Beginning in metro stations across Montreal and culminating in front of the Régie du logement building on Réné Levesque, protesters on Feb. 19 set up mock waiting rooms as a challenge to the current wait times tenants are subjected to when bringing a case before the rental board.
According to the Régie du logement Quebec’s annual report, (2012-2013), tenants wait nearly two years to have their cases heard, while landlords have their cases heard within 1.2 to 1.4 months.
“We see that there is a systematic prioritization of landlord needs and concerns at the rental board to the detriment of tenants,” said Fred Burrill, a representative for the POPIR-Comité Logement, one of the organizers of the protest.
The protesters are advocating for the rental board to hear cases within three months, that cases be prioritized on a first-come-first-served basis and that emergency cases, such as those affecting the health and safety of tenants, be heard within 72 hours.
“Nobody likes to wait. Tenants are in situations of real urgency that have significant impact on their quality of life and the rental board is supposed to be an impartial tribunal and not what it currently is, a clearinghouse for evictions,” said Burrill.
Students are no exception.
“We do see often that students, especially students from Concordia and McGill, have a hard time defending their rights and don’t necessarily know about the existence of the rental board to begin with. As a relatively transitory population by the time they get their hearing, which may be two to three years, they may no longer live in Montreal,” said Burrill.
Approximately 150 people participated in Wednesday’s protest. Protesters managed to block traffic on René Levesque for half-an-hour, said Burrill.
The protest was organized by the POPIR-Comité Logement, Le Regroupement des comités logement et associations de locataires du Québec (RCLALQ) and Project Genesis.
In addition to this protest, a five-minute documentary has been prepared through the collaboration of a number of tenant committees and organizations.The documentary aims to portray the kind of issues tenants are facing and is set to be released in the coming months.