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Concerns about rent increases after Montreal tenants sign renovation agreement

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For 29 years, Muguette Payette has lived at her studio apartment in downtown Montreal. She never thought she would have to leave.

"If I don't have an apartment, a decent apartment, what am I going to do? I'm going to be outside in the street," Payette told CTV News.

Recently, a new landlord purchased her building and the adjacent one on Fort Street. Shortly after, Payette says she met with two employees from the company that owns the building, and they offered her a deal.

"They came here and they said, 'Well, you know, it's better for your security to leave because we're going to do a big renovation,'" Payette recounted.

Unsure of how to proceed, she ended up signing the agreement. It stipulates that she would receive some financial compensation, and wouldn't have to pay rent until July. She would need to leave her apartment no later than Aug. 1.

Despite saving money in the short term, Payette fears that her rent will change after the renovations are done.

"You play with the words, you say it's not an eviction […] 'We don't evict you. You can come back after the renovation.' Yes, but at what price?"

The two apartment buildings are now owned by a real estate company run by Henry Zavriyev.

Zavriyev told CTV News that his company buys buildings in need of renovation.

"Where appropriate, mutual agreements are proposed to our tenants, who are free to accept or reject them," Zavriyev said in a statement. "In fact, many of our tenants have refused to enter into these agreements and remain occupants of their units. This is a fundamental right that we will continue to respect."

Zavriyev confirmed his company does plan to renovate the buildings located at 1180 and 1190 Fort Street.

The tenants of those buildings recently met with lawyer Manuel Johnson.

"At least ten or fifteen people that were at the meeting had already signed agreements. I told them that it may be possible to cancel that agreement in court, but nothing is confirmed," Johnson said.

As for 72-year-old Payette, she plans on speaking with a lawyer.

"I don't want to have to leave and live in a tent outside."  

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