Housing transfer request denied – Explanations and suggestions (2016)

Société d’habitation et de développement de Montréal (SHDM)

The SHDM denies a citizen’s request for housing transfer and she does not understand why. Our verifications confirm that since 2013, the SHDM no longer authorizes housing transfers upon request, except in specific circumstances that are not applicable in this case: managing  the great number of requests would generate multiple and significant management and cost constraints. These explanations seem reasonable to us.

However, the SHDM’s written policy had not been updated to reflect these changes: the SHDM committed to do so in 2017.

We explain to the tenant why her request was denied. We further inform her that she has the right to rent another SHDM unit and terminate her current lease, insofar as she complies with the usual applicable rules. The citizen is satisfied with this information.

Office municipal d’habitation de Montréal (OMHM) – Change of dwelling for psychosocial reasons (2015)

A tenant wants to change dwelling for health reasons.  The geographical configuration and location of her unit, in the building, make her feel isolated and in distress.  The OMHM had rejected two similar prior requests and refuses to examine her third one.  The citizen contacts the OdM.

The OdM has several discussions with the OMHM managers and representatives.  Serious elements, including a medical report, confirm that a dwelling change could improve the citizen’s state and her quality of life.

The OMHM accepts to review the file.  The OdM forwards a letter of endorsement to the Comité de changement de logement (Change of Dwelling Committee), to support the tenant’s request for a transfer.  The Committee’s decision is favourable.  The citizen’s name is immediately put on a priority waiting list for a new dwelling.

Office municipal d’habitation de Montréal (OMHM) – A tenant is experiencing many dissatisfactions (2015)

A tenant of the OMHM complained of many problems:  defective ventilation in the building, erroneous unpaid balance on her account, water accumulation in front of the building, neighbours keeping their dwelling doors open on the common corridor, work schedule of the security agent and general uncleanliness of the building.  Our office inquired with the OMHM and visited the premises.

  • The ventilation system was repaired.
  • The citizen’s account was corrected.
  • The OMHM hired a company to remedy the water accumulation in front of the building’s steps. This work was done in the fall of 2015.
  • The building residents were reminded that they must keep their dwelling doors closed.
  • The security guard’s work schedule, however, is consistent with the job description and did not appear problematic. We did not push this issue any further.
  • Following our visit of the premises, we found that there was no need for an intervention regarding the building’s cleanliness.

Converting a commercial building into a residential building – The Ombudsman helps to untie a deadlock (2011)

A citizen plans to acquire a two-storey commercial building and to convert it into a residential duplex: she would rent the ground floor and live on the top floor. Before purchasing, she inquired with Arrondissement de Montréal-Nord about the feasibility of this project. The borough would have reassured her that this change in use was possible.

The citizen submits that, since her acquisition of the building, the borough’s information and requirements have changed many times and she was finally told that the planned modification would not be authorized, considering the applicable By-laws.

The citizen withdrew her Request for change of use and the borough refunded the $1,000 fee she had paid in this regard. She then addressed the matter to the Ombudsman.

Our investigation cannot confirm that the borough’s employees had given the citizen assurance that the desired conversion would be authorized. Rather, our discussions with the plaintiff and our verifications with the borough indicate that she would have been informed that the conversion had to be authorized by the Borough Council, that she had to submit a Request to that effect and that there were no guarantees of approval.

In light of this information and of the fact that the cost of reviewing her file were refunded to her, we could not conclude that she had been prejudiced.

Our investigation revealed, however, that the current By-laws allowed this citizen to live on the top floor of the building: we discussed with the borough, which following an inspection, issued a Transformation/Renovation permit and officially recognized the second storey dwelling. Thus, the citizen was able to move to the second floor, as she had hoped.

Following our intervention, the borough also recognized acquired rights allowing this citizen to keep a section of the building that the borough had previously asked her to demolish.

HLM – Cohabitation of residents with community groups: Residents’ quality of life (2009)

A tenant of an OMHM dwelling was complaining of the fact that an Association was offering activities to autistic people in rooms located in his residential building, which he found prejudicial to the quality of life of residents.

This Association held recreational activities for autistic people from the Montréal region, in the community room of the building, every Saturday. Moreover, every summer, between the end of June and mid-August, the group also organized a summer camp for autistic children, 5 days a week, from Monday to Friday. These children did not only use the community room, they also spent a great deal of time in the backyard which is usually reserved to the residents of the building. The residents were, therefore, deprived from the peaceful enjoyment of their backyard during a large part of the summer.

