The former owners of a residential building in Saint-Eustache would have obtained the exit of most of the tenants – including the elderly – before reselling it for profit. The new owners have raised the rent on vacant apartments by several hundred dollars, without doing any renovations, tenants say.
“I was a tenant, then they kicked us out,” says Nicole Boisclair, who left the building on rue Saint-Laurent in Saint-Eustache last fall. “At my age they piss me off so much, it’s terrible,” adds the 77-year-old woman.
For whatever compensation, she says she was exempt from paying last month’s rent and received $900 to partially cover her moving costs. “I still can’t believe it,” said the woman who had lived in the building for 25 years. “I have worked all my life to make a place for myself, for when I retire, but this has brought me down all my life. »
Resale for profit
Paul-André Huard and Craig Herman purchased the nine-unit building in October 2021 for $1,000,000, according to property records. They sold it last February, less than four months later, for $1,675,000. Called at the telephone number of his company, Investissements Huard Herman, Paul-André Huard refused to answer questions from Press. The two men did not respond to our subsequent calls.
Between these two transactions, the current and former tenants with whom Press spoke say that MM. Huard and Herman asked them to vacate the facility under the pretense that major renovations would take place in July 2022.
“They told me, ‘You know if you don’t move in, we’ll make repairs, then we’ll tear your apartment down,’” recalls Nicole Gauthier. They prevented me from sleeping for a couple of weeks. »
The former landlords visited the tenants several times and asked them to sign a “lease termination agreement” offering to cover moving costs and forfeit last month’s rent. Press I was able to see some of these generic agreements. The tenants, however, did not receive any eviction notice, all other communications having been made verbally.
The occupants of six of the nine houses would have agreed to leave the premises. Press In particular, two former tenants, the three remaining tenants and one new resident of the building were spoken to for this report.
METERI Gauthier, 61, initially saw it as an opportunity to move to a residence more suited to her needs, as she uses a walker and cannot climb stairs on her own.
But after having suffered a refusal in a residence reserved for people over 70, he changed his mind. “I told myself: I’m not moving anymore,” she says. I’m having trouble moving, I’m not moving to anything worse than here. »
At the same time, the City Council intervened in November because a concrete slab had been removed without permission to decontaminate the ground after the extraction of an oil deposit.
METERI Gauthier gave notice to Paul-André Huard and Craig Herman to “inform him about the very nature of contamination […]to remedy this situation by carrying out the necessary works”, and reminded them of their right to remain on the premises.
“So, from then on, I never heard from myself again,” he says, until he was informed of the new recipients of his monthly checks.
To date, it is not known whether the soil has actually been decontaminated or not. The City Council has not received confirmation, and the company hired by MM. Huard and Herman, Emphase Environnement, declined to answer questions from Press About that.
Since then II Gauthier and the other resisting tenants had the new owners renew their leases with modest rent increases, as if nothing had happened. Monthly rent for vacant units, on the other hand, has increased by hundreds of dollars.
the one of meI Boisclair, for example, has found a taker. His four and a half years cost him $648 a month. The new tenant, Luc Laurin, met at the site and said that he would pay $1,000.
Although the Civil Code requires landlords to “give the new tenant a notice indicating the lowest rent paid during the 12 months prior to the start of the lease,” Mr. Laurin was unaware of the rent paid by Ms.I Boisclair before him.
Ethel Cudney, also 77, also left her Saint-Laurent Street apartment, which paid $690 a month. In April, her daughter, Anne-Marie Cudney, saw it advertised on Facebook for $1,000 a month. She saved a screenshot that Press I could see.
According to her, there have been no improvements in the apartment. The City of Saint-Eustache also indicates that there have been no requests for permission for renovations at this address recently.
A folk scheme
Professor Ünsal Özdilek, director of real estate programs at UQAM, explains that the value of a building is determined, among other things, by the income it can generate, that is, the amount of rent. Here, “perhaps rents were low compared to market rents in the area, which were going up,” and successive owners saw an opportunity to catch up by kicking everyone out, justifying the higher asking price.
According to the Housing and Mortgage Corporation of Canada, the median rent for a two-bedroom apartment in the Montreal census metropolitan area, which includes Saint-Eustache, was $932 per month in 2021.
Mr. Özdilek maintains that this is a generalized scheme. “The problem is enormous, we sleep with gas,” he denounces, pointing out that tenants often lose out because they end up with insignificant compensation and it is difficult to find similar accommodation at the same price.
The new owners, Schmuel Halpert and Shloma Silberman, declined interview requests from Press. “We bought this building with six of the nine apartments available for rent and did some remodeling on it, and rented it out to an agency,” we simply stated by email, without answering any further questions.
The real estate agent who posted the ad on Facebook, Marie Viscoso, says she did it to help out a colleague, without wanting to name him. “I really don’t know anything about the building. The doors had just opened for me, ”she says before refusing to answer questions from Press. However, she admits to having been contacted by Mr.I Cudney’s daughter after the announcement was published. “I know it’s a bit of a flat story […], but I don’t want to get too involved. »
“The rest of us were fine. […]We had fun together,” laments Diane Bélisle, 74, speaking of her and her friends Nicole Boisclair and Ethel Cudney, who left the building. She says that she turned down MM’s initial offer of compensation. Huard and Herman, considering it insufficient to cover their moving expenses. She traded with them until she found out that her building had changed hands once again.
“It seemed like I had been given an emotional shock,” said Ms.I Bélisle about the stress experienced last fall. “I am always tired, life is not the same for me. I lost my friends, it really shocked me. »