MONTREAL -- Tenants in Montreal’s Villeray–Saint-Michel–Parc-Extension borough want to see regulations that will stop landlords from “renovicting” them.

Landlords have been using renovations as a way to push tenants out and raise rents across the city, they say, and their borough is not immune. 

“The landlords use those rules, those exceptions, only to evict tenants, renovate quickly, and then sell sometimes two times, three times higher than what the tenant was previously paying,” said Philippe Girouard, a tenant rights advocate. 

If there were regulations against changing the number of units in a given building, this might be avoided, tenants say. But landlords have been fighting back – a petition against the borough’s proposed new rules has amassed upwards of 5,000 signatures. 

The province’s landlord’s association says changing the layout of a building is often essential for business. 

“It’s important for a landlord to adapt to the needs of the market,” said Martin Messer from the association. “So, at some time, if we need a 6.5 because we have larger families, we need to be able to adapt.” 

Messier added that evictions currently being contested only represent a small fraction of all cases involving buildings undergoing changes to their layouts. 

The ability to make those changes is important for landlords, who are either trying to adapt to a different market or to accommodate their own families, Messier said. 

“If we remove it from the equation, of course it’s going to be a big problem for landlords.” 

But for those demanding change, families in need should come first. 

“We ask, which families matter? Is it only ones who can acquire property and carry out renovations?” said Amy Darwish, a housing advocate. 

The borough council says a report on the consultations could be ready by September. Advocates hope their voices will be heard.