Following an investigation and in light of the comments submitted by residents of the building, the Saturday recreational activities did not really cause concerns, but the residents were truly bothered by the summer camp activities taking place in the backyard.

Following our discussions, the OMHM recognized that this forced cohabitation was not appropriate and should end. The summer camp was quickly moved to another location and the residents have regained peaceful access to their yard. The community room continues, however, to be used on Saturdays, for special activities for autistic people.

Termination of an HLM lease due to an erroneous prognosis – Priority on waiting lists (2009)

The Office municipal d’habitation de Montréal (the “OMHM”) asked the Ombudsman de Montréal what general direction seemed appropriate to her, in certain specific cases, namely:

  • When an OMHM tenant is hospitalized; and
  • The health institution then informs the OMHM that this tenant will not gain back the level of autonomy needed to return to his/her dwelling; and that
  • In light of this notice and with the consent of the tenant (or a third party, if the tenant is unable to consent), the OMHM rescinds this person’s lease because he/she no longer meets the autonomy requirements to keep such dwelling; and that
  • Surprisingly, this person later regains a sufficient level of autonomy and asks that his/her former dwelling, or an equivalent one, be attributed to him/her, in priority.

After due consideration, the Ombudsman de Montréal informed the OMHM that, in her opinion and subject to the special circumstances of each case, the OMHM should give priority to this person and offer him/her the first available dwelling that meets his/her needs. The Ombudsman de Montréal is, however, of the opinion that this person cannot demand to obtain his/her former dwelling if it is already occupied by someone else.

The reasoning upholding this position is as follows:

  • Given the great amount of people on the HLM waiting lists, the chances of this former tenant to obtain a new HLM, in short or long term, is very low if he/she is not given priority;
  • This person had already undergone the whole waiting process and completed all the required steps to obtain the HLM dwelling he/she no longer has, because of the erroneous prognosis;
  • The OMHM should take into account the fact that the lease of this tenant was rescinded for reasons completely out of his/her control namely, the erroneous prognosis made by medical experts. Indeed, it is only due to the said prognosis that this person lost his/her HLM dwelling;
  • Finally, granting a dwelling in priority, in such circumstances, would not really cause prejudice to the other people on the waiting list. Had it not been for the erroneous prognosis, this person’s dwelling would not have been freed and the other persons on the waiting list would not have progressed by one level: if priority is given to this former tenant, the people on the waiting list will simply take back the rank they would have had, if the medical error had not occured.

The OMHM has welcomed the comments from the Ombudsman de Montréal.

Subsidized dwellings – Abandonment (2007)

A citizen receiving a Rent Supplement Allowance must leave the country for a couple of weeks. She sells all of her furniture in order to pay for the trip and pays one month of rent to her landlord, before leaving. Upon her return, she finds out that her lease has been resiliated and that the Office municipal d’habitation de Montréal (“OMHM”) has withdrawn her right to the rent supplement.

According to the OMHM rules, when a tenant leaves his dwelling without furniture, he is deemed to have abandoned it and his lease is resiliated of right. Moreover, a delay penalty is imposed to the tenant before he can apply for low-rent housing (HLM) or a rent supplement, again.

After investigating this specific case, the Ombudsman de Montréal concluded that the tenant had no intention of abandoning her dwelling. She thus intervened on her behalf, with the OMHM.

Following her intervention, the OMHM accepted that, in this specific instance, the tenant’s departure did not constitute an abandonment of her dwelling. This decision was based, mainly, on the fact that the citizen was gone for a very short time and that she had paid her rent in advance, before leaving the country. As a result, the OMHM restored her rent supplement allowance and relocated the citizen.

OMHM penalty – Abandonment (2007)

In 2006, a citizen submits a request for a HLM which the OMHM declares inadmissible because, according to its files, this citizen had previously abandoned a subsidized dwelling, in 2005. Under the OMHM rules, she could not submit a new application for an HLM or a subsidized dwelling for a period of five (5) years, following the date of her abandonment.

The citizen confirmed that she had resided in a subsidized dwelling, but she denied having abandoned it. She insisted that she had left in agreement with the landlord and, therefore, she found the penalty imposed to her totally unjustified.

Following the intervention of the Ombudsman de Montréal, the citizen provided evidence that her departure had, indeed, been agreed with her previous landlord, upon which the OMHM recognized that there had been no abandonment since this concept implies the idea of running away to escape creditors.

