We spoke to three Verdun residents who have been fighting against forced evictions. This week, we heard the story of Karine Laviolette and her over one year-long battle against one of the most powerful real-estate development firms in Montreal: LS Capital Group. Laviolette is an elderly woman who has been living on 3e Avenue in Verdun for a few years. Over the past year and a half, Karine and her neighbours say they have been struggling against the LS Capital Group.
LS Capital describes itself as “a real estate asset management investment firm. Our competitive advantage is finding and securing undervalued properties, and through our construction and management experience, we are able to revitalize or develop them to their full market value potential.”
“I first heard about my eviction on the 10th of December. LS Capital Group bought the building on the 1st of November. That same week, they put lockboxes with the tenant’s keys outside the building so that workers can come in and out,” says Karine Laviolette.
She says she has been facing intimidation tactics and has even had unannounced intruders in her home. For Karine and her neighbours, LS Capital is in the business of taking people’s homes away.
“I’m a fighter,” says Laviolette. “They won’t make me leave that easily.”
Intimidation and Confusion
“Before December, they sent us a paper that told me to send my rent checks to their company. When I got my eviction papers, I contested it but my neighbour who was here for 30 years decided to leave. A mother with her son was also evicted,” says Laviolette.
According to Laviolette, many of her neighbours around 2e and 3e Avenues in Verdun are facing pressure from LS Capital Group. They’ve all experienced similar intimidation tactics from LS Captial, she alleges.
“My neighbours on the other side of the street were threatened with eviction and decided to stay but his rent went from around $550 a month to around $1400 because his building was sold after they renovated it.”
Above: The original letter sent by LS Capital announcing the transfer of ownership.
“It’s intentionally confusing. The Regie and LS Capital Group have all these papers you have to sign and it’s not clear which ones you have to sign and where and in what order. Another neighbour of mine signed a wrong paper and they evicted her. She came home one day and everything was locked.”
Laviolette has also had to deal with questionable bank transactions. According to her, one of her rent cheques was deposited with $200 less than what she actually wrote.
“For Karine, it was awful because they told her she was not paying it. Which wasn’t true at all,” says her neighbour Felix-Antoine Carignan. “It took her over a month to get confirmation from the company.”
“LS Groupe doesn’t consider us “renters,” says Laviolette. “They call us ‘doors’ and they have around 200-300 ‘doors.'”
“When they were doing renovations, they left their garbage containers in my parking space behind my apartment. After weeks of loud construction, the Verdun borough inspector realized that they didn’t have work permits,” says Laviolette.
Laviolette tells me that her lease agreement stipulates that she has exclusive access to her parking space, something which wasn’t respected.
Translation: Notice of Major Work Order – All windows, bathroom fixtures, floors, doors and baseboards must be replaced. New paint, ceramic, gyprock, electrical and plumbing lines are required.
Apparently, workers would park wherever they wanted to and would show up to do unnecessary cosmetic renovations despite not having the work permits.
Above: The neighbouring apartment clearly displays a work cease order from the borough authorities.
“It didn’t matter, because the company still sent workers over to the house despite a cease-and-desist order from the borough,” says neighbour Lindsay O’Donnell. “I personally saw a guy who was covered in paint coming in and out of Karine’s house when she’s not home.”
Laviolette says that she doesn’t fear for her safety necessarily, but does fear what could happen to her possessions or that they’ll change the locks on her when she’s out.
“It doesn’t even matter to them if I’m home,” says Karine. “I called the police one evening after two men just entered my house. I wasn’t expecting them, I was just sitting in my living room.”
Frustration and Anger
“It’s a constant stress and you have to be aware of all the small details. We’ve been living like this for a year and a half and we’re fed up,” says Carignan.
Above, from left to right: Karine Laviolette, Lindsay O’Donnell & her daughter, Felix-Antoine Carignan.
According to the residents, LS Capital sends them a seemingly endless stream of papers and contracts that they require you to sign.
“If you want to do repair something in your own apartment, for example, someone will show up and ask you why you’re doing that,” says Laviolette.
“I haven’t left my apartment in almost four months. I’m scared to leave my house because I don’t know what will happen when I’m gone.”
Is What LS Capital Doing Legal?
LS Capital is required by law to notify tenants at least 6 months before any eviction notice. However, the Regie du Logement stipulates that “owners can only evict a tenant when they want to divide up the rental unit, demolish it, enlarge it or change what it is used for,” no matter what.
While it’s no longer on their website, LS Capital Group boasted that they have a “95% tenant removal rate.”
Above: This printout of LS Capital’s website was dated 03/18/2019 and was provided by Karine Laviolette.
“And what’s worse is that we’re legally allowed to stay here. We all signed a lease and have a contract. There’s no legal ground that the LS Capital Group has to forcefully evict people,” says Carignan.
“The law doesn’t fit reality. They can get around it by doing random renovations and then raise the rents.”
“LS Capital Group is one of the worst developers in Montreal,” says O’Donnell, “I can’t give you an exact number, but just on 3rd Avenue, we’re a lot.”
MTL Blog reached out to LS Capital but they declined to comment.
