aunt lived, so I thought it was a little dangerous for them because even they were too worried and stressed out. A lot of people had kids. It was not safe, cold, pieces of brick and wood all over the place. A lot of them left,” he says.
On Nov. 29, Project Genesis, an organization that provides support for tenants dealing with housing issues, held a press conference to talk about the situation.
Snowdon district Marvin Rotrand was also informed. “I was notified by Project Genesis, asserting that the landlord was surpassing the permits that he had received for renovation work and that the landlord was not respecting the rights of the tenants. They also asserted that some tenants had been temporarily relocated to other apartments in the same building. But while the landlord had said the tenants could stay there until the renovations were complete in their own apartments, Project Genesis were told they could only stay a week and then they would have to move because the landlord would turn off electricity and the heating, which is illegal,” said Rotrand.
The Snowdon councillor said there has been no permission granted by Quebec’s rental board for major renovations in those apartments.
“I immediately sent the notice I received from Project Genesis to our permits and inspection department for a follow-up. Now I understand there are several buildings owned by this particular landlord in which there have been complaints. In one of them, the City has issued a cease-work order because it appears that demolition in the buildings surpasses what was allowed in the permit,” he said.
“The landlord has apparently responded to a notice from the city indicating that certain changes will be made to conform with the permits. I’ve asked for further information. I can’t say more than that now,” he said.
As to what comes next, Rotrand says it’s important in Côte-des-Neiges to maintain a stock of good quality rental housing. “It needs to be an objective of the borough to assure that landlords respect all the permits that have been issued and all bylaws that exist. Clearly the idea of forcing out tenants, in other words gutting their apartment to make it a higher rent apartment, or trying to make condos – which is illegal by our bylaw – is worrisome and a preoccupation that we will have to deal with,” he concluded.
Marie Cicchini | email@example.com
Photo : Michaël Monnier