Editorial: More Accountability, Fewer Cockroaches

Ask anyone in Montreal—they’ll have a story of a memorable landlord.

From showing up unannounced, to asking for illegal security deposits, to clogging tenant toilets and raising hell over missed rent, landlords are the rulers of our domestic domains, and we, as renters, are subject to their will.

That’s not right.

In this city, landlords hold sway. Montreal is Canada’s second largest metropolitan centre. Renters represent 61 per cent of the city’s occupants. With over 170,000 university students in Montreal, rental turnover rate is high, and it’s rare that tenants stay in the same space year-to-year.

This means that property owners largely remain unaccountable, their tenants often too relieved to be rid of a shitty landlord to ever press for consequences. Some proprietors aren’t even accessible—when you’ve got 400 different dwellings to worry about, replacing a faulty stove isn’t a main priority—but it should be.

The Régie du Logement—Montreal’s institution meant to properly handle residency complaints—only exacerbates this issue of accountability. With such a high volume of complaints received, and what can only be described as a Sisyphean amount of internal bureaucratic bullshit, complaints are often not heard for months, or even years.

With a general population in such constant flux, students moving in, around and eventually out of Montreal all together, filing complaints is often considered a useless avenue. Operating on the Régie’s timescale, you could have graduated, moved, or died, by the time they address the fact that your landlord stole $900 worth of lumber from you two years prior.

Even if a tribunal comes to a favourable conclusion, execution of the decision seems an even trickier process, if the Régie’s online pamphlet is any indication.

The problem is, anyone can be a landlord. You don’t need a degree, or a certificate, or a psychological evaluation. With just a series of permits and some cash, anyone is suddenly allowed to own domestic space. Being a landlord should be more of a responsibility—you are responsible for a person’s home, not just collecting rent and handing out arbitrary punishments.

Landlords hold so much power in our lives, and yet tenants are offered so little recourse for managing them. The need for better, more attentive landlords is more pressing each year. Since almost half of Montreal’s private housing was built before 1961, their maintenance is “below par,” and only getting worse.

What this city needs is a little more regulation, and a lot less room for rogue proprietors. Montreal needs greater regulation of landlords, and more avenues for tenant support.

At Concordia, both the Housing and Job Bank and the Student Advocacy Centre offer housing advice and legal representation in dwelling disputes; there are also a smattering of other independent housing advocacy services around the city—but a smattering isn’t nearly enough.

The Link is tired of a Montreal where tenants are expected to prepare for shitty landlords, where it’s near impossible to find any information on a proprietor, let alone a rap sheet of past dealings.

Right now, tenants are forced to navigate a sea of potentially dangerous, sinister or simply incompetent property owners, nearly all alone and without any access to background information outside of whatever anecdotes they can scrounge from previous tenants.

As it stands, housing in Montreal is a constant struggle between tenants and landlords, and The Link stands firmly with the former, who often lack control in this power dynamic.