CANADA As neighbors move out, this Halifax tenant refuses to...

As neighbors move out, this Halifax tenant refuses to be “re-evicted.”

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Stacey Gomez has lived in her apartment since 2017 and is worried she won’t be able to find another place to live if she has to move. (Robert Short/CBC)

In a bright green building on Church Street in Halifax, Stacey Gomez sits at her desk and works on her computer. Her home is peaceful, filled with art and plants. Outside, workers are sawing and threshing.

Gomez is one of the last people left in the seven-apartment building. In March, forms known as DR5s were issued to all tenants asking them to leave for repairs, and many complied.

Gomez did not sign the form. She said she believes her landlord, Markus Ranjbar, is trying to “rebook” her for minor repairs and refurbishment, and she stands her ground.

“I really like my place and I don’t want to leave,” said Gomez, who has lived in the building since 2017. “I think it will be difficult for me to find a comparable place in the area… or even on the peninsula. .

“I am concerned that this will significantly affect my life if I have to move.”

Gomez says it looks like most of the work is being done on the outside of the building and no repairs are needed. (Robert Short/CBC)

Renovation occurs when a landlord forces residents to leave a building so that it can be refurbished and then rented out to new tenants at significantly higher prices.

The renovation ban in Nova Scotia ended on March 21 this year when the state of emergency in the province was lifted. A building permit for Gomez’s address was issued on 13 January.

The permit lists repairs as “flooring, trim, baseboard, paint, plumbing, siding.” It notes that there will be no structural changes or demolition, and the new siding will be installed on top of the old siding.

Gomez said the floors, finishes and paint in her apartment are intact and do not require repairs.

This building permit was posted on the front door of the house and contained a description of the work being done on the building. (Robert Short/CBC)

“I think landlords are not right in pushing people out to increase profits, especially when we are in a housing crisis right now,” Gomez said.

When CBC News contacted Ranjbar by phone for an interview, he said he was advised by legal counsel not to comment.

Ownerless property

Tammy Waler, managing lawyer for social justice at Nova Scotia Legal Aid, said renovation attempts have become more frequent since the ban was lifted.

Wahler said that, in addition to a building permit, a landlord who wants to evict someone must prove to the Housing Board that the tenant needs to move out.

Whaler said that after the lifting of the ban in the province, the phenomenon is becoming more common. (Paul Poirier/CBC)

“The renovation would have to be so extensive that it would require freehold,” Wohler said. “So, for example, cosmetic repairs … as a rule, do not require reconstruction. You know, we are constantly renovating our houses.”

being forced out

The owners of the Church Street property are listed on public records as a company with a number, and a man named Mohammad Ranjbar is listed as the president.

Marcus Ranjbar’s name does not appear on the property or company register, but he presents himself as the landlord and his name is listed as landlord on Gomez’s DR5 form.

When the building was purchased in December 2021, Gomez said actions were taken to force tenants out, including forcing them to sign shorter, fixed-term leases.

On March 24, days after the province lifted its ban on redevelopment, the building manager required tenants to sign a DR5 form stating that the building had high levels of radon and needed repairs.

Gomez consulted with legal aid groups in the city to assert her rights and remained in place.

Repairs began May 31st. Gomez was then served what is known as a Form J, terminating the lease and releasing the property for repairs.

A hearing has been set for early August to determine whether Gomez will be allowed to stay.

The building permit lists floors, baseboards, trim and painting as interior work, but Gomez says her apartment doesn’t need those repairs. (Robert Short/CBC)

Voler said that until the hearing, Gomez is still a tenant and has the same rights as before.

“The landlord-tenant relationship still exists,” she said. “So the tenant must continue to pay rent as is their obligation under the lease, and the landlord must also maintain and maintain the building.”

“Pressure Tactics”

Gomez said her landlord can’t do that and is putting the renovation on hold to “send a message.” When her toilet broke in June, she called and asked to fix it. She said Ranjbar hung up and refused to fix the toilet.

Gomez hired a plumber out of his own pocket to fix the toilet. She then noticed a hole in her deck and a similar situation followed.

“The landlord sent me an angry message that I was staying for my own selfish reasons, that I was endangering my safety and the safety of his workers by staying,” Gomez said.

Gomez says her landlord is withholding maintenance of her apartment while the renovations take place. (Robert Short/CBC)

She said she got to the point where she didn’t feel comfortable in her home.

“It’s definitely been quite tense and I’m worried about what will happen next if the pressure tactics continue to escalate,” she said.

Gomez said she believes knowing her rights is her best defense and hopes her story will help others become more aware of their rights.

“I definitely believe that information is power,” she said.

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