Henry Zavriyev at the helm of an empire of “renovations” at 28

At 28, Henry Zavriyev owns over 1,000 rental units in Montreal. An empire that has been building since 2017 acquiring and reselling buildings in the metropolis. His transactions netted him nearly $13 million, according to calculations by the Have to, to the detriment of many tenants, which he has faced in more than 130 cases in the Administrative Housing Court (TAL) in a few years.

The duty listed the addresses acquired by Henry Zavriyev since 2017, that is, about forty buildings located in about ten neighborhoods of the metropolis. These 1,200 units were, in many cases, offered at affordable rent before Zavriyev and his partners strongly encouraged tenants to vacate the premises. They then carry out renovations to rent them out sometimes for double the price or to make significant profits on resale.

“He started from nothing”

Henry Zavriyev was talked about more than once in the media. He is trying to convert two senior homes in downtown and North Montreal and evict dozens of tenants in the Saint-Michel district and Saint-Laurent district, according to Radio-Canada and the newspaper. Subway. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg according to data compiled by The duty.

An actor from the real estate world who worked alongside Henry Zavriyev professionally describes his career as a real ” success story In 2012, Mr. Zavriyev moved to Montreal at age 18 after spending time in Boston. “He started from nothing. He worked for $10 to $12 an hour at moving companies and matched jobs from part-time”, says the man who preferred to preserve his identity so as not to harm his business relationships.

In 2017, Zavriyev made one of his first cash transactions in the metropolis by purchasing a 16-room guesthouse on rue Saint-André in Ville-Marie for $340,000.

After doing renovations and going to TAL for four cases, he sold the building in 2019 for a profit of $540,000. This transaction allows him to borrow several hundred thousand dollars in mortgages to acquire new properties.

“It was a business [les maisons de chambre] that the world did not want to touch, properties in ruins almost abandoned by their owner”, refers to the Have to the real estate professional who worked with the investor. He points out that the secret to Henry Zavriyev’s success is not being afraid to take risks when seeking private loans with high interest rates. Despite our repeated requests for telephone and email interviews, Henry Zavriyev and one of his close associates could not be reached by The duty to comment on this article.

Since February 2022, Mr. Zavriyev acquired 291 rental units. In particular, he took out a $51 million mortgage at an interest rate of 25% for the purchase of four buildings in late March in the Saint-Laurent neighborhood. Radio-Canada reported on May 11 that tenants in these buildings are under strong pressure to leave their homes under the guise of renovations.

Triple the cost of rent

Once freed from their occupants, some of the homes acquired by Zavriyev are being re-let, after renovations, by his property management company Leyad, which currently owns a rental fleet of 13 buildings. These offer accommodation whose rent ranges from 1050 to 3000 dollars. Among the lots is a seven-unit building on rue de Bellechasse in the Rosemont-La Petite-Patrie neighborhood, acquired last year for $1,130,000.

Christian Dinelle and Corinne Leblanc have lived on this seven-unit property with their son for ten years. They take up a room and a half for $525 a month. The couple, who depend on social assistance, were offered increasing amounts of money to terminate the lease because of major works.

“He first offered $5,000, $10,000, $15,000. And finally $20,000,” recalls Christian Dinelle. “He said he could serve as a money down of a condominium or a house. »

At the Leyad site, one of four and a half renovated rooms in the same building is now offered “from” $1650 a month.

“He started calling us, harassing us. He appeared several times in front of the house to offer us money, but we refused,” his wife claims.

More than 130 files in TAL

When the couple refused to leave the premises, one of Zavriyev’s companies sued them before the TAL to evacuate them and carry out major renovations, before withdrawing from the hearing last month. An approach used with many of Mr. Zavriyev in his various properties, found The duty reviewing nearly 130 TAL cases involving it and collecting testimonials from various tenants and their attorneys.

“He appears to be using the legal system to discourage tenants and encourage them to give up their right to remain on site,” said attorney Manuel Johnson, who represents Christian Dinelle and Corinne Leblanc, who filed a TAL lawsuit against Mr. Zavriyev last month. They are claiming, among other things, punitive damages for the “harassment” and “difficulties and inconveniences” they claim to have suffered.

