1707996464 Tenants are overwhelmed with worries

Tenants are overwhelmed with worries

“Above all: don’t sign anything! »

Posted at 5:00 am.


This is the main advice of lawyer Manuel Johnson, addressed to the thirty tenants gathered in a room in the city center, a stone's throw from the two buildings on Rue du Fort in which they live. Buildings housing 140 tenants that Henry Zavriyev bought last December and represent one of the most expensive purchases in his portfolio: $26.5 million.

Less than two months after the purchase, efforts to convince tenants to break their lease are well underway. In the room are young people, old people, immigrants, native Quebecers. Everyone is filled with the fear of losing their home. “You are here because you are worried about the purchase. And you're right, says Mr. Johnson, who represents many of the tenants evicted by Mr. Zavriyev. Because you may not know it, but you are sitting on a gold mine! »

Tenants are overwhelmed with worries


About thirty of the 140 tenants of the two buildings on Rue du Fort took part in the meeting organized by the Ville-Marie housing committee last Thursday. Attorney Manuel Johnson addressed the tenants.

For every $100 increase in rent, the new owner increases the value of their building by $10,000 to $15,000, Mr. Johnson says. According to the lawyer, it is this mechanism that brought Henry Zavriyev's financial success. Starting with the purchase of an apartment building in 2017, which he paid for in cash, renovated and then rented out again, the speculator practically built a small real estate empire (see other text).

According to La Presse's calculations, Mr. Zavriyev bought $197 million worth of rental properties across Quebec in seven years, a figure he himself confirmed to us. However, he refuses to reveal how many tenants agreed to quit after these purchases.

“A niche of our company is to acquire buildings in urgent need of renovation and begin implementing them. “Where appropriate, private agreements are systematically offered to our tenants, who have the free choice to accept them or not,” he replied to us via email.

The 30-year-old developer has resold some of these buildings acquired over the years, but still owns almost thirty properties that paid a total of 146 million between 2019 and last month. In Montreal, Quebec and Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, these properties represent at least 610 residential units.

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Attorney Manuel Johnson

The “Zavriyev technique,” ​​based on an agreement between the owner and his tenants, is legal, lawyer Manuel Johnson explained in an interview with La Presse in December. “There are big profits to be made quickly; the laws and regulations allow it. And as long as the law allows it, it will continue. »

Making “doors” profitable

In front of the tenants of Rue du Fort, Solidarity MP Manon Massé calls on them to resist their eviction. Henry Zavriyev, she thunders, “he is the king of speculation, the chief speculator of Quebec.” He has no regard for what goes on behind the doors. He’s only interested in buying doors.”

And in order to make these “doors” profitable, it is necessary at all costs to evict the former tenants who pay low rents, she denounces. Tenants like Muguette Payette, who has lived at 1180 Rue du Fort for 29 years. “It's a good neighborhood. I know everyone and we help each other. »

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Muguette Payette in her home at 1180 Rue du Fort

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Muguette Payette signed the lease cancellation agreement, but disputes this signature because she believes she was not sufficiently informed. “I felt like I had no choice. »

Ms. Payette is 72 years old, has difficulty walking with two canes, and has a very low income of $25,000 per year. In theory, it meets all the criteria of the law to prevent the eviction of seniors approved by former Québec Solidaire speaker Françoise David. It was therefore theoretically impossible to displace him.

But when Mr. Zavriyev's staff knocked on her door after the holidays, they claimed the building was being demolished, she said. That everyone had to go. “According to them, everyone had signed. I felt like I had no choice. I told them, “You're going to tell your boss he has no heart.” » Feeling cornered, Ms. Payette signed.

She currently pays $574 per month for a studio apartment.

I don't know what I'll do when I have to go.

Muguette Payette, tenant of 1180, rue du Fort

With the help of the Ville-Marie Housing Committee and Me Johnson, she wants to challenge her signature because she believes she was not sufficiently informed.

“Our tenants, like all citizens, have access to all the necessary information before making their decision,” answers Henry Zavriyev, who answered our questions by email. Several tenants in our buildings have refused to enter into agreements and remain residents of their accommodation. This is a fundamental right that we will continue to respect. »

Other tenants actually refuse to sign the lease termination notice. Ivan, whose first name we changed at his request because he fears reprisals from the owner, says he will fight to the end. In January, he says, the water in his home was turned off for 11 days “without warning.” “And since the building is heated with hot water, it was very cold,” adds one of his neighbors, an older man with white hair. “Several tenants signed after this episode. »

“Information was regularly sent to tenants and steps were taken daily to find a plumber who could carry out the work as quickly as possible,” says Mr Zavriyev.

Awatif, a student and single mother of two, was offered $6,600 to quit. “They told us we had to leave before July 1, it was an obligation. There was no option. » Despite everything, she didn't sign. “We had the feeling that the people in the building were afraid. I play but I'm scared. »

Buildings in several cities

The Rue du Fort tenants are just the latest in a long list of tenants facing eviction from Mr. Zavriyev's properties, from Villeray to Hochelaga-Maisonneuve, via Montreal-Nord, Quebec, Longueuil and Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu .

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Henry Zavriyev

Last December we reported on the story of 4790 rue Sainte-Catherine Est, a building that was purchased by Henry Zavriyev and then devastated by a fire – caused by tools used in the renovation – and finally by a major flood. After being evacuated twice, almost all tenants had to leave the building. There are only two left: Michel Séguin and Daniel Bernier.

But last week, renewed flooding led to another evacuation of the building. On site, the firefighters discovered “completely inadequate” work.

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4790, rue Sainte-Catherine Est, building purchased from Henry Zavriyev

“The district has filed complaints with the CNESST (safety of workers and site), with the CCQ (site conditions and qualifications of workers) and with the RBQ (license and conduct of the contractor and for works we are considering totally inadequate),” clarified Julie Bellemare, district spokeswoman. After six months of suffering, the district finally relocates the tenants permanently.

Read our file on 4790, rue Sainte-Catherine Est, “The Ordeal of the Tenants”

Henry Zavriyev first made headlines in early 2022, a few months after purchasing the Mont Carmel residence, which caused a stir as some tenants decided to fight the developer. The case is still before the court. But this high-profile case has cast a shadow over many places, including other retirement homes, where the speculator did the same thing.

Like in Château Beaurivage, a large senior residence in northern Montreal with three towers and almost 500 residential units. Nicole Blanchard's mother lived there. The 92-year-old had to undergo two moves within a few months, which were handled by Leyad, a company owned by Henry Zavriyev. The developer purchased the complex around the same time as the Mont Carmel residence.

The owner first gathered the elderly in one of the buildings, forced an initial move, and then finally evicted them a few months later, in 2023. “It happened in a very cavalier way. They said to themselves: They are just old people, they won't remember! But my mother's condition really deteriorated because she was so stressed, Ms. Blanchard says. His memory declined dramatically. »