Notice of deterioration – A powerful tool to be used with wisdom (2014)

Notices of deterioration issued by the City were requesting that the owner of two buildings corrects a significant amount of non-compliances (243 correctives requested in one building; and 150, in the other).  The owner was arguing that these notices were abusive.

Notices of deterioration are relatively new. Their purpose is to bring recalcitrant owners to carry out the required repairs, when the health or safety of tenants can be compromised.  Because the Notices of deterioration are registered with the Land Register, they can make it difficult to sell a building, to get insurance coverage or to get financing approved.  Given these major impacts, the OdM submitted that this last resort approach should be used with wisdom and restraint, and only when serious situations justify it.  The Direction de l’habitation welcomed our comments.

During our intervention, the Notices of deterioration under investigation were reviewed.  Only 18 of the required correctives remained in the first notice, and 13 in the second one.  Unfortunately, the owner did not rectify all of the remaining non-compliances that were likely to impair the health or safety of tenants.  Our file was closed.  The owner plans to resort to the regular courts.


Rooming house – Management of a bed bug problem (2014)

A citizen of Arrondissement de Mercier – Hochelaga-Maisonneuve had contested the Borough’s requirements regarding the management of a bed bug problem in a rooming house.  At the end of our inquiry, we concluded that the building manager’s approach was flawed and that no significant improvement had been noted.  In this context, we could not conclude that the Borough’s requests were unreasonable, unfair or inappropriate.

A dwelling overrun by mold: lack of follow-ups by the Borough (2013)

In this file opened in 2012, the former tenant of a dwelling located in Arrondissement de Rosemont–La Petite-Patrie had complained of the presence of large mushrooms hanging from her bathroom ceiling and of the later collapse of the said ceiling. There clearly was water infiltration coming from the piping above and the presence of mushrooms confirmed a fungal contamination.

After our plaintiff left this dwelling, we asked the Borough to follow up and ensure that all the necessary repairs and decontamination work would be done according to satisfactory standards. We considered this to be essential for the health of future tenants.

Our office is not satisfied with the way the Borough handled this file.

The Borough asserted that work had been completed to its satisfaction and that the dwelling could be rented again. However, despite our repeated demands, the Borough never confirmed that it had requested or obtained proof that the work done constituted adequate and satisfactory decontamination work. It should be noted that when there is an important fungal contamination problem, as in this case, the DSP usually requires that decontamination work be done according to certain standards.

We invited the Borough to better educate its employees on the importance of comprehensive action in the handling of unsalubriousness files and on the need to require conclusive evidence regarding the execution of the adequate and necessary decontamination work.  Basic cosmetic repairs do not suffice.

Healthy housing – Satisfactory management by the Borough: the OdM withdraws from a file

In 2012, a citizen had complained that his dwelling, as well as many others in the same building, were affected by an important mold contamination problem.


The plaintiff, his spouse and their children reported various health problems linked to this fungal contamination. He complained that Arrondissement de Villeray–Saint-Michel–Parc-Extension was not taking the necessary measures to resolve the situation and requested our intervention. We discussed this file in our 2012 annual report.


For many months, we made sure that the DSP recommendations were respected namely in regards to the evacuation of some dwellings, until a return to normalcy.


We regularly contacted the Borough who kept us up to date on the situation and sent us all relevant documents. We also contacted the DSP to discuss the situation and its recommendations.


Despite the Borough and the DSP interventions, the decontamination was not completed by the end of 2013. The Borough confirmed that it would maintain its follow-ups until the necessary work is completed and the building is deemed healthy by the DSP. It also confirmed that until such time, the dwellings would remain vacant.


Having been reassured that the Borough would continue to collaborate with the DSP, our office closed this file. We are confident that the reinstatement of previous tenants (including the plaintiff and his family) and the rental of dwellings to new tenants will not be authorized as long as the premises no longer present a health risk.

Healthy housing – The Borough must continue to follow up despite the fact that tenants have left (2013)

In another file, a tenant who was complaining of important mold contamination problems ended up leaving her dwelling: she was not satisfied with the work done by her landlord nor by the interventions conducted by Arrondissement de Pierrefonds-Roxboro.


Notwithstanding the fact that the complainant had moved out, we decided to intervene in order to ensure that the Borough maintains its actions with the owner and makes sure the fungal contamination problem gets resolved.

Healthy housing – A file that highlights the importance of inspectors’ training (2013)

In 2012, a citizen had complained to his Borough about mold problems in his dwelling.  He finally left the dwelling due to this problem.


The Borough had conducted two (2) inspections in this dwelling: one in December 2012 and the other in January 2013. During these two (2) visits, the municipal inspector had not noticed the presence of mold.


