Montreal

Up to 50 families in Côte-des-Neiges threatened with 'groundless' evictions, advocates say

Dozens of tenants of apartments on a street in Côte-des-Neiges say they're facing eviction after the company that manages the buildings sent them notices to appear before Quebec's rental board for 'spurious' reasons.

Real estate management company Cogir denies attempt to oust tenants

Danessa Rulloda is just one family out of dozens living in buildings on a street in Côte-des-Neiges who is facing eviction after being sent notices for unpaid rent, despite never having missed a payment. (Valeria Cori-Mannochio/CBC)

Snowdon resident Danessa Rulloda has lived in an apartment on Bourret Avenue with her family since immigrating to Quebec from the Philippines in 2018. A convenient three-block walking commute to the Jewish General Hospital where she works as a nurse, Rulloda has no plans to relocate from her affordable Côte-des-Neiges apartment unit. 

But recent notices from the company that manages her building threatening to evict her for withholding rent — despite her claims that she has never missed a payment — has her battling to keep her home. 

"We feel attacked, we feel very harassed," she said, speaking alongside politicians and tenant rights' advocacy groups on Saturday. Supporters turned out to denounce the actions of major real estate company, Cogir Immobilier, which manages several apartment buildings on Bourret Avenue. 

Rulloda is just one family of dozens living in buildings owned by Cogir that say they have received notices to appear before Quebec's housing tribunal for a variety of reasons. Many are worried they will be evicted. 

Marvin Rotrand, a Montreal city councillor for the district of Snowdon in the Côte-des-Neiges–Notre-Dame-de-Grâce borough, expressed support for the affected tenants.

Marvin Rotrand, city councillor in the Côte-des-Neiges–Notre-Dame-de-Grâce borough, centre, joined tenant rights' activists outside an apartment building on Bourret Avenue on Saturday to denounce possible evictions by the property manager. (Valeria Cori-Mannochio/CBC)

"In the last days, 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," he told reporters Saturday. 

"All of these are for minor reasons, and some tenants say that they are for spurious reasons."

One tenant who spoke on Saturday, Zaneida Alvarez, said she was evicted after forgetting to include a new $23 annual rent increase when she paid her rent. She has lived in the apartment on Bourret for more than 20 years.

"We will be appealing that [eviction] for a wide variety of reasons," Rotrand said.

"This neighbourhood is mostly lower-income families, many immigrants, many visible minorities," he said. "When there's a power imbalance, a big player like Cogir going after low-income tenants, it's entirely unfair."

Not looking to oust tenants, says Cogir 

Margaret van Nooten, a social rights' worker at community and social justice group Project Genesis, says most families that are being threatened with eviction have near perfect payment records and that Cogir is on a "fishing expedition."

She says the details in notices sent to tenants are murky, ranging from failure to specify which month a tenant has allegedly failed to pay or, when a tenant shows proof of payment for an outlined time period, the month is switched altogether in a new notice. 

"These hearings are groundless," van Nooten said. She argues families will now have a difficult time finding homes in the future because future landlords will presume that they are not reliable in their payments due to the fact that they've been brought to the rental board, some more than once. 

Cogir, for its part, says it is not interested in evicting people to renovate apartments and lease them at a higher price.

Social rights' activist Margaret van Nooten says families who are made to appear before the housing tribunal for these minor reasons will face challenges finding a new dwelling in the future. (Valeria Cori-Manocchi/CBC)

Earlier this year, tenants on Bourret Avenue received notices from Cogir offering them $6,000 to move into a renovated, more expensive unit or leave the building and receive $3,500.

But Cogir spokesperson Brigitte Pouliot says there was a miscommunication and that tenants always had the option of staying in their existing unit. She says the notices should have included a third option that allows residents to stay in their current units and keep their lease. 

Pouliot says the buildings have vacant units and the owners want tenants to stay, although some have been sent notices to appear before the rental board for partially or totally unpaid rent. She refused to comment on individual tenant cases. 

Meanwhile, Rulloda is preparing documents and scheduling time off work for another hearing on Sept. 11. 

"It's a day where we will find out if we're going to be evicted or not," she said.

Based on reporting by Valeria Cori-Manocchio

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