Saint-Eustache | “They kicked us out”

The former owners of a residential building in Saint-Eustache reportedly obtained the departure of most tenants – including the elderly – before reselling it at a profit. The new owners increased rents on vacant apartments by several hundred dollars without doing any renovations, tenants say.

Published at 12:15 pm.

Frederik-Xavier Duhamel

Frederik-Xavier Duhamel
The press

“I was a tenant, so they evicted us,” says Nicole Boisclair, who left the building on rue Saint-Laurent in Saint-Eustache last fall. “At my age, they pissed me off a lot, it’s terrible,” adds the 77-year-old.

For any compensation, she says she was exempted from paying the last month’s rent and received $900 to cover – partially – her moving costs. “I still can’t believe it,” said the woman who had lived in the building for 25 years. “I’ve worked my whole life to make room for myself when I retire, but it demolished my whole life. »

resale with profit

Paul-André Huard and Craig Herman purchased the nine-unit building in October 2021 for $1,000,000, according to the land registry. They sold it last February – less than four months later – for $1,675,000. Contacted by phone from his company, Investissements Huard Herman, Paul-André Huard declined to answer questions from The press. The two men did not respond to our subsequent calls.

Between these two transactions, current and former tenants with whom The press spoke to say that MM. Huard and Herman asked them to leave the facility under the guise of major renovations that would take place in July 2022.

“They told me, ‘You know that if you don’t move, we’ll do repairs, then we’ll demolish your apartment,’” recalls Nicole Gauthier. They kept me from sleeping for a few weeks. »


PHOTO HUGO-SÉBASTIEN AUBERT, PRESS

Nicole Gauthier

The former landlords visited the tenants several times and asked them to sign a “lease termination agreement” offering to cover their moving costs and forgo the last month’s rent. The press have to see some of these generic agreements. The tenants did not, however, receive any eviction notice, with the remaining communications being made orally.

The occupants of six of the nine residences reportedly agreed to leave. The press notably spoke with two former tenants, the three remaining tenants and a new resident of the building for this report.

Mme Gauthier, 61, initially saw it as an opportunity to move into a home better suited to her needs, as she uses a walker and cannot climb stairs on her own.

But after being refused a private home for 70 years and more, she changed her mind. “I told myself: I’m not going to move anymore,” she says. I’m having trouble moving, I won’t move any worse than here. »

At the same time, City Hall intervened in November because a concrete slab was ripped out without authorization to decontaminate the ground after extracting an oil tank.


PHOTO HUGO-SÉBASTIEN AUBERT, PRESS

The facade of 30, rue Saint-Laurent, Saint-Eustache

Mme Gauthier notified Paul-André Huard and Craig Herman to “inform you about the very nature of the contamination […]to remedy this situation by doing the necessary work”, and reminded them of their right to remain on the premises.

“Then, from then on, I never heard from again,” she says, until she was informed of the new beneficiaries of her monthly checks.

To date, it is not known whether the soil was in fact decontaminated or not. The City Hall has not yet received confirmation, and the company hired by MM. Huard and Herman, Emphase Environnement, declined to answer questions from The press in that matter.

Since then, M.me Gauthier and the remaining tenants who resisted had their leases renewed by the new owners with modest rent increases, as if nothing had happened. The monthly rent for vacant units, on the other hand, has increased by hundreds of dollars.

that of Mme Boisclair, for example, found a buyer. His four and a half years were costing him $648 a month. The new tenant, Luc Laurin, met at the site and paid $1,000.

While the Civil Code requires landlords to “notify the new tenant indicating the lowest rent paid during the 12 months prior to the commencement of the lease,” Mr. Laurin did not know the rent paid by Ms.me Boisclair before him.

Ethel Cudney, also 77, also left her apartment on Rue Saint-Laurent, which paid $690 a month. In April, her daughter Anne-Marie Cudney saw him advertised on Facebook for $1,000 a month. She kept a screenshot that The press could see.

According to her, there were no improvements in the apartment. The city of Saint-Eustache also indicates that there have been no requests for a permit to renovate this address recently.

a popular scheme

Professor Ünsal Özdilek, director of real estate programs at UQAM, explains that the value of a building is determined, among other things, by the income it can generate, that is, the rent. Here, “perhaps rents were low compared to market rents in the region, which were rising,” and successive owners saw an opportunity to catch up by evicting everyone, justifying the increase in the sale price.

According to Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, the average rent for a two-bedroom apartment in the greater Montreal area, which includes Saint-Eustache, was $932 a month in 2021.

Mr. Özdilek maintains that this is a widespread scheme. “The problem is huge, we sleep on gas”, he complains, noting that tenants are often losers because they end up with insignificant compensation and can hardly find similar accommodation at the same price.

The new owners, Schmuel Halpert and Shloma Silberman, turned down interview requests from The press. “We bought this building with six of the nine apartments available for rent and did some renovations, and delivered it to an agency for rent,” we simply indicated by email, without answering further questions.

The realtor who posted the ad on Facebook, Marie Viscoso, says she did it to help a colleague, not wanting to name him. “I don’t know anything about the building really. Me, I was just opening doors,” she assures us before refusing to answer questions from The press. However, she admits to having been contacted by Mr.me Cudney’s daughter after the announcement was posted. “I know it’s a bit of a flat story […], but I don’t want to get too involved. »


PHOTO HUGO-SÉBASTIEN AUBERT, PRESS

Diane Belisle

“The rest of us were fine. […], we had fun together”, laments Diane Bélisle, 74, talking about her and her friends Nicole Boisclair and Ethel Cudney, who left the building. She says she turned down MM’s initial offer of compensation. Huard and Herman, deeming it insufficient to cover their moving expenses. She traded with them until she learned that her building had once again changed hands.

“It felt like I’d been given an emotional shock,” said Ms.me Bélisle about the stress experienced last autumn. “I’m always tired, life is not the same for me. I lost my friends, it really shocked me. »

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