Commentary | Let’s take rental action

Unfair practices must stop

You’ve heard the horror stories. Friends and family are renting somewhere in the Plateau and the pipes break, the toilet won’t flush, or the heating just won’t turn on. You shrug, that sucks.

But Montreal is cold. In the winter, temperatures can drop to below thirty degrees Celsius. This cold and damp weather chills the bones. No one should have to live through the cold without adequate housing.

The majority of McGill students are renters. We sign leases, fill our fridges with food and booze, and hope our exams and essays get good marks. But what happens when something breaks? What happens when the little place you call home becomes uninhabitable? What happens when the landlord doesn’t answer the call to fix this or that? What happens when the whispering draft chills you to the bone and the thermostat doesn’t seem to work?

Students, like many people who don’t own much and don’t make much money, are extremely vulnerable. Landlords can take advantage of this. They can try to force students into unfair leases, raise the rent unilaterally, and withhold services. If you don’t know your rights, you’re in trouble. If you know your rights, you’re in for an uphill battle.

To make your landlord do anything, unless you have a good lawyer and money, you need to go to the Régie du logement, the rental board of Quebec. There you file a complaint and hope for the best. For some people, it takes three years to get a hearing. These delays are denials of justice. When you’re freezing, three months is too long, three years unthinkable.

I’m calling on students to stop being trampled on by unfair landlord practices, and I’m calling on SSMU to start lobbying for an end to the delays. We are tenants and we have rights. These are not just student issues, these are human rights issues.

We need to fight this injustice. Join me and Project Genesis on Thursday, October 25 at 11 a.m. at the Régie, 1425 René-Lévesque West to call for justice for those who will be spending the winter in the cold.

If you have any stories, email me. If you have any current problems, I encourage you to go to Project Genesis, talk to legal aid, or go to the Régie du logement. Tell your SSMU politicians to do something.

Get angry and get active.

Jimmy Gutman is an Arts Senator. He can be reached at artssenator2@ssmu.mcgill.ca


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