How to keep yourself save from abusive landlords

The inequality divide between landlords and tenants is increasing to the point where we see a class order where landlord have all the rights and tenants live in a secondary state subservient to the laws that favor landlords and their whims whether legal or not. In the Canadian province of Quebec, there has been a recent rash of unsubstantiated evictions that have made headlines showing just how much more needs to be done to protect tenants’ rights.

The landlord-tenant relationship as it is now is barbaric while minority groups fight for equal rights tenants is forever living a backward time where landlords trample on them just because they can. It can be seen as systematic discrimination from those who are well off enough to own their building to the tenants who in need of a home are forced to rent because they cannot afford home ownership or cannot have the responsibility it entails.

According to the Quebec Regie du Logement, “Tenants and landlords have obligations and rights. For instance, the main obligation of a tenant is to pay the rent and to be paying it on time while the main obligation of the landlord is to deliver the dwelling in a good habitable condition and to maintain it in that state.”

Sometimes tenants fulfilling their main obligations are not enough for some landlords. The Civil Code does not prevent landlords from bringing up nuisance filings of eviction at the rental board, allowing each case their day in court. While most cases revolve around unpaid rent, noise interruptions to neighbors depleting quality of life, and destruction of the property other times landlords can make up grounds that have no basis on the actual laws.

Recently Global News published a feature article describing landlord’s nightmare tenants in Toronto, Ontario they could not evict. The concern was naturally towards the owners, however, in Quebec wrongful attempts at evictions, rental scams and the need for more affordable social housing have been making headlines in Montreal lately as rental season is in high gear.

The most recent story the owner of three six-plexes on L’Esplanade in the Plateau of Montreal forced their tenants to move giving the excuse that they needed to make renovations, but they did not provide much in compensation. Those who objected and filed a complaint with the Regie de Logement received compensation, ranging from a nominal three months rent to $10,000 for one tenant who had a lawyer representing them.

The eviction story that received the most attention recently was that of 82-year-old photographer Pierino Di Tonno, who lived for over 35 years in a Rosemont-Petite-Patrie apartment before being served notice this past January from his landlord claiming to want to subdivide the property. With the help of a local tenants’ advocacy group the eviction notice was successfully challenged and the eviction notice ruled invalid. The story caught the media attention because the cruelty of evicting a senior and uprooting them from their longtime home, irrelevant of the time a person lives at a dwelling it unfair to make them move for other than failure.

One of the most unfair aspects of rental laws that most divide the class system of landlords and tenants is the fact that tenants are not allowed to changed their locks and if they do they have to provide their landlord with a key. While homeowners have a bevy of security systems and locks at their figure tips one more technologically advanced than the next, including cameras and mobile phone access to their alarm system.

Meanwhile, tenants are treated as second-class citizens not given the basic right of being able to protect themselves with a lock they do not have to share with anyone outside their household. For women living alone it is a nightmare, with landlords able to enter whenever they want, sometimes at odd times or even when they are showering, changing, etc.

A tenant’s key can get passed from owner to superintendents or anybody else caring for the building if the owner does live there or goes away for long trips such as winter snowbirds. Tenants never know who is going to have access to their home, if they or their belongings are actually safe. Just because someone owns a building, is the landlord or the superintendents do not make them trustworthy. The law puts tenants at risk of theft, assault, women at risk of rape. The law leaves many tenants fearing for their safety in what is supposed to be their home.

Although the law requires advanced written notice of at least 24 hours before entering for non-emergency reasons some landlords ignore it, continually, causing tenants to end up fearing for their lives. The obvious suggestion is that a tenant can call the police if they feel threatened, but because of the rental board most police view landlord-tenant issues as a civil law issue rather than a criminal law issue unless a major crime was committed. Sometimes the only solution to be safe is to change the lock. However, the landlord can, in turn, make themselves the victim in the situation.

