Montreal tenant taking landlord to Quebec Superior Court
Housing right advocates say tenants rarely challenge landlords at Superior Court
Tejinder Singh says all he wanted was a home for his family in Montreal.
Now he's taking his landlord to Quebec Superior Court to get his apartment back.
“It's my apartment because I have, by law, the authority to go back," he said.
CBC News has learned that Singh is about to cite his landlord for alleged contempt of court before Quebec Superior Court — legal action that housing rights advocates say tenants rarely take.
Singh moved to Montreal in 2011 as a refugee seeking asylum.
He fought with his landlord, Tim Canaj, for more than a year, begging him to fix up his family's run-down apartment in Parc-Extension.
"We came to Canada, because it was a country where they take care of their people," said Singh.
Then in the spring of 2013, the city said the apartment had been neglected too long.
The city forced Singh, his pregnant wife and his daughter to temporarily move out for their own safety until the repairs were done.
The family then moved into a one-bedroom apartment around the corner owned by a different landlord, but it was not much better.
It was contaminated with mould and in a state of general disrepair.
"We say ‘come to Canada. You'll be protected as a refugee but you live in the dump,” said Andé Trepannier, a tenants' rights advocate at the Parc-Extension Action Committee. “It is a violation of human rights."
Taken to the Rental Board
Singh went to the rental board and demanded compensation for the inconvenience.
The board sided with Singh and ordered Canaj to fork over thousands of dollars.
The landlord was also supposed to notify Singh as soon as the apartment was ready.
Instead, the landlord fixed up the apartment and rented it to someone else.
Singh received a notice in the mail telling him his lease had been terminated.
He says he is also still waiting for the roughly $3,000 he's owed.
Canaj blames the Singh family for damaging the apartment.
He says when they rented it, it was in perfect condition.
“I'm a working guy, and I don't want trouble. I didn't sleep all night, believe me or not. I couldn't find one solution with him," said Canaj.
Canaj says he thought the Singh family wasn't coming back, so he rented it to someone else.
“I didn't know this guy was going to go so far. I thought he was going to walk away," said Canaj.
Heading to Quebec's Superior Court
Singh is planning to go to Quebec Superior Court Thursday morning, where his lawyer will argue the landlord is in contempt of court.
Housing right advocates say because it's easier to walk away, tenants rarely challenge landlords at that level.
If Singh is successful, his case will give more power to future rental board decisions.
"If they get a judgement that is in their favour, it will help other people in court, because they'll say ‘look, this is what happened in superior court, my case is similar, so I have to have the same kind of justice given to me,’" said Ted Wright, a tenants' rights advocate with the Westmount Legal Clinic.
He says it would prove there are real consequences if landlords refuse to cooperate.
As for Singh, he says he just wants his home back.