A group of roughly 20 Sudburians gathered at the corner of Notre Dame Avenue and King Street Saturday morning to protest what they deem illegal evictions by the landlord of a rooming house.
The landlord in question is Paul Gervais, owner of local sewing shop Pro Stitch at 495 Notre Dame Ave. The business operates at street level and the upper floor is occupied by as many as 12 tenants.
According to one of the organizers of Saturday's rally, seven of the tenants are still living in the building, while as many as five have been forced out of their homes and are scrambling to find a place to live.
Raymond Landry, coordinator with the city's Homelessness Network was marching up and down Notre Dame Avenue near the King Street intersection on Saturday, megaphone in hand, shouting that the evictions that had been imposed by Gervais were illegal.
"We caught wind of this landlord kicking people out illegally, not following the rules, actually bullying them out of their rooms, taking doors off their apartments," said Landry. "There's no refrigerators in there, the last few days people have had no heat or hydro."
The landlord's actions started roughly 10 days to two weeks ago when he informed tenants that the property had been sold and that they were to vacate their rooms.
The property is a rooming house geared to low-income individuals with monthly rents costing anywhere between $450 to $700.
"Some of the tenants are gone already, they've left without being compensated for a quick exit which landlords are supposed to do," said Landry. "They haven't been given fair warning under the Residential Tenancies Act, they were just told to get out and the building had been sold, which to this point we have no proof of."
A former resident of the building, Alison Wood, attended the rally on Saturday. Wood lived in the building for nearly four years and had moved out late in 2019. She says that the building's landlord has a history of less than favourable treatment of his tenants.
"He took my door off my apartment one time and it took me four days to have it put back on," said Wood. "I watched him kick out a lot of people in the four years that I lived here. This has been going on for years."
Landry says that while the actions of Gervais are objectionable, there is a larger systemic issue at hand as there is nowhere for these evicted tenants to go as Sudbury suffers from a shortage of affordable housing.
"There's no affordable housing in Sudbury; he's essentially making these people homeless and making them dependant on our shelter system," said Landry. "There's rules and a process that's not being followed here. They have rights as tenants and landlords have rights too, but there's rules to proceed in a way that allows people to have time to make adjustments."
Steve Lane has been living in the building for about two years now and was notified less than a week ago that he had six days to vacate his apartment.
"(Paul) showed up with a notice about a week ago that he had sold the building and that we had to be out by April 1," said Lane. "First thing he did was shut the water off about four or five days ago. We got the water back on but we still have no hot water. We haven't had any heat, some people have brought us blankets which really helped."
Another tenant of the building, Ryan Ireland, had a recent altercation with Gervais, saying that it nearly escalated to physical violence.
"He's threatened people here, just yesterday he tried to fight me," said Ireland. "It's always been a bit sketchy here but recently it's become much worse. He was walking around with a big stick, he's physically threatening people. I'm not going to fight him because that's what he wants; he wants someone to do something so he has a reason to call the cops."
According to Landry and some of the tenants who attended Saturday's rally, many of the tenants' personal belongings have been removed from their apartments and strewn about. Two women who live in the building spent much of the day Friday cleaning the building and attempting to return the items to their owners.
Ireland has lived in different rooming houses in Greater Sudbury and says the Notre Dame location is one of the nicer ones in the city, but the issue lies with the way the landlord treats his tenants.
"There's no strife or anything among tenants, people get along well here," said Ireland.
"There haven't really been many problems until now, and even after all of this two girls who live here went around and cleaned everything because he had started throwing people's stuff out of their rooms. It's really hard to try and find a place to live, especially for the people who are living here."
Sudbury.com reached out to Paul Gervais for comment on this story but received no response at the time of publication.