Subsequently, the Direction de santé publique (DSP) de Montréal got involved. The DSP inspected the premises and confirmed the presence of mold in the basement: it declared the dwelling unfit for habitation. The DSP also recommended that the dwelling remains vacant until it was decontaminated and proof of its salubriousness was made.


The tenant then contacted our office. In light of the DSP report, he could not understand how the Borough had detected nothing wrong in the course of its two (2) inspections.


The Borough recognized there was a problem and acknowledged that its inspectors had neither the training nor the necessary equipment to detect the presence of excessive humidity or fungal contamination. Measures had already been taken by the Borough to improve the quality of its interventions in this type of file: improved guidelines and operational framework, training of inspectors in collaboration with the DSP, purchase of appropriate equipment. The Borough added that these measures were part of a continued process aimed at improving its interventions and that the new measures implemented were already producing results.


Our office agrees that in the future, this Borough’s inspectors should be able to better detect the presence of mold and quickly take appropriate actions in similar situations.

OMHM: Reducing penalty in exceptional circumstances (2013)

A former tenant was hoping to be registered again on the eligibility lists of the Office municipal d’habitation de Montréal (OMHM), for a subsidized dwelling. The OMHM had imposed her a penalty of five (5) years because she had left her previous low rent dwelling without prior written notice, and with an outstanding balance. Although the OMHM’s tenant guide provides for a period of ineligibility of five (5) years, in such instances, the applicable regulations leave room to more flexibility.


Considering the specific circumstances of this file, namely the fact that the abandonment occurred due to problems of violence in the residential complex where this family used to live and the fact that the plaintiff is the mother of nine (9) children, many of which require regular follow-ups in a social pediatric center, we recommended to the OMHM to reduce this penalty in order for the plaintiff to be allowed to register on the waiting lists as soon as she pays her debt.


After many discussions, the OMHM Director accepted our approach and undertook to join his recommendation to ours and to ask the OMHM selection committee, which decides on the eligibility of requests, to authorize the re-inscription of this mother on the OMHM lists. As soon as our complainant pays her debt, she may apply for low rent housing.


In the end, the penalty that will have been imposed will be of approximately three (3) years. Moreover, the citizen signed a document in which she recognizes the fundamental obligations of tenants and undertakes to respect them in the future.

Collaboration with the Direction de l’habitation – Mold contamination files (2012)

We are currently collaborating with the Direction de l’habitation of Ville de Montréal, which is responsible for the Action plan for a better sanitation in dwellings, to better understand Ville de Montréal new policies, strategies and procedures (central departments and boroughs) with regard to the sanitation of dwellings. We also collaborate in finding ways to improve collaboration between the City and the Direction de santé publique (DSP) and to better understand their respective responsibilities as well as the possible role of CSSS (centres de santé et de services sociaux), in such files.

With the observations and experience it has gained over the past years, our office can contribute positively to the improvement of municipal mechanisms against substandard housing.

Sanitary housing and decontamination process (2012)

We handle more and more complaints from citizens facing sanitation problems in a private dwelling or in a HLM (low-rent housing). In some cases, citizens’ health had been affected and the Direction de Santé publique (DSP) had issued recommendations regarding necessary decontamination work and, sometimes, even the evacuation of tenants.

We found that, when the DSP informs a borough of such a situation, the handling of the file and the rigor of the follow-up varies greatly: some boroughs intervene promptly, while others are more reluctant to act.

For example:

  • A citizen called our office asking that Arrondissement de Verdun issues a Notice of eviction regarding his dwelling. The DSP had confirmed a serious sanitation problem and mold contamination and it had also confirmed that the tenant suffered from serious health problems caused by these conditions. The DSP had, therefore, recommended that the tenant be relocated as soon as possible (within approximately one week).
    Following our intervention, a visit of the premises was quickly set up with borough representatives, the Direction de l’habitation and the DSP; the expert of the building owner was also present. A Notice of eviction was issued by the borough and the citizen was relocated. The citizen’s complaint was, therefore, settled to his satisfaction.


  • In another file, tenants of an HLM had been relocated due to sanitation problems: our office remained on file to verify that adequate decontamination and refitting measures were taken, by the Office municipal d’habitation de Montréal (OMHM) before this HLM would be rented again.


  • In two other situations, there was mold contamination and visible fungus in private dwellings, located in Arrondissement d’Ahuntsic-Cartierville and Côte-des-Neiges–Notre-Dame-de-Grâce. One of the dwellings was vacant, the tenant having left due to this contamination. We made sure that, in conformity with the DSP recommendations, this dwelling was not rented again until adequate decontamination work was completed.
    Regarding the other dwelling which was still inhabited, adequate repairs were done to the satisfaction of the stakeholders and of our plaintiff.


