Low-income tenants are accusing the owner of six Montreal restaurants and bars of using dubious methods to push them out of residences above one of his St-Henri establishments
Via the Gazette, the city condemned a 14-person rooming house on Notre-Dame W last week after a pipe burst. City records show that this set of residences belongs to a numbered corporation headed by Charles Manceau, the owner of three locations of restaurant Venice (the St-Henri Venice is in the same building as the condemned rooming house). Manceau also owns three bars, including Broken Coconut, also in the same St-Henri building.
Manceau’s company acquired the building in May 2019, and in June, CBC reported that residents were served counterfeit eviction notices, which ordered them to leave the building in one month, instead of the three that is legally required in most cases. The eviction notice said that the building required major work for the “safety and health of residents”.
Those notices were not signed by Manceau or anybody else, but listed his company, 9394-4221 Québec Inc. Manceau told Eater he did not send those eviction notices, and that he did not know who sent them, although he said he believed the tenants made the eviction notices themselves. When asked why tenants would fabricate their own eviction notices, Manceau suggested that it was an excuse for them to leave the building after not having paid rent.
Manceau went on to claim that all 12 residents in the building had not paid their $400 monthly rent for several months after his company bought the building. (Two rooms were vacant at the time, he says.)
However, one resident reported that after the building changed ownership, tenants were not told where to pay rent, and after making a concerted effort to pay, were told they could not be given receipts for their rent (a registered letter from that tenant, asking where to pay rent, was published on Twitter). Correspondingly, a CBC report quotes tenant Jean Deneault stating that nobody came to collect rent by June 10. Manceau disputes that, saying that on June 1, somebody went to collect rent from the tenants, and that rent was not paid.
The tenants interviewed by the Gazette were low-income and on welfare, and in interviews, expressed fear for finding affordable accommodation in future. Manceau has offered to pay one year of rent for one tenant, speaking to Eater, he was highly critical of the tenants, calling them “junkies” multiple times, and stating that police had regularly been called to the building. When contacted, the SPVM stated that it could not comment on whether the address had been regularly visited or not for confidentiality reasons.
“Do you think their money goes into paying rent right away, or does it go into buying beer or drugs?,” said Manceau.
“The only thing I wanted [from] the beginning was my rent...since those people did not pay me, I went to the Régie [de Logement],” he added.
While Manceau told Eater he was willing to let the tenants stay if they had paid, the Gazette’s story suggests that this may be a case of “renoviction”, where a building is left to fall into disrepair in order to get tenants out, allowing for renovations and new tenants who may pay higher rent.
Prior to the rooming house being condemned last week, city inspectors noted multiple issues with it: Gazette reporter Christopher Curtis posted the inspectors’ findings on Twitter, which noted a lack of heating in the building, broken toilets, holes in the wall, and a partially-obstructed emergency exit. Manceau said the issue with the heating was due to a burst pipe last Friday; however, complaints about a lack of heating were made before that pipe burst.
After the building’s owners said that the heating was fixed this week, the city re-inspected it and declared it to be still uninhabitable, with temperatures inside measuring just 12 degrees.
When asked to supply documents to support his claims about police visits to the building and tenants failing to pay rent, Manceau declined.