Protesters marched in downtown Monday to the offices of the Regie du logement, arguing that many tenants are getting evicted and they claim the rental board isn't treating them fairly.
Landlords, though, say the law is clear.
Lawyer Manuel Johnson took part in the demonstration. He defends tenants’ rights, and said he’s seen clients lose everything.
“Trouble with substance abuse, going through therapy right now and gets evicted,” he said, adding, “but there's nothing further I can do.”
Protesters say the rental board unfairly prioritizes evictions and there should be more leeway for tenants who can't pay on time.
“They don't even want to hear the explanation why the rent is late – illness for example, hospitalization. There's no defence possible in the case of late rent payment, except to say: I did pay the rent,” said Johnson.
Under the law, landlords can evict a tenant after three weeks of missed rent or for violating the obligations of a lease, said Johnson.
"Eviction is more or less automatic if the rent is more than three weeks late, for as amounts as little as $2," he said.
The law is very clear on evictions, said Kevin Lebeau, with the Quebec Landlords’ Association.
“The judge will hear them on their explanations, but not having the money or being in financial difficulty is not a valid defence to a non-payment of rent claim,” he said.
There were nearly 41,000 non-payment cases last year in Quebec, amouting to about two-thirds of the board's hearings.
Lebeau warned that withholding rent because of poor living conditions can also land tenants in front of the rental board.
“Neither landlords nor tenants are supposed to take the law into their own hands. So simply withholding the rent is not a valid way to attempt to get the landlord to move on a situation,” he said.
After first agreeing to CTV’s request for an interview, the Regie de logement then refused to speak when a reporter arrived as agreed at their offices, saying they were too busy.
According to their annual report, eviction cases are heard faster.
Wait times average one-and-a-half months compared to five-and-a-half for other cases.
Students are especially at risk, said Hannah Brais from Concordia’s housing and job resource centre.
“There's tons of international students. People come here there's very particular laws. People don't really know how those laws work,” she said.
Johnson said that plays to the landlords' advantage.
“Neighbourhoods that are going through gentrification – landlords will use this pretext to get out these tenants and then convert the units into condos,” he said.