In addition to fighting before the Administrative Housing Tribunal to avoid being evicted, a family has faced a new ordeal since the evacuation of their building in Rosemont–La Petite-Patrie, last Saturday, due to excavation work possibly poorly done.
Nearly five days after the evacuation of their building, the family of Farida and Rachid Benzai are still waiting for authorization to return to their accommodation, located on avenue De Lorimier, near rue Holt.
Excavation work had been underway for a few weeks in the basement of their building. However, a stop-work order had been issued the day before the evacuation.
“An inspection by the City of Montreal carried out on Friday in the company of a structural engineer mandated by the owner of the building revealed that this work was not carried out according to the technical recommendations of the engineer who designed the project. , which would have led to a partial and localized collapse of the floor of the ground floor, “confirmed a spokesperson for the borough, Isabelle Rougier.
On Saturday morning, a concrete wall located above the basement access was dismantled at the request of the structural engineer, since the section “presented risks”, said Ms. Rougier.
It is this maneuver that would be at the origin of the evacuation. After feeling her floor vibrate, Farida Benzai contacted emergency services.
On site, inspectors from the Montreal Fire Department (SIM) observed signs of a risk of collapse. As a preventive measure, they evacuated the building and two adjacent apartment buildings.
“The excavation of the basement has been suspended in accordance with the stop work order issued on Friday,” said Isabelle Rougier.
A total of 15 homes were evacuated, or about 30 to 40 people. Most tenants had returned to their homes by the end of the day. The structural engineer, however, recommended the installation of temporary supports under the floor of the accommodation of the Benzai family, who are temporarily housed in a hotel.
In an interview with La Presse, the owner of the building, Joseph Grossman, argued that there was “no reason” for the evacuation to “create such a drama”.
“The engineer came after an hour and explained everything correctly. Everything was done right,” he explained.
This is a new ordeal for the Benzai couple, who are fighting not to lose the accommodation they have lived in with their four children for almost 20 years.
The family received a first eviction notice last year, which they challenged before the Administrative Housing Tribunal (TAL).
In March, a second notice of eviction was given to him. The reason for subdividing the first eviction notice was changed to a reason for expansion, Joseph Grossman said.
“In its current state, [the building] is very old. It has not been maintained and needs to be completely redone and expanded,” he argued. A hearing regarding the eviction notice issued last year is scheduled for Thursday.
According to Farida Benzai, renovations have been going on in their building since March 2. The family was sleeping that day when they were “suddenly awakened” by the start of construction.
The couple claims to have never been notified of the work, which Joseph Grossman denies. Since that time, Farida Benzai says she has lived through hell. “From morning until evening, it’s the jackhammer, the smell of gas…”, says the mother of the family.
In January, Joseph Grossman obtained a transformation permit for the excavation of the basement, the redevelopment of the housing on the ground floor and various restoration work on the facade of the building.
Farida and Rachid Benzai’s lawyer, Me Kimmyanne Brown, criticizes the landlord for wanting to push his tenants to the exit door. She finds it hard to understand Mr. Grossman’s “rush” to start the renovations when a TAL decision has yet to be rendered.
“It appears that this work is done with the aim of causing them to leave without calling on the TAL”, she denounces.
For his part, Mr. Grossman claims to have started the work because of a time constraint. “When I renewed my permit, I was warned that if I didn’t start [the work] before July, I could lose it completely. I had no choice,” he explains.
He added that he had “repeatedly tried to negotiate” with the family since last year, to no avail. “If you want to stay in a house until the end of your life and enjoy it, you have to buy it,” he concluded in an interview.
Québec solidaire spokesperson Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois will hold a press briefing on Wednesday afternoon in front of the building evacuated in support of the Benzai family.
The deputy for Gouin had been contacted by the tenants’ lawyer in recent weeks and has since supported him in these steps.
“It knocked me down. The sad truth is that there are more stories like this than you think, ”dropped the chosen one.
“What is happening to Rachid and Farida is one of the most tragic examples, one of the most heartbreaking cases that I have had to deal with since I have been a deputy here. This is the face of the crisis that is currently raging in Montreal, ”he denounced.