Tenants of 1040 Ball demand an end to “intolerable” living conditions
Cockroaches, mice and harassment are but some of the things being brought up by residents of a small residential building just off de l’Acadie. A small group of Parc-Extension residents took to the street in front of their home last weekend to protest what they say are the terrible living conditions they are being forced to live in.
The demonstration took place at 1040 Ball Street at around noon on Saturday, where approximately a dozen people holding placards and banners gathered to demand safer and healthier living conditions.
The demonstration and press conference was organized by the Comité d’action de Parc-Extension, along with several residents of the building.
“Tenants and members of the Comité d’action de Parc-Extension (CAPE) held a press conference and rally today in front of 1040 Ball to demand an immediate solution to the building’s poor living conditions, as well as an end to landlord harassment,” read a statement.
Poor living conditions
The situation surrounding living conditions at 1040 Ball has come up several times over the years. Tenants and community groups have repeatedly brought up the issue of the dire living conditions of tenants.
“Tenants in the building have been waiting for years for their housing conditions to improve, and the fact that they have been forced to live during all this time in apartments with mold, rodents, cockroaches and bedbugs, because of the landlord’s neglect, is an infringement of their rights and of human dignity,” stated Rizwan Khan, a community organizer at CAPE.
Tenants spoke of their poor living conditions and deplored the landlord’s alleged harassment. Protestors demanded that the municipal government along with other candidates do everything they can to rectify the conditions in the residential building.
Immigrants particularly vulnerable
Tenants of 1040 Ball said that the housing conditions were so poor and the situation deemed so intolerable that it constituted a “major impediment to the right to decent housing,” read the statement.
CAPE says that the situation is further compounded by the fact that many of the residents are recent immigrants on precarious migratory statuses with low income, making them afraid to speak out against abuses by their landlords.
“Landlords allow themselves to be negligent because their tenants are afraid to defend their rights, because of a precarious status or language barriers, among many other issues,” added Celia Dehouche, a community organizer at CAPE.
Organizers added that residents who would like to leave such conditions often find themselves trapped, as increasing rent prices along with the displacement of affordable housing prevent them from finding a suitable home in Parc-Extension.
Owner ordered to pay $12,000
The situation in the building was made even more clear at the start of October when the Tribunal administratif du logement (TAL) ordered the building owner Richard Liu to pay $12,000 in compensation to 75-year old tenant Smaro Tzanetoulakos.
The tenant brought the issue up to the City of Montreal in 2017 and again in 2019, asking for an inspection to deal with an infestation of cockroaches, bedbugs and mice. She told Le Devoir that this forced her to keep her belongings in hermetically sealed containers and to sleep in her living room to avoid the vermin.
She continues to feel that this is a tactic by Liu to get her to leave the apartment she has lived in for 15 years. “The owner has been trying to get me to leave for several years, and I don’t think he’s going to stop now,” said Tzanetoulakos to Le Devoir.
Relying on witness testimony and photographic evidence, the TAL judge ordered that compensation be awarded to Tzanetoulakos. $3,000 was ordered as punitive damages for harassment on the part of the owner. The judge added the owners’ behaviour amounted to psychological pressure to get her to leave. Liu has since appealed the ruling and said that Tzanetoulakos had been using her age to attract sympathy and the initial dispute was due to a proposed rent increase.
Demands to the city
With rents skyrocketing in both Parc-Extension and across the city, demonstrators demanded that municipal officials do more to address the issue, which they say is only getting worse and more widespread.
Organizations like CAPE want the city to better enforce rules against property owners who are abusing their positions and not taking care of the units they rent out. “Access to decent and affordable housing is not a luxury, it is a right that we must defend,” added Dehouche on the matter.
“The case of 1040 Ball highlights the importance that the City of Montreal takes swift action to protect tenants from evictions, abusive rent increases and blackmail by many landlords who threaten to evict tenants if they demand repairs in their units,” said Olivia Dumas, a community organizer at the Regroupement des comités logement et associations de locataires du Québec (RCLALQ).