“Some people who could pay decided they wouldn’t, because they couldn’t be evicted,” says Bonhomme. He says it made it difficult for landlords who were prepared to offer flexible repayment on rent arrears or payment plans. Another issue landlords began to face more often was inter-tenant disputes arising from the new teleworking reality.
“We have people now working from home who wouldn’t otherwise be home during the day who complain about noises like the neighbour’s kids,” Bonhomme says.
Jo Roy visits their $225 per month parking space in the building’s underground garage. The building had charged back-rent for months used during the summer, for which Roy had never signed a contract and did not know they needed to pay. Photo by April Tardif Levesque.
“There is a misconception that landlords are wealthy owners,” says Bonhomme. “But most individual landlords are regular families trying to pay off a mortgage, and don’t always own the property.”
While banks offered some deferral options on mortgage payments, landlords got no assistance from the government according to Bonhomme.
To explain rising rent costs, Bonhomme points to the costs of repairs, the materials for which got even more expensive during the pandemic. The Montreal vacancy rate, which the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) has averaged to 2.7 per cent for 2020, has increased from between 1.4 and 2.2 per cent in 2019, depending on the number of units in the building. Bonhomme echoes the report, saying students and temporary or foreign workers are not in Montreal due to the pandemic, and big buildings in certain boroughs, such as the Sud-Ouest and downtown are seeing less renters.
Jo Roy has a laugh outside their apartment building while explaining how the pandemic has been in an Old Port studio apartment, which costs in excess of $1,300 in rent per month, plus the $225 in parking. Photo by April Tardif Levesque.
“People are also moving back to be with family, or getting roommates because of COVID,” Bonhomme says. He added it could be a question of affordability, location, or just to be with family during the lockdown periods. He adds that many tenants did not move as intended due to the pandemic, and were afraid to visit apartments or move because of restrictions.
Average rent increases over the years. Media by April Tardif Levesque.
Jo Roy plans to move with their partner to a bigger, less expensive apartment with their partner when the lease is up and looks forward to being free of the existing rental costs.
Main photo by April Tardif Levesque.
Published June 18, 2021.