Today’s Gazette has a business feature article from Kristian Gravenor, who when he’s not blogging owns an … err … affordable apartment building in Verdun.
Confessions of a slumlord goes into how he purchased the building and some of his issues raising money from residential and commercial tenants. Sadly it leaves you wanting more, and the sidebar with tips on dealing with tenants doesn’t seem enough to satiate the hunger for interesting slumlord stories.
Following last week’s announcement of more housing inspectors for the city of Montreal, TVA talks with a housing inspector about some apartment-dwellers who live in inhabitable piles of garbage. The worst cases tend to involve people who have compulsive hoarding syndrome, a mental disorder that causes people to hold on to things with little or no value.
The City of Montreal has promised to do something about slumlords in the city, who rent woefully substandard and disgusting apartments to poor families. They’re hiring more inspectors to inspect more buildings, and promising to get tough on landlords who are delinquent.
Landlords who don’t make needed repairs will be warned, then fined, and then billed for the work that the city does on its own.
That’s certainly welcome news, but it doesn’t tackle the bigger problem facing both landlords and tenants when it comes to rental housing here: disputes take far too long to resolve.
That problem is with the Régie du logement, a provincial agency that deals with disputes with landlords and tenants. These disputes usually revolve around the same themes:
- Tenant is not paying rent
- Landlord is not performing needed repairs
- Tenant is contesting a rent increase
- Some other part of the lease agreement has been broken (or is found to have been illegal in the first place)
But depending on the nature of the issue, it might take up to 17 months for the case to be heard at the Régie. This upsets both tenants and landlords who play fair, because in many cases justice delayed is justice denied. When the wait time is longer than the length of the lease in the first place, the wronged parties find it’s easier to just live with the injustice than wait so long for a hearing.
Only a serious investment that will bring down Régie wait times will make a serious difference in some of these cases. It’ll help get rid of both deadbeat tenants and slumlords who rely on the fact that getting rental justice in this province is just too damn hard.
The other problem is that these slum apartments are rented to low-income immigrant families who either don’t know their rights or are afraid to assert them for fear of losing what little they can get at low rent. More low-income housing, combined with serious outreach and information campaigns are needed to solve that problem as well.
Did you know it’s illegal to barbecue on a balcony in Côte-Saint-Luc?
Apparently the law isn’t really enforced, and politicians are looking at ways to change it, according to The Chronicle’s Martin Barry (who uses three different spellings for “barbecue”).
What’s interesting about the law is its motivation. It’s not the act of barbecuing on balconies that’s dangerous, it’s taking propane tanks up elevators. So now they’re considering allowing people to take propane tanks up elevators if they’re alone.
If propane tanks on elevators are the problem, why not just restrict propane tanks on elevators?
(There’s also the point that fire truck ladders only go so high — which worries me because even propane-less apartments may need them someday — and that tanks are necessarily stored too close to the building’s doors and windows.)
Even if the laws are meant to stop real dangers, can’t we make them a bit more common-sense?
Kate points me to this Hour story about the increasing pressure placed on homeless people in this city. Banning dogs from parks. Banning people from parks overnight. Ticketing people for sleeping in the metro.
At the end of the article is mentioned a new tactic being used: forcing people who have been arrested to sign a document promising to stay out of the area as a condition of their release. The problem, of course, is that services aimed at the homeless are right there. (I’ve seen this technique used for other annoyances the police can’t get rid of legally: They tried to make activists Jaggi Singh, Samer Elatrash and Yves Engler sign agreements that he wouldn’t participate in protests.)
I passed a woman begging at a metro station today. A friend gave her some spare change, despite it being clear from the woman’s behaviour that she was a drug abuser and that the money would probably go to feeding her habit. I didn’t. I don’t give money to beggars for exactly that reason.
But for crying out loud, let these people sleep in peace. If you’re worried about crime and drug use, put more police officers on duty and arrest people who are breaking the law. But nobody should be declared illegal just because you find them icky. And so-called “loitering” laws (loitering means “doing nothing”, which is the one right above all others that nobody should take away) should be done away with.
Our government is failing its poorest citizens. That’s an issue that needs to be tackled directly, not swept under the rug in the hopes it becomes some other borough’s problem.
Kazi Stastna has a report on Benny Farm’s building problems which are pissing off its residents and has already helped kill one.
The problems fall into a few very familiar categories: Finger-pointing when more than one organization is involved, low quality from a low bidder, and experimentation with new technologies that inevitably fails half the time.
It’s what happens when you make guinea pigs out of low-income families.
Sandra-Ann Fowler, the tenant who took her landlord to the Régie du logement over her right to smoke in her apartment (and therefore subject her landlord’s family to traces of second-hand smoke) has won her case.
CTV’s Brian Britt calls it a “victory for smokers’ rights advocates”, and a spokesperson for a smokers’ rights group seems to back him up.
Unfortunately, this simply isn’t true. The ruling stated that because a ban on smoking was not in the lease, Fowler has the right to smoke, even though the application form said smokers were not allowed.
In fact, the ruling apparently suggested that bans on smoking are in fact legal if they are in the lease.
I’d hardly call that a victory. She got off on a technicality, that’s all.
A pair of articles in The Gazette today, side-by-side, about slum landlords getting targetted by more inspectors, and a slum tenant couple whose apartment became a giant garbage can.
The way the slum inspectors thing works is this: Right now, the city has 80 inspectors across all the boroughs inspecting buildings. Surprise, surprise, this is woefully insufficient to keep track of the tens (hundreds?) of thousands of buildings on the island where people live and pay rent.
The most obvious solution would be to hire more inspectors, and to the city’s credit that’s exactly what they’re doing. But instead of taking on the eight new inspectors (a 10 per cent increase) to the already existing departments, they’re creating a new “task force” that will “work with the boroughs”.
In other words, another layer of bureaucracy. Create a new department to cover up the fact that you’re too cheap to properly fund an existing one.
Government by gimmickry. Doesn’t that make you feel safer already?
After a fascinating series on horrible landlords, La Presse takes a look at bad tenants with garbage-filled apartments left by people who don’t clean, or worse, wilfully damage their own apartments or those of others.