Tenant activists win broad bylaw protections for all renters

Tenants celebrate their 2019 win

THEY'RE ON A ROLL. The tenants at 5781 Côte St. Luc Road in Montreal began by winning their 2019 fight to save their buildings from demolition; then they led the charge to defeat the mayor who approved the demolitions; now they have the new mayor’s promise to protect tenants rights with a revised town bylaw.

The two apartment buildings on Côte St. Luc Road are in Hampstead, an independent municipality, surrounded by the boroughs of Montreal. On September 7, the Hampstead town council announced plans to amend a bylaw to provide more protection for tenants against illegal evictions by landlords who claim the evictions are legal because the landlords’ need to renovate their property.

The town has already added a section on tenants rights to its official website.

New bylaw protections for tenants

Under the new bylaw, landlords will not be issued building permits unless they can prove the apartment is already vacant, or that there is a written relocation agreement with the tenant. Evictions are not allowed at all for tenants (or their spouses) who are over 70, have been in the apartment for 10 years or more, or who would qualify for low-cost housing.

The town council made its decision after a tenant, who had been living in one of the buildings for 35 years, complained to the municipality that their landlord was attempting to kick them out to allow him to make major renovations.

The town discovered the landlord had lied on his permit application. He said the apartment was vacant—it wasn’t; and that the proposed renovations were extensive—they weren’t. In fact the only work contemplated was to be done on a small closet.

The permit was immediately cancelled and a plan was proposed to crack down on illegal evictions.

“We will not issue a permit until we are satisfied that the tenant has been or will be properly relocated,” said Hampstead Mayor Jeremy Levi.

Before the town provides construction permits to landlords whose work would require a tenant to move, it will make them provide written proof that the tenant has agreed to be relocated.

“We’re just adding another layer of protection for tenants who don’t really know the law,” said Levi.

Proof that tenants can win

Sharon Hyman led the original tenants fight in 2019. She always believed there was more at stake than the fate of the two buildings in her Montreal neighbourhood. She said she hoped it would help tenants fight for their rights and know they can win. On Facebook, she wrote: “… what is missing from this discussion is how much tenants contribute to buildings. We are essentially paying off mortgages for others and allowing them to amass wealth… They kept saying, we’re not running a charity. Darn right! I personally put over two hundred thousand dollars into this building!

“We have to stop seeing landlords as victims. They are running businesses, and lucrative ones if they know how to manage them properly. They should be thanking their tenants, not treating them like expendable commodities."


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