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Renting in Montreal: fed up tenants feel they're being overcharged

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The housing crisis means many tenants feel they are being overcharged for rent since apartments are in such high demand.

A few banded together to make their voices heard but are fearful that speaking out could lead to eviction. 

Along Bouchette Street in Côte-des-Neiges, basement parking garages have been converted into apartments.

"It doesn't seem like it's up to code. It doesn't seem very sanitary," said David McDuff of the grassroots community group Au combat chez soi, which has been encouraging tenants to work together.

"We try to do on-the-ground organizing directly with tenants to be able to bring them together and give them methods of communication, spaces where they can get together, and decide collectively on their living conditions."

Mackroc Corporation owns the buildings on Bouchette and did not respond to CTV News' request for comment.

McDuff says the owners don't want him around.

"They yell at us. They're very aggressive. They call the police on us when we try to have a meeting with the tenants," he said.

Bobby Bendahan has rented the same apartment in NDG for 13 and says it hasn't been peaceful.

"I've been subjected to all kinds of strange, weird, illegal treatments by my landlord. Constantly pursued, constantly harassed, mostly for me to leave so he can rent the apartment for a bit more," Bendahan said.

One tenant who didn't want her name published out of fear of reprisal says she is already facing retaliation from the landlord for standing up for her tenant rights.

"I learned through the years that it's because the arguments he brings forward are so ridiculous that they will not hold in court. So the last time I did show up to court, I said, no, I am showing up to court, and I won my case, smashingly," she said.

Another tenant who didn't want to be named says he's being overcharged but has no choice because he has nowhere else to go during this housing crisis.

"Before I moved there, it was worth less than $800. And now it's coming to be $1,300 and it's isn't fair because the apartment never received any maintenance, never received any modification. I took the apartment in the same condition as the people that lived there before," he said.

Bahaa Musa, a tenant and housing advocate, says that for vulnerable people, an eviction can be a death sentence.

"I've seen some people in his condition die on the street; I worked in a homeless shelter and saw a man with cirrhosis two days before he died," he said.

Musa wants the collective rights of tenants to be recognized.

"You start by filing individually. That means you send an individual warning letter to the landlord, even though you can use the same model through the letter and just have different people sign their own. And you say, here's the problem, solve the problem within 10 days, or I'm going to go to the tribunal for an order to do the work and a rent reduction," said housing rights advocate Arnold Bennett.

"There are many cases where there are deadlines and the deadline is what takes priority, not what some joker tells you on the phone." 

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