Tenants and landlords have certain rights in Canada; these rights vary from province to province and vary in how they apply to tenants. However, getting these rights enforced can be a difficult task if you don’t have access to the right resources. As shown in the following tale, Montreal, Quebec can be a place that makes it difficult for tenants to get the help they need to live peacefully in their homes.
The Beginning of Apartment Hell
Three years ago, a couple who are very close to me decided to move out of their apartment due to noise, only to find themselves in an even worse situation. To protect their identity, I will refer to them as John and Mary, since there is no freedom of speech in Canada’s constitutional monarchy system (No, Canada is NOT a democracy, but that’s a story for later).
The couple moved into their new apartment hoping that they could leave behind the noisy neighbors, which even had a specific clause in the lease about noises. However, it quickly became apparent that their new neighbors didn’t care about the people around them, and the nightmare began. It was nonstop electro music and screaming coming from the apartment beside John and Mary’s. There was always a constant stream of people coming and going, shouting and partying, from the neighbor’s apartment; these people would ring the wrong doorbell to the point John and Mary had to turn their doorbell off.
There seem to be at least a dozen people living in that 2 bedroom apartment, none of which seem to hold a job, they are always there. That’s also without mentioning their upstairs neighbor who seems to be moving furniture around and slamming the floor every single day as if it was their full-time job.
A Complaint with the Landlord
The couple did what any rational person would do: they lodged a complaint with their landlord. The landlord’s response? “I can give you their phone numbers.” When nothing happened because of their complaints, they called the police. Though, that proved fruitless as well. The neighbors managed to convince the police that nothing was happening, so the police went on their way. It didn’t take long for the neighbors to start up their partying again. The police called to say that it didn’t seem like their intervention solved the situation and to call back if it continued.
And that’s what they did. Complaint after complaint after complaint. They called the police upwards of a hundred times in hopes that something would be done. The police did nothing to solve the problem—whether it because they had no power or just didn’t care—and the threat of having the police called on them didn’t stop the neighbors from partying. The couple went through sleepless nights and were anxious about what the next day would bring. They were stressed, anxious, and desperate for help. The only person who had any power to change the couple’s situation was the landlord.
The Rent Board of Quebec, a government body in place to protect renters, states that the owner of an apartment building must fulfill certain legal obligations. One of these obligations is to provide the tenant with “peaceful enjoyment of the premise.” When a tenant lodges a complaint, the landlord had eight days to intervene and solve the situation. If the landlord fails to intervene within the eight day period, the tenant gives them a new deadline of ten days. If nothing comes from that, the tenant can seek reasonable recourse.
Though, in John and Mary’s situation, it didn’t seem like their landlord was willing to uphold their obligations. For two years, the couple lodged dozens of complaints with their landlord and waited for him to do something. The landlord claimed he was working on it, that he was working with the police department, and that he was going to evict the noisy neighbors. But nothing ever happened, it was all lies one after the other. The person who is legally obligated to help them didn’t do anything. In fact, he began to blame the couple.
The landlord blamed them for wanting to live in peace; he told them that the blood on the wall from a fight the neighbors had was no big deal; he told them that he wanted to spend time with his family, not deal with the couple’s problem—the problem he is legally obligated to fix.
The couple is trying to move, but it’s not as easy as it sounds. First, they work 60-80 hours a week which leaves them little time to go apartment hunting; this is on top of the stress they’ve undergone trying to deal with their neighbors. Second, everyone move on July 1st in Quebec. Yes, I swear I’m not making this up. During the rest of the year, it can be difficult to find a new apartment. They are also planning to leave Canada within the next year, as they don’t feel safe or welcome in their own country, nor do they want to live in a place with such flagrant disregard for the well-being of its people.
However, this story is about the seeming lack of help for tenants. You can reach out for help, but the people who should assist you do nothing. When you make an agreement with your landlord to uphold each other’s rights, you expect just that. But, when one side lets you down, you lose hope. You feel trapped. They let you become depressed, sick, and anxious while problems go unsolved for an unacceptable amount of time.
John and Mary have shared their story in hopes that people in a similar situation will step forward and help push for change in the way Canadian citizens are (mis)treated in their own country, then it would be worth it.
No one deserves to feel trapped in their home because the tenant rights they were promised are not being upheld.
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