Residents are being asked to leave their apartment for seven months due to renovations
Residents at Manoir Lafontaine were given notice on March 31, stating they must vacate the building by June 30 for seven months, due to renovations. The residents are currently refusing, as they worry this is an instance of “renoviction.”
Renoviction is when a landlord evicts all the tenants under the pretense that a large-scale renovation is needed, and then rents out the apartment at an increased rate once the renovations are complete. Montreal is currently in a housing crisis, which has been exacerbated by COVID-19.
“At first, like a lot of people, I couldn’t sleep. I was shocked to receive the eviction notice in the middle of a pandemic,” said Renee Thifault, who is 67-years-old and has lived at Manoir Lafontaine for over ten years. She explained that many of the building’s residents are older.
“I love my apartment, and I will fight until the last minute to be able to stay,” said Thifault, explaining that she sees the situation as unfair, and is ready to go to the Quebec housing tribunal.
“It’s awful that a person could have so much power to kick people out on the streets with no good reason. And that the government tells us the only way we have to defend ourselves is to take them to court,” she said.
According to a La Press article, the owners of Manoir Lafontaine, Brandon Shiller and Jeremy Kornbluth, own at least 800 apartments in Montreal under the company Hillpark Capital. In 2017 they bought a 36-unit building on Coloniale Avenue, the next year they evicted all but three tenants who refused to leave, and according to the article turned the building into modern luxury apartments.
Cecilia Marangon, assistant at Concordia’s Off-Campus Housing and Job Resource Centre (HOJO) said that if anyone finds themselves in a situation like this, it is important for them to know their rights as a tenant and make sure those rights are respected.
HOJO offers free assistance on housing and job rights to anyone in Montreal. While Marangon stated they do not give legal advice, they can help inform people of their rights.
“Remember that they have the right to refuse,” she said, explaining that if tenants believe their landlord is evicting them without a good reason, they can refuse the eviction. This is the case for the tenants at Manoir Lafontaine.
“They have the right to know exactly what kind of work is going to be done, to know what is going to be the compensation which needs to be adequate with the rental market,” said Marangon.
She explained that renovictions are not a new occurrence, and it is common for people to come to HOJO with issues relating to renovictions.
Manon Massé, Quebec politician and one of the leaders of the Québec solidaire party, visited Manoir Lafontaine in support of the tenants. She posted on Facebook, “Evictions camouflaged by building work are multiplying.”
“We hope to gain support. And not just moral support,” said Thifault, who was very excited that Massé visited. “I am happy to see that people are coming together.”
Photograph by Chloë Lalonde