Residents of multiple Côte-des-Neiges apartment buildings on Bourret Ave are speaking out about what they’re calling “renovictions.”
Alongside politicians and community groups, on Saturday the tenants denounced the recent behaviour of a real estate company that owns dozens of buildings in Quebec and Ontario, including the ones they call home.
Danessa Rulloda was among them. Rulloda has had a tough year working on the front lines of the pandemic as a nurse at the Jewish General Hospital.
She’d prefer to relax when she gets home, but instead, the mother is often busy poring over documents as she battles to keep the home she lives in with her husband and eight-year-old son.
“We hope that our family won’t be evicted. It’s been so stressful,” she told Global News.
Advocates say Rulloda is just one of dozens of families living in buildings owned by real estate giant Cogir that are facing eviction.
“This year, we received a letter from the Tribunal stating that we missed a payment and we were so shocked because we religiously paid our rent every month,” Rulloda explained. She said she paid her rent in cash for a few years, and doesn’t have every single one of the past receipts anymore. She said Cogir can’t even confirm to hear specifically which month they’re seeking.
Snowdon city councilor Marvin Rotrand convened a press conference on Saturday in front of 4870 Bourret. He, tenants and community groups denounced Cogir’s recent actions.
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“All of these evictions are for minor reasons, and some of the tenants say that they are for spurious reasons,” Rotrand explained. “I’ve become aware that up to 50 families have received notices to appear in front of the rental board with the possibility that they will be evicted.”
One tenant who spoke said her rent went up by $23, and because she forgot to pay the new higher amount, she is losing her apartment after more than 20 years living there.
“I really feel that it’s money, that it’s wanting to increase profits that is behind this,” said Margaret van Nooten, a housing rights advocate at Project Genesis.
Many tenants in the area got a notice in recent months offering them a buyout. They were offered $6,000 to move into a more expensive renovated apartment, or $3,500 to simply break their lease and leave. Soon after, eviction notices started coming from Cogir.
“It’s really a fishing expedition, I would say,” said van Nooten. “The net is being cast very wide among tenants who are paying less rent, thinking that if they open up cases against everybody, they’ll be able to succeed in evicting some of them.”
“This neighbourhood is mostly lower-income families, many immigrants, many visible minorities, and a lot of people don’t know their rights,” explained Rotrand.
Global News reached out to Cogir by email and phone but did not hear back on Saturday. Meanwhile, Rulloda is preparing for an eviction hearing at the housing tribunal on September 11, for which she’ll have to take off work.
“We already have a nursing shortage, and this is happening,” she said.