Hey Heather, it's me again.
Recently I learned a lot about how evictions work here in Montreal. Not that I was looking to learn more about it but upon being thrust into the situation I got to reading. I thought I’d share what I’ve learned.
When I first received the notice that I was being evicted, the letter provided was quite vague and I wasn’t sure what to make of it. The Régie du logement actually provides fill-in the blank templates that landlords can use to give to tenants. However they’re not mandatory and why bother making things clear and easy, right? Anyway, I checked the Régie’s website and found these three situations for being expelled from your abode. There are probably other situations which I’m not aware of but these are the ones that came up the most when searching. I’ve added my interpretation of what I think each means.
- Repossession: I, landlord, am taking over the dwelling for myself or for a relative.
- Eviction: I, landlord, am changing up the unit so that the one you have leased no longer exists.
- Major work: I, landlord, am to make important renovations.
In the letter, the landlord mentioned partial subdivision and major work. So this means we’re talking about either point 2 or point 3 mentioned here above. What’s interesting about the way it was presented is that it was left pretty open to interpretation. First let me specify what the law says about each of these cases.
What’s an eviction?
Now, the laws that govern housing in Quebec fall under the Civil Code of Quebec. The specific article that deals with an eviction is article 1959 which says that the lessor (meaning the landlord) of a dwelling can evict the tenant if he plans to either:
- subdivide the dwelling;
- enlarge it substantially;
- or wants to change its destination (meaning changing it from residential to business)
The lessor also has to notify the tenant at least 6 months before the end of the lease (note that this varies depending on the length of your lease). Once the tenant receives the notice, they have 1 month to apply to the Régie if they decide to object the eviction. This entails going to the Régie’s office, speaking with a clerk, and filling out an application to the tribunal. I believe it’s also possible to fill the application on the Régie’s website but if you go to the office you can also ask questions and they can give you information. Keep in mind that they are impartial and cannot make recommendations. Once the objection is made and the application submitted to the Régie, it’ll be up to the landlord to show the tribunal that they really intend to make the changes to the dwelling. The next steps are to send a copy of the application to the landlord in a reasonable amount of time, you’ll need to have proof that it was sent and that they received it. You’ll eventually get a letter from the Régie du logement with information on when to appear.
If the tenant doesn’t object — from my understanding this means if you don’t go to the Régie and submit an application — then the tenant is deemed to have agreed to vacate the dwelling.
What is major work?
As for major work, this includes important repairs and/or improvements in a dwelling. The Régie’s website specifies that this includes:
important repairs or improvements in a dwelling such as renovating the bathroom or kitchen or replacing the plumbing, the heating system or the windows of a dwelling. In general, this is work that gives an added value to the dwelling and improves the quality of life of its occupants.
If the landlord wants to make such changes, they are obligated to give the tenant a 10-day or 3 months notice depending on the situation. Also, they cannot increase the rent of the dwelling during the lease, they may request it at the upon renewal of the lease. And they have to return the dwelling in a clean condition.
In regards to the notice, it must contain:
- the exact nature of the work that’ll be done,
- the date and estimated duration of the work,
- all information regarding that can affect the tenant.
Also, if tenant must temporarily leave the notice must include:
- length of time tenant must be gone,
- the amount offered as compensation to cover expenses involved in leaving.
There are other details surrounding major work that you should read if you’re ever in this situation. But the one other thing I want to mention and discuss is this:
In all cases where the tenant is asked to leave, he has 10 days from the date of receipt of the notice to notify the landlord whether he agrees to vacate the dwelling. If he does not respond to the notice, he is deemed to have refused to leave the dwelling.
Similar request requiring different action
Looking at both situations described above, if we compare the actions that must be taken on the request to leave we get two different paths. If the tenant doesn’t reply to the eviction notice it’s deemed accepted. However if they don’t reply in the case of major work, it’s deemed refused.
Even after spending a few hours reading on the laws that govern housing and the different scenarios, I hadn’t pick up on what this distinction could mean. It was only after consulting a lawyer at a legal aid clinic that I was informed of what was presented to me. Since the letter I received was vague, it was unclear what exactly applied. I could’ve interpreted it as the landlord requesting I leave to do some major work and not answered or just replied to the landlord thinking everything’s fine since it’ll be deemed refused. But then it could also be interpreted that the landlord asked me to leave and that the renovation part didn’t apply to my unit but another. In any case, the letter and the way everything was handled is pretty sketchy and I’m glad I went to the legal clinic where they were able to make sense of all the information.
The status of the situation is basically still pending now so we’ll see how this goes. But all of this got me thinking about how difficult it must be for some people to understand and exercise their rights. In a report shared in 2019 by the Literacy Foundation, they state that 1 in 5 people have difficulties reading and writing (I believe this is for Quebec and that it’s based on a PEICA report from 2012, that I haven’t looked up but honestly it’s 2am now and I can’t). I can’t really fathom what it would be like. Reading the written law is basically navigating logical statements with conditionals, but then you add nuance, insinuations, unclear or incomplete documents that hint at ideas and it gets much more complex.
Addendum: one other thing about eviction that I forgot to mention is that if the landlord is successful in the eviction, either the tenant willfully leaves or the court decides that the tenant must leave, then the landlord has to pay the tenant 3 months worth of rent, plus moving expenses like renting a truck, hooking up internet, etc. It’s funny he forgot to mention that in his letter.