Tracey Arial: Montreal Social Housing tenant eviction process needs overhaul

Written by  //  October 9, 2012  //  Montreal  //  Comments Off on Tracey Arial: Montreal Social Housing tenant eviction process needs overhaul

A Suburban Exclusive
Montreal Social Housing tenant eviction process needs overhaul
By Tracey Arial

A recent study by the Suburban discovered that the OMHM regularly tries to evict tenants for less than $300, while others owe thousands of dollars before being brought to the rental board.It’s not clear why some tenants get more time to settle their debts than others, but the practice does not seem to be means-tested.Tenants in these units pay 25% of their income based on submitted income tax statements so rental rates provide some idea of means for debt repayment. In most cases, tenants were evicted when they owed significantly less than one month’s rent. One tenant was evicted for owing only $1.

To conduct our research, we began by looking briefly at the 390 cases listed of tenants who have faced eviction by Montreal’s social housing department, the Office municipal d’habitation de Montreal (OMHM), since last January. Previous searches via the internal Régie du Logement computers show OMHM evictions at roughly 600 tenants per year for 2011, 2010 and 2009.

Almost half of the cases appeared to be well-founded in that tenants owed more than $1000. Roughly 20% looked obviously suspicious given that tenants seemed to be evicted for late-payment of interest or previous rental board fees after commissioners declared other OMHM claims unfounded. These are the cases in which tenants were evicted for $16, $66 and $74.

Given that the non-profit organization manages 29,949 units containing upwards of 32,000 people, these totals represent a minimal turnover in stock, but we wondered how often the Regie du Logement sides with the landlord in cases that seem unfounded.

We decided to examine 62 cases from September and October 2011 in detail. Rents for these cases ranged from $172 to $802.

The rental board sided with the landlord (OMHM) 94% of the time, or in 58 of the 62 cases. These included several cases in which tenants avoided eviction by paying their rents in full by the time the rental board hearings took place.

Thirty nine tenants (63%) were evicted for owing less than a month’s rent. In four cases, tenants lost cases even though large differences between the original claim and the amount owed when evicted made it evident that they were paying down debts over time.

One man was forcibly moved into a one-bedroom apartment after his wife and three children left him, even though he wanted to stay in their four-bedroom apartment to be able to co-parent his children. His request for a two-bedroom apartment was also denied.

Another tenant was evicted for keeping a dog after being told to get rid of it.

Ten tenants were behind two months’ rent when they were evicted, while another seven owed three, four and five month’s rent when they were evicted. Together, they made up only 1% of the cases.

In every single instance, including the four in which the OMHM’s claims for eviction were rejected, the rental board commissioners ordered tenants to pay rental board hearing fees.

More on The Suburban on this topic – Warning: digital and difficult to find -see front page and p. 3

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