  • We are currently handling six (6) cases of mold contamination opened in 2012, in dwellings located in the following boroughs: Rosemont–La Petite-Patrie (2 cases), Le Sud-Ouest, Verdun, Ville-Marie and Villeray–Saint-Michel–Parc-Extension. In each of these files, we do periodic follow-ups with the borough and the DSP and sometimes even with building owners. Our objective is to ensure that everything be put in place to:
    • Protect tenants’ health;
    • Identify what caused the water infiltrations and other problems at the origin of this contamination, in the building;
    • Make sure that adequate decontamination and rehabilitation work is done; and
    • Implement the DSP recommendations, when it is involved in the file.

Presence of rats – OMHM Building – Action, Resolution and Prevention (2011)

A citizen living in an HLM with her three teenagers complained about the presence of rats in her dwelling. She deemed the OMHM’s interventions insufficient and solicited our intervention, to resolve the situation.

The OMHM recognized the severity of the situation: approximately thirty rats were captured and many sanitation problems were noted (dead rats, excrements, foul smells, flies).

Following our intervention, the family was temporarily relocated to another dwelling. The OMHM heightened its inspections and the frequency of treatments: additional fumigation tests were done.

Our office pursued its interventions to ensure the decontamination and repairs of the dwelling before it is rented to someone else: the plaintiff has requested and been granted the permission to remain in the dwelling that had been temporarily allocated to her.

The OMHM improves its procedures

In light of our observations, we suggested to the OMHM that it improves its care, coordination, management and follow-up procedures on rodent control.

The OMHM centralized the management of all such files with its Sanitation Unit (Unité de salubrité), starting February 1st, 2012. This Unit, which was already ensuring the control of bedbugs and cockroaches, will also be responsible for managing the control of rats, mice and ants, in all of the OMHM buildings.

In addition, the procedures of the Sanitation Unit are under review: this exercise will include the adoption of clear procedures in relation to its new responsibilities for pest and rodent control.

Sanitation of dwellings – Mold in a rental property – Concerned by the seriousness of the situation, the Ombudsman intervenes (2011)

In section 18 a) of the Montréal Charter of Rights and Responsibilities, Ville de Montréal undertook to:

“take appropriate measures to ensure that housing meets public health and safety standards…”

The OMBUDSMAN DE MONTRÉAL is responsible to ensure the respect of this undertaking.

In February 2011, the media reported major mold problems in a private property with 29 dwellings where many occupants had developed health problems. The Ombudsman felt particularly concerned by the allegations that these tenants were still living in the building, under the same conditions, despite the intervention of the Direction de la santé publique (DSP), three months earlier.

The Ombudsman, therefore, intervened with Arrondissement de Côte-des-Neiges–Notre-Dame-de-Grâce in order to understand the file and inquired as to the steps taken by the borough: she requested explanations regarding how the borough was managing the fungal contamination as well as the specific delays and interventions that were taken in this file.

The borough managers favorably welcomed her intervention and collaborated well. Some tenants whose health was threatened had already been relocated. Notices were issued to the owners, ordering him to rectify the unhealthy situation.

Our office conducted a tour of the building, with representatives from the borough and communicated with the DSP to get the pulse on the situation and its developments.

After the evacuation of some tenants, our office wanted to make sure that dwellings would not be re-rented before appropriate decontamination of the premises. Inspections conducted by the borough in 2012 revealed, however, that some dwellings had been re-rented and moreover, that there were two daycare centers.

Upon recommendation by the DSP, the borough issued numerous evacuation notices namely, to the daycare centers which were then closed. The borough also condemned some of the vacant dwellings, to prevent them from being rented again.

This file raised many questions with regard to the delays before the Borough had acted as well as to its global management of situations concerning unsanitary dwellings. Our investigation focused on these issues.

The Borough quickly improved its procedures so as to ensure a closer and stricter management of situations concerning fungus contaminated dwellings.  It also improved its communications and follow-ups with collaborators such as the DSP.

Three (3) years later, the Borough and the DSP are still acting in this file. Major repair works were done by the owner of the building, but the DSP concluded that the fungal contamination problem had not been completely resolved. Therefore, the DSP maintained its recommendation that the vacant dwellings should not be rented again, for the time being.

The building was sold in 2013. The Borough committed to pursue close follow-ups with the new owners, in collaboration with the DSP, until it is shown that the building is healthy. In light of this commitment and taking into account the major improvements in the management process of such files, in that Borough, our office concluded that its presence was no longer necessary. We decided, therefore, to close this file.