Landlords refuse payments as an eviction tactic

Landlords refuse payments as an eviction tactic

Tenants must fight in court to challenge an eviction for non-payment of rent, when in fact it was their landlord who failed to collect their payment, housing attorneys report. They also note that landlords’ tactics to get rid of long-term tenants are becoming more sophisticated.

Montreal tenant Giovanni Di Sclafani, who has lived in an apartment in the Saint-Michel neighborhood since 1967, was the subject of a May 2020 Administrative Housing Tribunal (TAL) ruling for the first time, ordering his eviction for late payment of rent.

However, the case ends up in the Quebec court as the tenant contests the eviction process it is subject to. “He believes the rent arrears are due to an error by the building manager, who failed to cash a check for the May 2018 rent,” Quebec Court Judge Éric Dufour said in a filing served on Nov. 12, 2020 Decision.

Thus, “over the months, the tenant was perpetuated in the state of being owed the unpaid rent,” notes Judge Dufour. He therefore states that the tenant “was surprised by the situation” and decides to remain in the premises.

“It seems as if the landlords are saying to themselves: ‘I’ll get rid of cheap rents and then after a year I can rent the apartment for double, triple'”, the previous rent, said in an interview the lawyer Camille Bolté, who Giovanni Di Sleepani represented. He also specializes in tenant eviction disputes.

“We can say that landlords often try by all means to get rid of tenants,” adds the lawyer, who in 2018 helped a tenant in particular in successfully contesting an eviction notice due to a change of apartment before the TAL to terminate him because of a change in the assignment. However, the tenant in question is protected by an article of the Quebec Civil Code that prevents the eviction of low-income tenants aged 70 and over who have lived in the same apartment for more than 10 years.

“But the owners will try, they will send an eviction notice anyway. They tell themselves that if the tenant doesn’t know their rights, they can evict them,” says Me Bolté.

A tenant who has been subject to an eviction notice for non-payment of rent can also avoid having to leave the apartment by repaying the amount owed to their landlord before the TAL makes its decision. Landlords then decide to collect amounts received after that period to have a reason to evict their tenant, Me Bolté notes. He observes that the tactics landlords use to try to evict tenants are becoming “more and more sophisticated.”

A common practice

Two other attorneys specializing in housing law confirm that refusing to collect rent through various means is a practice landlords often use to try to evict tenants. Several recent judgments by Le Devoir bear witness to this.

“Yes, we see that. But when landlords do that, they knowingly refuse to collect the rent, which is often a gesture of disloyalty, and we can prove that in court,” said attorney Manuel Johnson.

The latter also represented a Montreal tenant last year who was fighting an eviction notice for failing to pay a month’s rent. She requested anonymity because she still fears reprisals from her owner, but Le Devoir has been able to see all court decisions affecting her.

Before the Quebec court, this tenant argued that her landlord refused to cash two checks she had written to pay rent. The landlord then appealed for non-payment of rent. However, a recorded conversation between the tenant and a building manager proves that the owner instead tried to evict her in order to rent her apartment at a higher price, according to a Quebec court decision in the summer of 2021. .

In the months that followed, the owner continued to cash the tenant’s checks, thereby waiving the right to terminate the lease, the court said, which subsequently ruled in the tenant’s favour. The landlord then appealed to the Quebec Court of Appeals to try again to evict his tenant, but he was denied.

A case that does not surprise lawyer Antoine Morneau-Sénéchal, who specializes in housing law and has seen others in his career.

“Often, renters find that either the owner doesn’t cash the check or doesn’t collect the rent. And I’ve seen many cases where the tenants have remained passive in this situation,” he emphasizes in the interview. However, to avoid eviction in this regard, tenants must be able to prove to TAL that they have attempted to repay their monthly rent to their landlord in various ways, such as by specifically asking the owner to cash their check, the explains Attorney.

Tenants can also ask to deposit their rent directly with the TAL after notifying their landlord under an article of Quebec’s civil code, Me Morneau-Sénéchal notes. However, they must wait a month just to make an application in person, and then wait at least three months before having an initial hearing. Otherwise, according to TAL data, the average waiting time for a hearing in the case of non-payment of rent by the landlord is about 1.5 months.

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