A landlord threatens to call the fire department to evict his tenants

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A landlord threatens to call firefighters to evict his tenants

A tarp has been installed in Wasim Osman's apartment due to water dripping from the ceiling.

After Sherbrooke, it is the turn of Montreal tenants to denounce the actions of a property manager and owner in Estrie, Tristan Desautels. A Radio-Canada investigation shows that he would threaten to call on the firefighters to evict his tenants in order to renovate the building. The latter believe that Tristan Desautels would also have been negligent by failing to intervene quickly for a roof pierced in multiple places.

It was a magnificent place, but now, like you see [it is no longer]*, was sorry Wasim Osman, pointing to the tarp hanging from the ceiling of his small apartment at 255 rue du Square-Saint-Louis, in Montreal.

Since August 8, it has literally been raining inside. That day, a man pierced the roof in several places with a drill. Wasim Osman had the reflex to draw his phone to film the scene.

Holes are visible on the roof. Wooden splints are visible, showing that the drill has forced the wooden frame.

The man, who was unknown to the tenant, refused to name himself and it was impossible for us to identify him. His intervention, however, caused a significant infiltration of water when the rain fell on Montreal just a few hours after his passage. It was like waterfalls, recalls Wasim Osman.

Wasim Osman is saddened that the representative of the company that owns the building, Tristan Desautels, was late in making emergency repairs to stop the water from seeping in, when he was arrested on multiple occasions.

It was only three weeks later, the day after a Radio-Canada team visited the building, that the roof was repaired.

Wasim Osman and three other tenants of the building denounce the negligence of Tristan Desautels. They believe that this laxity is in addition to the strategies deployed by the landlord to evict them. He continued to pressure and harass me to leave the apartment, even though I told him explicitly that I had no intention of leaving*, testifies Michael Wozny, one of the tenants.

It's literally raining in Mr. Osman's apartment.

The company represented by Tristan Desautels became the owner of the building on July 6, 2022. The next day, Tristan Desautels tried to convince the tenants to terminate their lease.

He claims that the building is dangerous and that he needs to do renovations. He mentions that the firefighters could evict them overnight. It's the blackmail he did, that we were going to find the house barred and that we were going to be evicted by the firefighters, protests Jean-Roch Boivin, a tenant who lives there. building for over 30 years.

In an audio recording recorded by Wasim Osman and an email obtained by Radio-Canada, Tristan Desautels claims that all it takes is one call for firefighters to evacuate the places.

“We can just call the fire department and you'll be out. […] You can take a chance and not believe me, but you will all have a surprise.* »

— Tristan Desautels, excerpt from an audio recording

Wasim Osman filmed this interview with Tristan Desautels

Verification made: the City of Montreal indicates that it carried out an inspection on August 16 and no evacuation was justified. The former owner of the building confirmed to us that on the day of the sale, the building was safe.

The tenants we met all say that Tristan Desautels was very insistent that the tenants quickly sign a lease termination document.

Legally speaking, this is landlord harassment of the tenant, comments housing lawyer Daniel Crespo Villareal.

Me Crespo Villareal judges that the threat of eviction by firefighters is punishable by law. We are playing blackmail, threats, putting pressure to harm the enjoyment of the premises to obtain permanent eviction. This is punishable by the Civil Code of Quebec, he points out.

The landlord or any other person may not harass a tenant in such a way as to restrict his right to peaceful enjoyment of the premises or to obtain that he vacate the dwelling.

The tenant, if harassed, may request that the landlord or any other person who harassed be ordered to pay punitive damages.

- Article 1902 of the Civil Code of Quebec 1902

Tristan Desautels only offered one month's free rent to the tenants to convince them to terminate their lease, amounting to approximately $600. However, the law obliges him to offer much more for a temporary eviction due to major works, according to Daniel Crespo Villareal.

The compensation offered in this case is clearly insufficient, underlines Me Crespo Villareal. All moving costs, disconnection costs and the difference in rent to be paid in the temporary rent should be borne by the landlord. That is the minimum threshold. We are talking at the very least of a few thousand dollars.

Still according to the lawyer, the landlord should have sent a notice of major work to the tenants to advise them of the nature of the work and the duration of the eviction. Tenants can oppose it if they consider that the eviction or the duration [of the eviction] are not necessary for the execution of the work, specifies the lawyer.

Tenants who confided in us say they have never received a notice of major work. I have never received a letter telling me his intentions, it has always been words, wind in the corridors, testifies Jean-Roch Boivin.

“We have never had any advice, none, none, until now. »

— Jean-Roch Boivin, tenant

Jean-Roch Boivin is happy to count on the support of other tenants to resist Tristan Desautels.

The lease termination document distributed by Tristan Desautels was not a notice, according to Me Crespo Villareal, who was able to consult the document. We are in the process of having a document signed which has nothing to do with the works, but which has as its sole objective and purpose the permanent eviction of the tenants, he specifies.

The group of four tenants refuses to leave the premises as long as Tristan Desautels does not comply with the requirements of the law. If we agree to leave, we will have to pay double the rent [for another accommodation], fears Wasim Osman.

The latter would have no problem temporarily leaving the premises to return after the work. I like this window, he points out, showing the view of the Saint-Louis square. As I told you, I became Canadian here.*

In an audio recording provided by Wasim Osman, however, we can see that Tristan Desautels is reluctant to this possibility. He lets him know that the rent will increase significantly after the work.

The methods used by Tristan Desautels are denounced by tenants, who believe that he is exerting undue pressure to that they leave their accommodation.

Jean-Roch Boivin feels relieved to be able to count on the support of the other tenants. He hopes, however, that he will not be another victim of gentrification. I am happy to have support so that it stops and that there are still poor people in the Saint-Louis square, he concludes.

“Thinking about all that money spent, all those inspectors [coming to inspect] to [address hazard allegations] d& #x27;a person who takes advantage of the system, who takes advantage of people's fear, who sets it up as a system. He brags about this management technique, it goes a long way. »

— Jean-Roch Boivin, tenant

We tried several times to contact Tristan Desautels, but without success. He hung up on us, and did not respond to our email interview request.

* These words have been translated from English.

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