The lack of services from the Administrative Housing Tribunal (TAL) could leave hundreds of tenants on the street because they cannot challenge their eviction notices in time, which is also on the rise in the regions.
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“As we are in the middle of a pandemic, TAL services have not returned to its pre-pandemic service. Many tenants will be evicted,” worries Martin Blanchard, co-representative of the Regroupement des Comités lagements et des associations de tenents du Québec (RCLALQ).
Many tenants fear that they will not be able to refuse their landlord an eviction because they have difficulty reaching officials at a government agency by telephone or in person.
“It is almost impossible to get an appointment at TAL within the stipulated time. On the site, I was told I had to make an appointment, the only one available was in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu before January 30, the last day I could dispute,” Florian Mevel said. 42-year-old Montreal renter.
“If I hadn’t opened the file I would have lost my house,” he said. (see below).
Because in Quebec, tenants have 30 days to open a dispute file in court, from the day they receive the notice from the landlord to December 31.
After this period, TAL will consider the tenant to have accepted the eviction. January is therefore a busy month for eviction challenges.
According to the RCLALQ, this kind of situation could worsen because TAL services were not implemented before the pandemic, but especially in Quebec where evictions increased by almost 150% and by almost 508% in the regions between 2021 and 2022. A record, according to the law firm.
“Before, we didn’t see any evictions in this area, but that is becoming an increasing reality. And the problem is that in some areas, there is almost no service. Many people give up,” laments Mr. Blanchard.
once a month
About a third of the 30 offices are not open every day of the week.
For example, in Matane, the office is only open for four hours on the last Friday of every month. In January, there are no appointments available for the Friday 27th January start date only.
Same thing in Saint-Joseph-de-Beauce, where the office is only open on the last Tuesday of the month.
In Montreal, none of the three TAL offices have slots available before February 8.
“Over the years, we see that there is less and less service. In the case of evictions, it benefits landlords because if the tenant does not contest it in time, it is as if he has accepted the eviction,” lamented Mr Blanchard.
TAL spokesperson Denise Miron points out that “these are the offices and service centers with the least number of visits.”
“These opening hours are established based on traffic and available resources and are reviewed periodically,” he said.
Worth the twelve labors of Asterix
Tenants threatened with eviction should be a real obstacle to TAL’s success in securing their rights.
“I tried for more than a week to contact someone at the tribunal to help me challenge my eviction, but I couldn’t,” said Marcel Arbor, 76, who lives in Plateau-Mont-Royal in Montreal.
Knowing his right to stay in the home he’s lived in for almost 30 years, he soon knew he was going to defend himself at TAL.
“But it’s almost impossible to find your own information,” he said, managing to challenge his dismissal two days before the deadline.
Without the help of the Housing Committee, it would have been impossible for him to operate using the online service.
“It is very difficult to send a request [en ligne], you should know the law well. It only takes one error for a request to be rejected. TAL is hiding behind this solution, but it is impossible to compete with this service without the help of a lawyer,” argues Martin Blanchard of RCLALQ.
It got complicated on the spot
And it is difficult to get help even by going to one of the TAL offices.
Florian Mevel, from the Rosemont district, had to make two trips to the office in downtown Montreal to open his protest file. The first time was on January 23.
“When I arrived, a security guard immediately told me I couldn’t access the service, but I said it was for an eviction challenge,” he said.
The next day he sat down with the RCLALQ representative in the same office LogAn employee agrees to open the file.
“She treated me like a black sheep throughout and repeatedly told me I was an ‘exception’ and had to make an appointment online,” he said.
For its part, TAL ensures that tenants do not need to make an appointment to open a file and that all employees and security guards receive instructions.