Unprecedented compensation for a tenant victim of “bad faith” eviction

Unprecedented compensation for a tenant victim of “bad faith” eviction
Unprecedented compensation for a tenant victim of “bad faith” eviction

A Montreal artist who found herself homeless for several months in 2018 after being evicted “in bad faith” from her apartment in the Mile End district by a landlord who tripled the rent was granted unprecedented compensation of $50,000 following a decision by the Administrative Housing Tribunal (TAL), we learned The duty.

“I’m amazed. I knew I was going to win, I knew it from the start, but I’m still in shock. It’s magnificent,” reacted Christina Ainsworth in an interview, according to whom this judgment demonstrates the importance for tenants of “knowing [leurs] rights”.

“It’s difficult, very difficult, but it’s worth it,” she adds.

An expansion that did not take place

The 38-year-old musician was paying $465 per month for the three and a half apartment she had occupied since 2009 in a building on Avenue du Parc when she received an eviction notice, in November 2017, from a real estate company. chaired by Alexander Fisch. The businessman, whose companies own several rental buildings in Montreal, then said he wanted to combine several of the units in this building into a few spacious apartments to justify the eviction of his tenants.

This is how Mme Ainsworth signed an agreement on November 29, 2017 in which she agreed to vacate the premises in exchange for an amount of $5,000, her accommodation being intended to be substantially enlarged.

Following the tenant’s departure, however, the owner did not carry out this expansion project. He did not obtain the required permits for this purpose from the City. The accommodation has instead been the subject of major work while maintaining the same size. The rent then increased, in one year, from $465 to $1,420 in the fall of 2018. Last year, it amounted to $1,597, according to the evidence filed before the TAL.

Christina Ainsworth, for her part, found herself “in a situation of homelessness” for several months after leaving her apartment in the summer of 2018, being unable to find one that suited her needs and her financial capacity, indicates the decision rendered earlier this month by TAL judge Sophie Alain, that The duty was able to consult before it was put online. I had lots of friends with whom I could sleep on a couch […]but none of these apartments were mine,” confides the tenant, who then became “obsessed” with the idea of ​​finding new accommodation.

In December of the same year, she finally found a two-bedroom apartment located in a basement in Plateau-Mont-Royal, the rent for which currently stands at around $1,400, confides the tenant, who shares the premises. with a roommate.

An “illegal” eviction notice

In the meantime, in the fall of 2018, the tenant decided to knock on the door of her old accommodation, where the new tenant agreed to allow her to visit the premises, consult her lease and take photographs. It was then that she noticed that the owner of the premises had not carried out the extension work for which he had requested her departure from the apartment. She then decided to sue Alexander Fisch and his company for “bad faith” eviction.

Before the TAL, the owner pleaded that he had changed his mind about the project to expand this accommodation after receiving complaints of excessive noise concerning two other apartments in the building which had been enlarged and re-rented at around $3,000 per month. An argument deemed “fallacious” by judge Sophie Alain, especially since the owner provided no proof of the “alleged steps” he would have taken “to intervene with the tenants who were disturbing the peaceful life of the other occupants of the building”. He also did not offer Christina Ainsworth to return to her former accommodation, notes his decision of a dozen pages.

“We have always acted in good faith” and “with respect for the law”, reacted Alexander Fisch in a brief interview with Duty last Friday, during which he did not rule out contesting this judgment before the Court of Quebec.

The judge instead ruled that the eviction notice that was sent in November 2017 to Christina Ainsworth was “illegal”. The tenant’s departure was therefore obtained “in bad faith”, she ruled.

“Indeed, the Court has no evidence concerning the legality and feasibility of the transformation project [du propriétaire] at the time of notification of the eviction notice to the tenant”, in particular because the plans for the expansion project which were then presented to the tenant differed “significantly” from those submitted to the City. However, they bear the same date, notes the judge.

“Clearly”, the owner therefore had “no intention” of enlarging this apartment, notes the judge, who considers rather that the owner wanted to empty Ms.’s accommodation.me Ainsworth in order to “relet it at three times the rent”.

Unprecedented compensation

However, for the tenant, the consequences of this eviction were tragic, notes the judge. She had to “uproot” herself from the Mile End district, “highly frequented by the artistic community”, in addition to “getting rid of musical instruments, including her piano”, and finding herself without “stable housing” for several months. Thus, the TAL awarded punitive damages of $40,000 to the tenant, an amount of unprecedented magnitude in a bad faith eviction case in Quebec, in the opinion of three housing law lawyers consulted by The duty. The judge also awarded a little more than 10,000 for moral damages and certain costs assumed by the tenant.

“I think that the fact that the tenant was also homeless for a few months and that the rent was increased after her departure, these are all factors that played into the balance” for obtaining punitive damages as high, estimates Me Kimmyanne Brown, who represented Christina Ainsworth in this matter.

Lawyers Manuel Johnson and Julien Delangie are delighted to note that in recent years the TAL has granted increasingly higher amounts to tenants who are victims of evictions or repossessions in bad faith. “It’s a step in the right direction,” says M.e Johnson, who, however, doubts that these compensations will be sufficient to convince owners to stop using such tactics for speculative purposes.

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