Tenants angry at being forced into pandemic housing dilemma after fire

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One thing people are being warned to avoid during the pandemic, if at all possible, is moving houses.

New guidelines from the City of Montreal make it clear that it’s a big, expensive effort to move safely this year, amid COVID-19. People are asked to hire movers instead of asking friends for help, to arrange carefully planned or virtual visits to see new places, and even to sign a new lease remotely, which involves a lot of printing and scanning.

So Montrealers who end up forced into a move this year can find it exceptionally stressful. 

The residents of a building in Cartierville said they’re angry to be told they’re out of a place to live after a fire, with very little compensation.

Since April 7, the residents of a 40-unit building in Cartierville have been living in a hotel. They were brought there by the Red Cross after a fire in their building destroyed its electrical system, even though most units weren’t damaged.

They were only offered compensation equaling three weeks’ rent, with no option to move back in before September—and if they agree to break their leases, they’ll get an extra month’s worth of rent, plus $250 in moving expenses.

They only have until June 1 to find a new place before they must leave the hotel, said one tenant, Brian Payne Jr.

“I’m very angry,” he said. “I mean, I figured that either the landlord’s insurance, or something, would pay for our inconvenience.”

His neighbour in the building, Abdul Rehman, says it’s been clear while searching for a new home that rent will be much higher at places currently on the market—everything is upwards of $1,500, he says.

Quebec tenants have somewhat constrained options for seeking legal recourse right now, since the Régie du Logement’s offices are still closed because of the pandemic, with hearings postponed. Régie staff are still available by phone, however, and some services are online.

In situations like the Cartierville fire, landlords are supposed to pay move-in and move-out expenses to help tenants get resettled, plus reasonable expenses, says lawyer Ted Wright. He recommends that tenants like these start a case with the Regie and try to hire a lawyer.

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