The tenants of two decrepit apartment buildings in Pointe-Saint-Charles are fighting back, after being ordered to evacuate their apartments by Thursday.
A notice from the City of Montreal says the owner hasn't done the necessary work to make the buildings safe enough to live in.
"It's been seven years the city has been aware of problems" with the buildings on Centre Street and on Châteauguay Street, said Manuel Johnson, one of the lawyers representing eight tenants.
"There is an appearance of mismanagement of this file."
The tenants filed a request for an injunction in Quebec Superior Court Monday. They are seeking compensation to cover their expenses, should they be forced to move or vacate while the work ordered by the city is done.
They are expected to make their arguments in court Wednesday.
Johnson says the ideal situation is that the tenants won't be forced to move, but in any case, they are also seeking compensation for years' of trouble.
Many have nowhere to go
"Beyond the psychological stress, a lot of them have serious health problems," Johnson said. "They're very low-income people that don't have any place to go."
According to Bruce Taub, the landlord's lawyer, the City of Montreal sent a list of 122 issues that had to be dealt with by the end of February.
Taub says his client, Robert Zaphiratos — the president of the numbered company that owns the buildings — only became aware of that deadline less than two weeks ago.
In that time, Taub says Zaphiratos has tried to have the issues rectified and attempted to get an extension from the city, to no avail.
Tenants say Zaphiratos has let the two building deteriorate over the years and rarely undertakes repairs.
Ceiling caving in
Giulia Giorgi and her roommate started looking for a new apartment as soon as they received the eviction notice.
"It's been very stressful," Giorgi said of the order sent by the city and the poor living conditions. "It's a lot to digest all at once, you know — to have to move, find a new place, get everything going again."
They did manage to find an apartment nearby, and as they were preparing to move, the ceiling in the apartment they were vacating started caving in.
Giorgi says she'd warned Zaphiratos's son about water leaking through their ceiling some weeks ago, but nothing had been done about it.
Hoping for compensation either way
She says she hopes to receive compensation for what she's endured, in addition to moving costs and other unforeseen expenses.
Johnson said he and his colleague bypassed the Régie du Logement, Quebec's rental board, and went straight to Superior Court because of serious delays at the rental board and just how dire the situation has become.
They are still filing a complaint with the board, he said, but it is mostly symbolic.