Who owns what? New app aimed at helping tenants band together

With vacancy levels at 15-year lows, it can be tough to find an apartment in Montreal these days. A local web developer is hoping his new website can change that.

Find My Landlord is based on a project started in Chicago. Web developer Chris Bitsakis adapted it for Montreal by using public information from the city to identify which landlords own which properties, creating a clearer picture of who owns what.

“The reason I made this tool is to just expose companies who own companies under shell corporations to avoid liability or conceal their identity,” said Bitsakis. “It's to expose commercial properties that are being bought up for the purposes of speculation.”

Maxime Roy-Allard of tenants' rights group RCLALC said the program has the potential to help tenants mobilize.

“People could come together if they have the same landlord and maybe fight rent increases or eviction,” he said.

Landlords, on the other hand, believe the website abuses public records.

“This is personal information that must be used for tax inspections or some other specific use,” said Hans Brouillette, spokesperson for landlord group CORPIQ. “Certainly not to provide information of the portfolio of a property owner to know how many buildings he has. This is the kind of information no one wants to see spread.”

Bitsakis countered that transparency will make for a better city.

“The city should make such a tool,” he said. “It should make access to this information easier.” 

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