Pointe-Saint-Charles tenants must leave apartments by noon Thursday, judge rules

A Quebec judge has ruled that the tenants of two decrepit apartment buildings in Pointe-Saint-Charles will have to respect the city's evacuation order and vacate their homes without delay.

Justice Stéphane Sansfaçon says 2 apartment buildings pose risks to tenants' safety

Tenants have been evicted from two Pointe-Saint-Charles buildings in poor condition. (CBC)

A Quebec Superior Court justice has ruled that the tenants of two decrepit apartment buildings in Pointe-Saint-Charles will have to leave their homes by Thursday at noon.

The request by the landlord to cancel the City of Montreal's evacuation order was denied Wednesday afternoon by Justice Stéphane Sansfaçon. He said there are dangers to the safety of the tenants.

The city's evacuation notice gave tenants less than a month to vacate their apartments due to the poor condition of the buildings — one on du Centre Street and another on Châteauguay Street.

"I don't know how they can cope with it. It's very difficult," said Stéphane Proulx, a lawyer with the Pointe-Saint-Charles legal aid office who is representing some of the tenants.

"It was three weeks' notice. It's the middle of winter, so it's going to be a very unhappy situation."

The city said the owner failed to carry out the necessary work to make the apartments safe enough to live in. It specifically cited the emergency exits as not being up to code and posing a risk to tenants' lives.

'It's going to be tough'

After being told to vacate the premises, tenants filed a request for an injunction Monday seeking compensation to cover their expenses, should they be forced to move or vacate while the work ordered by the city is carried out.

Tenants said Robert Zaphiratos, the president of the numbered company that owns the buildings, had allowed the two buildings to deteriorate over the years and that he rarely undertakes repairs. 

The injuction would have forced the landlord to pay nine tenants $3,000 within 10 days of the evacuation to help with short-term costs.

But their request was also denied "with regret" by the judge, who said it was for the Quebec rental board to rule on the matter.

Proulx said he was disappointed because lawyers representing the tenants had approached the rental board before taking their case to Quebec Superior Court.
Among other things, the City of Montreal has taken issue with two Pointe-Saint-Charles buildings' fire escapes and emergency exits. (CBC)

Due to serious delays at the rental board, he said, their case would have only been heard after the eviction deadline.

"It's going to be tough to explain to our clients because they are entitled to compensation, and they are entitled to obtain it before leaving," said Proulx.

"But they will be most likely forced out of their dwellings without compensation."

Owner did his own inspection

Bruce Taub, the lawyer for the owner of the buildings, filed a separate request Tuesday asking for the evacuation order to be cancelled and for a delay in order for the necessary repair work to be carried out.

Zaphiratos carried out some renovations and commissioned his own inspection, overseen by an engineer with Mount Royal Consultants.

In his report, engineer Jimmy Vathis concluded the two buildings were "not in a deteriorated state" and that the motion to "evict the occupants is not justified."

Sansfaçon pointed out that the engineer's report didn't address several elements of the city's inspection, including bed bugs and safety issues with stairs.

He also said that in the photos taken by the engineer, he could see evidence of mould.

"We will respect what the judge says, and we will go ahead and repair the building in accordance with city requirements," said Taub.

The tenants have until noon Thursday to vacate their units.

Community groups to help out

Several community organizations in Pointe-Saint-Charles said they plan to be on site during the evacuations Thursday.
They'll bring social workers and other resources to help the ejected tenants.

The Pointe-Saint-Charles Community Clinic said it only found out about the evacuations from media reports and it's frustrated because 10 of the tenants would qualify for social or low-income housing.

"But the [low-income] apartments won't be available before March 1. What's the emergency right now? We have one week before March 1. Why can't the city decide to have a little bit of an extension to give more time to these people? We really don't understand," said Stéphane Defoy, spokesperson of the Pointe-Saint-Charles Community Clinic.

Defoy said they'd like to be informed sooner in the future, so they can start helping tenants earlier.

With files from Matt D'Amours