Also supporting the two-tier housing system is the widespread perception and reaction about a landlord harassing a tenant. The best advice from tenant advocacy groups, lawyers and anyone else is to move. The suggestion implies that tenants are transients that can live a nomadic lifestyle moving each year because of a landlord’s harassment.

The suggestion also implies that renters have fewer belongings and furniture that those that own their own home. The cost of packing and moving can cost into the thousands; there is also the loss of pay from not being able to work, the upheaval, and the unpacking that can cause a physical and emotional toll. The financial costs are the reason tenants’ rights groups are fighting making security deposits legal in the province. Sometimes tenants go through it all only to end with a landlord worse than their previous one.

Tenants should not have to move, but the landlord’s behavior should be forced to change. Although there are legal recourses to file complaints at the rental board for harassment and disruption from the peaceable enjoyment of the dwelling, that is not clearly enough to deter some landlords from harassing their tenants.

While much attention is paid to the slumlords and tenants in low-cost housing and state of disrepair in those dwellings, little attention is paid to tenants in more expensive housing that deals with landlords that behave more like dictators than owners of buildings. The situation is the worst for those living in duplexes where the landlord most often lives in the downstairs dwelling while leasing out the upstairs unit.

Discrimination when renting runs rampant in these dwellings; landlords are vetting their new potential neighbors and refusing or choosing them on unreasonable grounds that clearly violate the Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms. Landlords are getting away with selecting out tenants that fit the criteria they desire. They are often discriminating based sex, race, religion, sexual orientation, and family status, and might continue or commence discrimination after the tenants have moved in. In the worse cases, landlords may try to force the tenants to move or evict them for personal reasons, making up flimsy grounds just because they do not like the tenant.

While some sensational stories are making the headlines others go unreported leaving landlords to run amok and continuing terrorizing tenants; these owner dictators are allowed to continue harassing and making their tenants lives miserable. An unbelievable example is a Montreal rabbi and former educator who owns a duplex in a Montreal suburb where the majority of the population is Jewish. This rabbi is a serial tenant harasser, he repeatedly takes his tenants to the Regie du Logement, raises rents beyond the norm, discriminates in choosing his tenants, and then tries to evict them even if they fulfill all their legal obligations, just because he just does not like them.

This rabbi harasses his tenants, enters continuously their dwelling without any notice disregarding the law, threatens not to be nice to them, making their life a general nightmare hoping he can make them move when that does not work, he files for eviction on flimsy grounds, such how they throw out their garbage. This landlord particular practices sexism, religious discrimination, and harassment of the elderly.

Now he wants to evict a senior who is chronically sick with vision problems. He wantsto force them to uproot their home, causing them stress and illness, making them packing and moving expenses, all because they changed their locks to stop his continous unannounced pop-ins, cannot put their garbage at the side of the garage, and occasionally uses a space heater. Now this rabbi is pursuing two cases at the rental board at the same time one for his present tenant another for his previous tenants both co-religionists.

Qu├ębec solidaire is introducing Bill 492 a law that “would force landlords who evict elderly or disabled people to find appropriate housing within five kilometres of their current apartment.” This rabbi, however, wants to evict a senior for no valid reason only with the aim to put them through misery so he can have the house free to find his next victim. Unlike some landlords who want tenants to move he refuses to give any compensation, making this case even worse than the above-mentioned story of L’Esplanade tenants.

The laws need to be changed especially relating to locks and keys and preventing landlords from even getting an audience for an eviction request if the grounds do not have to do with the main legal obligations. In the meantime, there are a few things Quebec tenants can do to prevent renting from bad landlords.

The first thing prospective renters usually look at in renting is location, the condition of the dwelling whether it is renovated, the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, but there is something even more important doing a background check on their future landlord. Just as landlords might run a credit check, tenants need to see a landlord’s history of filing complaints at the rental board.

Two databases can provide that information:

Additionally, tenants should make themselves aware of the laws:

A landlord that does not have a history of harassing tenants probably will not start, that one step can be the difference between moving in and staying at rental home or ending up next year back on the market.

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