Reports of cockroaches, rats in apartment block spur borough action in Parc-Ex

One tenant told CBC that the smell and condition of her apartment in Montreal's Parc-Extension neighbourhood is so unbearable that she often spends her days outside, avoiding home.

Authorities looking into complaints about Raamco International properties

Over the years, borough officials have received multiple complaints from tenants about conditions in this block of buildings in Parc-Extension. (Jean-François Vachon)

Authorities are looking into reports of rats, cockroaches, mice and mould in a block of 18 apartment buildings in Montreal's Parc-Extension neighbourhood, all owned by the same property management firm.

One tenant told CBC that the smell and condition of her apartment is so unbearable that she often spends her days outside, avoiding home. 

"Sometimes when I'm cooking, I see cockroaches," she said.

She's also spotted a rat twice, and says she is constantly battling with ants, cockroaches and mould. 

The tenant agreed to an interview with CBC on the condition of anonymity, because she's afraid that speaking out could lead to repercussions including the loss of her apartment. For the same reason, CBC News is not publishing her exact address.

Sometimes when I'm cooking, I see cockroaches.- Tenant

"Every time I tell this story, I relive it," she says.

Her apartment is in a block of 18 buildings near L'Acadie Boulevard in Parc-Extension.

According to municipal assessment records, the buildings are all owned by the same company — Raamco International Properties Canadian Ltd.

CBC spoke with one tenant, under condition of anonymity, who uses this trap under her fridge to catch cockroaches and ants. (Jaela Bernstien/CBC)

She's lived in her apartment for two years, and pays $590 a month for rent.

While she says she's asked the building manager to fix up her apartment and address the vermin issue, she says his answer is usually the same.

"'Give me two weeks. Give me two weeks.' And then he never comes," she said.

The only exception, she adds, was when part of her ceiling collapsed due to water damage. After a phone call to the borough, she says the repairs were done.

Mould grows between the kitchen floor tiles of an apartment in a building that belongs to Raamco International Properties. (Jaela Bernstien/CBC)

'People are scared'

The tenant is one of about 30 individuals who've reached out to the local Parc-Extension Action Committee (CAPE) for advice.

"In the past two years we've received a lot of people from these buildings at my office. Mainly complaining about mice, cockroaches or repairs," says André Trépanier, a member of CAPE.

"Recently it's more the people are very scared about the rats... It is a very dangerous animal. And people are scared." 

Trépanier has been advising tenants about their rights.

He says some have gone so far as to take their cases before Quebec's rental board.

In one case, the administrative judge found that the on-site representative of Raamco International Properties had harrassed the tenant, and failed to properly maintain the apartment.

André Trépanier, a member of the Comité D'Action De Parc-Extension, said in the past year they've met with about 30 tenants living in a block of apartments near l'Acadie Boulevard. (Jean-François Vachon)

"The evidence shows that the landlord systemically violated [the tenants' rights] and only maintained the dwelling when forced to do so," Judge François Leblanc wrote in his decision. 

He ordered Raamco International Properties to pay the tenant more than $4,000. 

Trépanier adds that there are two other cases currently before the rental board concerning the same company.

Management company is concerned

Raamco International Properties and its representatives did not return CBC's request for a comment. 

CBC also reached out to Gateway Property Management Corporation, a third-party company responsible for the day-to-day operation of the buildings.

We've been very aware and concerned about this situation at l'Acadie.- Maureen McMahon, vice-president of human resources at Gateway Property Management

Maureen McMahon, vice-president of human resources, said they are taking multiple steps to remedy the situation.

"We've been very aware and concerned about this situation at l'Acadie and are highly involved," she said.

She said the situation has been compounded by the fact that some of the units are owned by multiple landlords, but she did not elaborate further. 

"We will be speaking with our team in Montreal and finding out what we can possibly do as a next step," McMahon said.

"We will be looking at all options and presenting them to the landlord and taking every step we can to remedy the situation." 

City councillor vows authorities will act ASAP

A communications representative for the borough said they are keeping an eye on the situation.

She said that over the years, the landlord had received multiple warnings and fines.

Trépanier acknowledges the borough has been collaborative, but adds that dealing with complaints on a case by case basis is not enough.

"They have a lot of power in the bylaw of the city of Montreal," he says.

Trépanier raised the issue with city councillor Mary Deros this week.

Now she is waiting on reports from borough inspectors to better understand the extent of the situation, and how to best resolve it.

"We want to assure the citizens that corrective measures will be taken ASAP," she said.

Deros, who also sits on the housing, urban and economic development committee, said the reports of rats are especially concerning.

"Mice are tiny little things, but a rat is huge... it's scary and it's dangerous," she said. 

Deros added, however, that living conditions in neighbourhood are also the responsibility of residents. She said citizens have complained about broken furniture, food and even diapers being discarded in the backyards of those buildings.

A heap of garbage sits outside a block of apartments in Parc-Extension. City councillor Mary Deros says living conditions are also the responsibility of residents. (Jean-François Vachon)

About the Author

Jaela Bernstien is a reporter based in Montreal. She's covered a wide range of news topics, ranging from criminal trials to ice age caves, and everything in between.