Student Apartment Chaos
Past and Present Dawson Students on Renting During a Pandemic
By: Kerri-Lee Commier
Photo via dreamstime.com
This summer, I stood in my empty, very first apartment trying to hold back tears. The small 4 ½ in NDG was terrible: there was a hole in the floor and another in the wall, the bathroom smelled strongly of mold, and the paint on the walls was peeling. Due to COVID, my roommate and I had rushed to find an apartment. Unfortunately, I’m not the only student who has had this experience.
Julia Prud’Homme, a recent Dawson graduate from the Cinema and Communications program, had to break the lease to her first apartment early this summer. Unable to visit her apartment due to the pandemic, Prud’Homme signed a lease to what she believed to be a beautiful Griffintown apartment. She later found out the pictures were eight years old. “The promises on the lease weren’t the same as the video, you have to give informed consent [when signing a lease]," she says. She says that her apartment was in terrible condition. She was welcomed with bugs, mold, inoperative windows and plumbing system, and a rusted bathroom. Fortunately, Prud’Homme had access to lawyers who helped her break the lease. Nonetheless, she was harassed with continuous phone calls and text messages from her building’s company and her legal team had to get involved.
Avery Rose Lamont, a second semester Studio Arts student, has had her fair share of terrible apartments. Upon arriving at her current apartment for the first time, the tenants were in the process of being evicted. Not only did Lamont have to deal with cockroaches for the first 6 months, but she also has “awful” neighbours. At some point during our interview, Lamont announced that she could hear her neighbour below her making loud noises. That neighbour is notorious for hitting the ceiling with a broom while everyone is quietly in bed and has been violent when confronted in the past.
"She was welcomed with bugs, mold, inoperative windows and plumbing system, and a rusted bathroom."
For the most part, students must live with a roommate in order to afford rent. Both Prud’Homme and Lamont agree the rent is too expensive for one person. This wasn’t the case 30 years ago. “Never needed roommates. Generally, people had roommates because they wanted roommates,” says Robyn Jaquays, a former Dawson student, “it was a choice thing back then." According to Jaquays, the standard rent at the time was about $100 per room. She explains that it was quite easy to find an apartment at the time because there were a lot of vacancies. She added that, unlike most of today’s landlords, hers were always very professional and helpful.
Some landlords such as Jean-Philippe Roy tend to hold back when renting to students. Landlord to a three-bedroom condo on Plateau Mont-Royal, he tries to be as helpful and “reasonable” as possible with his tenants, but he prefers not to rent to students because of their avid partying. “Sad, maybe unfair, but true,” he states. Roy, who lives far away, explains that he wants his renters to be stable. “I’ve heard so many horror stories about landlords and renters in terrible legal battles, but I’ve always avoided that,” Roy explains. Ideally, he wants strong communication with his tenants, and they can speak to each other openly regarding what needs to be done. So far, his tenants treat him the way he treats them.
It's important when looking for an apartment to do sufficient research beforehand. Prud’Homme advises to visit in person, ask if there are any infestations, test the water and plumbing and ask the tenants about the landlord if you have the chance to. If you do run into troubles, the rental board is a great option to turn to. Although very hard to get into contact with, the rental board is there to help tenants.