Martin Gallié, professor of housing law at UQAM, indicates that withdrawals are the daily lot of the TAL because the vast majority of cases are resolved amicably. “It is only 10% of what is evaluated as requests for repossessions, expansions, etc. who goes to court. Everything happens under the coat,” says Mr. Gallie.

Refusing to leave her four-and-a-half years on rue Saint-Jacques, where she has lived for 14 years, Katherine Digby currently lives in the midst of a construction site begun on the five-unit building acquired for $900,000 by Zavriyev in the most recent year.

“I said no, I’ll be back anyway after the works [dans mon logement]. The next day, I received a change of assignment notice,” which would have legally forced her to leave. It has since challenged this opinion before the TAL in the context of a case currently on hold.

Mr. Zavriyev also acquired, in 2020, three buildings in Chemin de la Côte-Sainte-Catherine for a total of 52 residences. Less than a year later, he resold them for nearly $2.9 million. Meanwhile, tenants were pressured to vacate the premises.

“The warming was 12°C this winter. We had to call the police and the city […] He started to sort it out after January,” says Sonia Moscote, who still lives in her accommodation in Chemin de la Côte-Sainte-Catherine. She says she refused to leave her apartment despite tempting offers of several thousand dollars verbally made to terminate her contract.

Last year, Henry Zavriyev also purchased two adjacent buildings located on boulevard Joseph-Renaud in Anjou. He has carried out major renovations to the site and has filed a lawsuit with at least four tenants benefiting from subsidized rent to increase their rent under “clause F”, which allows owners of new or renovated buildings less than five years old to impose rent increases without restrictions.

These vulnerable tenants, however, only have to pay 25% of their income for housing, with the rest paid by the State.

“I wondered if I was going to do a renovation,” says the tenant, who won his case at TAL in mid-May. He continues to pay a quarter of his rent for housing. Apartments in this building are now listed “from $1,260” per month on Zavriyev’s property management website.

Segmented accommodation

In 2017, Mr. Zavriyev made one of his first transactions by buying a pension on rue Saint-André in Ville-Marie, to resell it in 2019 for two and a half times more than a single-family residence with a permit granted by the municipality on April 10, 2018.

By email, the municipality specifies that this conversion was possible for the investor, as it took place before the moratorium implemented in November 2020 by Ville-Marie and other central municipalities on changes in the use of houses. last defense for people at risk of becoming homeless.

However, another 34-unit pension belonging to Henry Zavriyev in Sud-Ouest (one of the neighborhoods targeted by the moratorium) has been emptied of several of its tenants in recent months, while 29 cases have been filed in the TAL related to evictions and cases. of “harassment” suffered by tenants.

Known for The duty, several of them said they received money to leave the place; an amount that many initially accepted without being aware of their right to remain in the place, for which they fight today.

“I was intimidated for a while,” says Lyle Kelliher, before showing us his lease termination notice related to major construction. “I would have to find another accommodation, but I don’t know where,” worries the tenant, who currently pays $380 a month for a room in a gentrified neighborhood.

Work is also underway on this building on Ash Avenue in Pointe-Saint-Charles, noted The duty visiting places. Empty rooms have been renovated and their doors are now equipped with code locks. Some tenants we know have noticed that these rooms have been transformed into studios, even though the authorization granted to Mr. Have to.

A tenant of this pension also won her case in December 2021 after asking the TAL to invalidate her lease termination agreement which she had accepted without being aware of her right to remain there.

“The money she was hanging on and the skillful words of the landlord’s agent convinced her that this was the only option available to her,” reads the ruling, which notes that “the court finds the tenant’s consent to be vitiated” in this case.

joined by The duty, the head of housing on the executive committee of the City Hall, Benoit Dorais, condemns all “homeowners who are determined to use all kinds of strategies to make housing a commodity”. Despite regulatory efforts by the City of Montreal “to support tenants who are victims of renovations,” this phenomenon “exceeds the limits of our municipal capabilities,” argues Mr. Dorais, which calls for a reform of the Civil Code of Quebec.

According to Professor Martin Gallié, the best way to stop the current wave of renovations is to create an effective mechanism for municipal or provincial inspection and to provide the courts with real sanction mechanisms, proportional to the profits obtained by the companies. “Today, you can make millions from the sale of a single triplex. If we make a recovery in bad faith or if we fail to do the requested work, we will pay, at most and exceptionally, $20,000. But most of the time it’s $4000. »

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