The OMHM corrected the information contained in the citizen’s file and reconsidered her application to be put on a waiting list for a HLM.

Insalubrious dwelling – No inspector available (2007)

A tenant had no permanent heating system on the second floor of her dwelling and, with winter arriving, she worried about the cold. She filed for the resiliation of her lease with the Régie du logement and asked her borough to have a municipal inspector visit the premises to confirm the situation.

Arrondissement de Lachine’s response was that there were no inspector available for the moment, to ensure the respect of the By-law concerning the sanitation and maintenance of dwelling units and that approximately 100 complaints were currently on standby, waiting to be looked into.

The citizen, therefore, requested the Ombudsman de Montréal assistance.

Following our intervention, a borough employee quickly showed up to inspect the premises: his report was sent to the citizen who produced it at the Régie du logement.

In addition, the borough confirmed that an inspector would be hired swiftly to respond to complaints relating to insalubrious dwellings. We followed up, in 2008, and were happy to note that an inspector is now available and devoted to handle such requests.

Demolition of an abandoned house (2006)

A citizen complained of the deplorable state of a house on his street. The house had been abandoned for many years and, according to him, Arrondissement d’Ahuntsic–Cartierville was not making adequate interventions.

The house was in a state of advanced insanitariness. It had been uninhabited for over twenty years and a fire had burnt it down. Citizens were worried about fire hazards, which were particularly concerning to a citizen whose property was semi-attached to the house concerned. The state of the building, in an otherwise nice neighborhood, was also viewed as a major visual irritant for the residents living nearby.

Following our discussions with the borough, the latter informed us that an inspection of the Service de sécurité incendie de Montréal had confirmed that, in the event of a fire, there was a real risk that flames could spread to the neighbour’s house and that, therefore, it would be appropriate to demolish this house.

The borough forwarded notices to the owner of the abandoned house enjoining him to demolish it, within a certain time limit. Extensions of the said delay were granted to the owner, at his request, but, unfortunately, nothing was done to correct the situation.

In light of the owner’s idleness, the Ombudsman de Montréal convinced the borough that it should take upon itself to demolish the house, at the owner’s expense, which the borough finally did.

The neighbours are thrilled with the results.

Insanitary house: the citizen cannot return to his home (2006)

A citizen submitted a complaint to the Ombudsman de Montréal so that Arrondissement de LaSalle gives him back the keys to his house, of which he had been evicted, due to a major insanitary situation. He submitted he wanted to go to his house to assess the situation, but was refusing to commit himself to not settle there again, before the sanitation and safety problems had been corrected to the satisfaction of the borough.

A visit to the location allowed us to ascertain the state of major insanitation and the advanced decay of the house, which could jeopardize the health and safety of any person living there.

We made various suggestions to the citizen to help him resolve the problematic situation. We offered supervised access to his house to recuperate his goods or evaluate the situation. We offered controlled access for any contractor charged to repair the house, or for any real estate agent charged with evaluating or selling the property. We even offered to help the citizen find such contractors or real estate agents. But the citizen categorically declined all of our suggestions.

Considering the major health risks for the citizen if he returned to live in his house without first rendering it sanitary, the Ombudsman de Montréal has, in his interest, refused to issue the Recommendation he was seeking.

She concluded that, in the circumstances, the decision of the borough not to grant this citizen unlimited access to his house was justified and reasonable. She ensured, however, that, if the citizen later accepts to collaborate to resolve the sanitation problems of his property, the borough will ensure adequate access to the location. The Ombudsman then met with the citizen to explain in details the reasons for her conclusions and to reiterate that all the support options that had been offered to him remain available.

Office municipal d’habitation de Montréal (OMHM)

In her 2004 Annual Report, the Ombudsman de Montréal had mentioned that she had received numerous complaints with regard to social housing which, in Ville de Montréal, falls under the jurisdiction of OMHM.

In her 2005 Annual Report, the Ombudsman de Montréal noted that OMHM was planning to set up a Bureau des plaintes, for 2006. The Ombudsman de Montréal team offered its full support to the persons responsible to set up and to run this new office.

This project took concrete form and the OMHM Bureau des plaintes began its activities on March 15, 2006. According to our information, 457 requests were handled by this office in 2006, whereas in 2007, the number of new requests went up to 814.

This Bureau des plaintes clearly responded to a need and the OMHM efforts to make this office better known were obviously fruitful.