Landlords sue Hudson’s Bay for unpaid rent at multiple Quebec locations

A Hudson's Bay Co. store sign is shown in Toronto on Monday, July 29, 2013. Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press

Two landlords of the Hudson’s Bay Co. are suing the retailer for unpaid rent, alleging the iconic department store that anchors shopping malls across Canada hasn’t paid its bills at multiple locations since April.

The lawsuits filed in Quebec Superior Court by Cominar Real Estate Investment Trust and Oxford Properties Group and its co-owners are seeking so-called safeguard orders compelling HBC to pay rent.

Court documents allege HBC owes more than $3.5 million in rent and other fees at five Quebec shopping malls, an amount that continues to climb by more than half a million dollars each month.

But in an affidavit filed in response, Ian Putnam, president and chief executive officer of HBC Properties and Investment, says the company has been trying to reach a mutually acceptable solution with the landlords that recognizes COVID-19’s “dramatic impact” on the retailer.

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He says the claim that HBC has refused to engage in good faith negotiations is “completely false.”

Putnam also alleges that the landlords are no longer providing the “first class” properties that HBC bargained for, noting that the shopping centres at issue have changed significantly since March.

It’s possible the retailer also has unpaid bills outside Quebec.

Oxford Properties alleges in court documents that while HBC continues to pay rent “under protest” at three of its shopping centres, it’s withholding rent at eight other locations.

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The company’s portfolio of malls includes the Yorkdale Shopping Centre in North York, Ont., the Square One Shopping Centre in Mississauga, Ont., and the Southcentre Mall in Calgary, Alta.

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Meanwhile, in addition to seeking unpaid rent, Cominar is also threatening the Hudson’s Bay with eviction from its three Quebec properties.

Cominar claims in court documents that HBC owes $603,169 in rent at the Rockland Shopping Centre, $662,490 at the Champlain Mall and $144,393 at the Centre Laval.

Oxford Properties claims the retailer owes $1.4 million in overdue rent at Les Galeries de la Capitale and $875,680 at Les Promenades Gatineau.

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