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Evictions on the rise in Montreal’s Cote-des-Neiges-NDG borough

Click to play video: 'Evictions on the rise in Montreal’s CDN-NDG borough' Evictions on the rise in Montreal’s CDN-NDG borough
Housing advocates say evictions are on the rise in the city's Côte-des-Neiges neighborhood due to home enlargements and subdivisions. As Phil Carpenter reporters, community organization Project Genesis is helping 20 households contest their evictions and accusing landlords of abusively applying a section of the Quebec civil code which allows property owners to evict tenants in order to carry out renovations – Mar 20, 2021

Tenants and community groups in the borough of Cote-des-Neiges-NDG say the number of eviction notices issued in recent months to families who rent apartments is worrisome.

According to one tenants’ rights organization, the number of families who’ve received eviction notices between January and March from landlords who want to subdivide or enlarge their properties has increased dramatically.

“We’re helping probably between 20 and 30 households, and we know that there are dozens and dozens,” said Margaret van Nooten of Project Genesis, a group that advocates for tenants.  “Last year we probably had maybe five or ten.”

Read more: Montreal tenants, advocates demonstrate against city’s lack of affordable housing

She added that the figures are for Cote-des-Neiges alone.

Tenants who are fighting eviction notices, like Monique Benzekri, who has lived in her apartment on Wilderton Avenue for decades, say they can’t understand why this is happening all of a sudden.

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“We tried to know for what reason are we going to be evicted,” she said.

Benzekri got her eviction notice in December 2020, telling her she has until June 2021 to leave.  In the letter, obtained by Global News, the building administration said the apartment is being transformed, citing Section 1959 of the Quebec Civil Code.

“The lessor of a dwelling can evict the tenant from it to subdivide the dwelling, substantially enlarge it or change its use,” Section 1959 states.

Click to play video: 'Some Montreal families are still without a home annual moving day' Some Montreal families are still without a home annual moving day
Some Montreal families are still without a home annual moving day – Jul 22, 2020

There’s just one problem with that though, say borough officials.

“We’ve imposed a freeze for the moment and a ban is coming on the issuance of permits for subdivisions and enlargements,” opposition city councillor Marvin Rotrand told Global News.

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Tenants rights groups think landlords are using section 1959 of the civil code as an excuse to jack up the rent, and they want the provision abolished, especially since there is a shortage of apartments.

“It’s too important that profit-making motives should be given priority,” said van Nooten.

Benzekri said it’s stressful.

“I don’t know if next year, where I move, the landlord is not going to tell me get out,” the retired teacher said.

Read more: Advocates say lifting of eviction moratorium in Quebec means trouble for tenants

Advocates for landlords, however, say the provision is important for building owners.

“It allows them to evolve with the real estate market,” Annie Lapointe, spokesperson for the Quebec Landlords Association said, “The tenants do have the right to refuse.”

Van Nooten said, though, that contesting can be stressful and many don’t bother, since the process can be complicated and time-consuming. She said, furthermore, some don’t even know they can contest the eviction.

Borough officials say the onus should be on the landlord, not the tenant, to petition the housing tribunal in such cases.

Some of those served with notices have taken the matter to the tribunal.

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