Pointe-Saint-Charles tenants forced out of homes due to safety risks

Two deteriorating apartment buildings in Pointe-Saint-Charles are now padlocked, after a Superior Court justice upheld a city evacuation order due to safety risks, forcing tenants to vacate.

City secures, padlocks buildings after Superior Court justice upholds evacuation order due to safety risks

Gardiner Latimer, who lives with his brother in the du Centre Street apartment building that's under an evacuation order, doesn't know where they will go. The city will pay for two nights in a motel, after that they're on their own. (Verity Stevenson/CBC)

The tenants in two deteriorating apartment buildings in Pointe-Saint-Charles have left their homes after a Quebec Superior Court justice ruled Wednesday they must vacate the premises by Thursday afternoon due to safety risks.

The City of Montreal said it has secured the buildings and put locks on the doors after all tenants moved out by 4:30 p.m.

"The city's paying for a motel for two days, then we're out on the street," said Gardiner Latimer, who lives with his brother on Centre Street.

Latimer said he doesn't know what they are going to do. It's impossible to find a new home before March or April, he said.

Justice Stéphane Sansfaçon upheld the city's evacuation notice on Wednesday and rejected a request for injunction from the tenants to seek compensation to cover their expenses.

Lawyers for the tenants were seeking a ruling to force the landlord to pay them $3,000 within 10 days of the evacuation to help with short-term costs. 

In early February, the city gave tenants three weeks' notice to vacate the premises, citing poor conditions of the buildings on Centre and Châteauguay streets.

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

Tenants say owner Robert Zaphiratos has let the two building deteriorate over the years and rarely undertakes repairs.
Tenants who live at the two buildings in Pointe-Saint-Charles were forced to leave their homes Thursday due to safety concerns. (Nav Pall/CBC)

Lori-Ann Grose, who lives with her teenage daughter in a one-bedroom apartment, said she is angry because she expected her landlord to take care of the buildings. 

They are now stuck trying to find an affordable apartment in the same area.

"I want to be in the Pointe. I was born and raised here," she said. "I don't think I should have to leave here."

'The deadline is just totally crazy'

Local community groups, the city's fire department and the Red Cross were on the scene to help the tenants gather their belongings.

Stéphane Defoy, a spokesperson for the Pointe-Saint-Charles Community Clinic, said local organizations are struggling to help tenants find new homes on such short notice. 

He said at the very least, the city should have given tenants until March 1 — the start of the month — to move, when more social housing would be available.

"We need time because some of these people, they are vulnerable," Defoy said. "The deadline is just totally crazy."

The city, for its part, vowed in early February that it would help tenants find new homes.

"The city won't let anyone [be] homeless," said Philippe Sabourin. "We will accompany each tenant."

Cédric Glorioso-Deraiche, a project leader with the group Action-Gardien, said the city's process should have been more humane.

"Behind these buildings that are unsanitary, there are people that need decent living conditions, and we need to help them," he said.

Landlord's request also rejected

Sansfaçon also denied the landlord's separate request for an injunction on the evacuation order.

Bruce Taub, the lawyer for the landlord, argued that Zaphiratos had carried out some renovations and commissioned his own engineering inspection, which concluded the buildings were "not in a deteriorated state" and that the motion to "evict the occupants is not justified."
Among other things, the City of Montreal has taken issue with two Pointe-Saint-Charles buildings' fire escapes and emergency exits. (CBC)

He also asked for more time to attend to the 122 issues outlined by city inspectors that are to be dealt with by the end of February.

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.

With files from CBC's Verity Stevenson, Nav Pall and Matt D'Amours


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