Four years of bedbugs and other vermins, furniture in the garbage and harassment: the Administrative Court of Housing (TAL) condemns the owner of a building in the Parc-Extension district to pay the equivalent of $ 12,000 to an injured tenant, Smaro Tzanetoulakos.
Last May, The duty reported that the manager of this building on Ball Avenue, Richard Liu, had also cashed illegal security deposits at least two tenants for the same apartment and the same move-in date.
On site, Mme Tzanetoulakos, 75, then insisted that The duty walk around his three-room apartment. His items were stored in airtight buckets or plastic crates. She claimed to have thrown a two-seater mattress in 2019 because of a bedbug infestation. Since then she had to sleep on a simple mattress covered with a thick plastic sheet and placed on a plywood. Plates, chairs, knickknacks and even a bouquet of artificial flowers were wrapped in clear film to protect them from insects.
In the recent decision rendered by the TAL, the judge relies on the testimony of Mr.me Tzanetoulakos, on photos, as well as on a health inspection report from the City of Montreal. Manager Richard Liu and his wife, Tao Qiu – the owner registered on the property assessment roll – were not present at the hearing.
Mr. Liu defends himself against the allegations of his tenant: he affirms to To have to in writing that she “lied about a lot of things” and that their “fight” is about the rent increase. He alleges that she sleeps in the living room rather than in her bedroom because of the noise coming from the adjacent apartment and that she makes racist remarks towards the other occupants of the building, mostly from South Asia. .
The homeowner couple have formally challenged the TAL’s decision, which means it is on hold until at least October 22. The reasons for changing a judgment of the Tribunal are, however, few. Mr. Liu alleges that he was unable to attend the hearing because he would not have received his summons following a move to Candiac.
However, this new address already appears in documents dated January 2021 that he submitted to the Tribunal. Asked by The duty, the building manager persists: he did not receive the letter. “I can’t wait to go to court to resolve the issue. He also claims that in his absence from the hearing, Mr.me Tzanetoulakos “used his age as a poor illusion to deceive the sympathy of others.”
The tenant says she is “very satisfied” with the Tribunal’s decision, but she remains worried about its execution. “The owner has been trying to get me to leave by the back door for several years now, and I don’t think he’s going to stop now,” she says.
A long journey
The lady living at this address for 15 years requested in October 2017 the intervention of the City of Montreal, which can in particular inspect unsanitary housing, which was done at that time. After a new complaint in October 2019, it will take two years for a new inspector to visit the site.
It was in the meantime that Smaro Tzanetoulakos filed a complaint with the TAL to force his owner to exterminate the bedbugs, cockroaches and mice that have invaded his apartment as well as to compensate her. She also criticizes him for not providing him with a suitable oven and refrigerator, two household appliances, however, included in his lease.
The TAL took several of these elements into account in its decision, including the long delay without professional extermination of the vermin, despite repeated complaints.
Of the total equivalent to approximately $ 12,000 demanded from the owner, $ 3,000 consisted of punitive damages for harassment, which the judge defined as conduct liable to create “sufficient psychological pressure to obtain the result ultimately sought”.
“This is one of the best judgments I have seen in over a decade,” says André Trépanier, of the Parc-Extension Action Committee (CAPE). The tenants’ rights organization supported Mr.me Tzanetoulakos in his efforts and knows this building well.
One of the first formal notices to demand a professional extermination at this address dates from 2016, he recalls. “It really takes courage and persistence to see these remedies through to the end. But despite all these steps, the housing conditions are not really improving for this woman, ”nevertheless deplores Mr. Trépanier.
At least one other family recently left the same building because of unsanitary conditions, said Sohnia Karamat Ali, a worker from CAPE.
She is in regular contact with tenants of this building on Ball Avenue, where entire families frequently cram into small apartments. “They are often precarious immigrants who do not want to have problems. […] At least if the judgment forces the owner to act, it will have served several people, ”she concludes.