“It has to stop and we have to do something,” says Carignan. “We’re lucky that there’s a movement now to raise awareness about the issue.”
“I’m personally very surprised that they’re been no action and no awareness about this until now,” says Laviolette.
“The city says they want to help with affordable housing but all we hear is promises and no action.”
In part two, we’ll be discussing efforts of tenant advocacy group Verdun, Ensemble Contre la Gentrification. Stay tuned.
Centurion follows opportunity, buying 6 W. Canada apartments
Centurion Apartment REIT is both following the opportunities and continuing to diversify its portfolio with the purchase of six apartment properties in three Western Canadian cities, president and CEO Greg Romundt says.
Centurion is making the purchases in four transactions in Regina, Edmonton and Victoria. The properties total just over 1,300 apartment units and bring Centurion’s total assets under management to about $2.9 billion.
Three of the properties are new builds, while three of the Edmonton acquisitions are established properties.
“We’ve seen lots of opportunity in the new construction space in Western Canada, and in general. We’ve been pursuing a strategy for years of diversifying, not being just an Ontario-based shop, doing deals in Western Canada,” Romundt told RENX in an interview.
“We’ve been pretty active in B.C., Alberta particularly this year, and Saskatchewan and Manitoba have gotten a lot of our attention in the past couple of years.
“Part of it is certainly driven by the desire to have a diversified portfolio but the other is just the opportunity set.
“The stuff we’re doing in Western Canada not only is it hitting our dollar metrics, but we’re finding it easier to find, source and complete deals out there without having to pay through the nose to do it.”
The properties are: The Apex at Acre 21 in Regina; Grand Central Manor II and III, Oliver Place, Riverside Towers and The Mayfair on Jasper in Edmonton; and Hockley Corners in Langford just outside Victoria. Closing dates range from early December through March 2020.
Centurion’s $200M equity raise
Centurion is quickly putting to work funds from a successful three-phased share offering which was designed to raise $150 million.
“We decided to accept $200 (million) in three closes,” said Romundt, noting the first close on Nov. 1 was for $110 million. “It’s all allocated. We originally went out for $150 (million), we had subscriptions for $300 (million) and we accepted $200 (million).
“The apartment sector has been doing very well and I think there is a lot of recognition that it still has a lot of strong tailwinds behind it. Vacancy rates are low, interest rates are low, performance has been excellent but also, (in) portfolios across the country the market rent gaps are so large that forward-looking returns are still pretty attractive, too.”
Romundt said two years ago he hoped to build Centurion (Centurion Asset Manager, Centurion Real Estate Opportunities Trust, Centurion Financial Trust and other divisions) to $3 billion in assets within three years, $5 billion within five years.
Centurion again eyes Toronto market
“When all those complete, we’ll be at about $2.9 billion. We seem to be on schedule for that and I wouldn’t be surprised if we’re ahead,” he said, noting conditions have been ripe for portfolio expansions.
“We got in early into the new construction space, helping builders finance new developments.
“We weren’t the only guys who saw this, obviously, and there’s been a lot of product that’s now coming available. We’ve positioned ourselves very well to have this very deep pipeline of things we finance, also relationships from that effort that is spinning off into lots of new acquisitions of new product.
“So much being built today is being built by merchant developers, so they want to sell it. That’s perfect for us.”
In the near term, rapidly rising rents across Canada might reopen markets which have been difficult to access. Romundt said its focus has been on secondary markets, or regions just outside the biggest metropolitan areas because of pricing and intense competition in the cores.
Even markets like Toronto might soon be in play.
“We’re partners on a lot of builds. . . . In fact we are even looking at product in Toronto, deals that we’ve worked on for years and couldn’t make the numbers work,” he noted.
“Because rents have moved so much, some of these locations now are starting to make financial sense. I am actually getting a little more optimistic for areas where we would love to be able to build and own.”
Here are some additional details about Centurion’s pending acquisitions:
The Apex at Acre 21
Centurion is acquiring a 50 per cent interest in this new build, on which it was a development partner with Devereaux Group. It will bring Centurion’s portfolio to five properties and 571 rental units in Regina.
Completed in May 2019, the property is in the Greens on Gardiner neighbourhood in southeast Regina. The Apex at Acre 21 includes three buildings with 176 suites.
Apex offers one- and two-bedroom suites with dens and large living spaces. Condo-style finishes include luxury vinyl flooring, granite countertops, stainless-steel appliances, private balconies, ensuite bathrooms and walk-in closets.
The property has 233 surface parking stalls and a 2,400-square-foot Resident Clubhouse.
The Mayfair on Jasper
The Mayfair on Jasper is a class-A, mixed-use property completed in late 2016 at 10803 Jasper Ave. NW. It was developed and owned by ProCura Real Estate Services.
The 10-storey, 238-unit property has a mix of studio, one- and two-bedroom suites with luxury interior finishes. It has a smart-key system, premium concierge, parcel pending automated delivery system, fitness centre and dual rooftop parks. It also has 196 parking stalls and 24,901 square feet of main-floor commercial space.
Grand Central Manor II & III, Oliver Place, Riverside Towers
This family-owned portfolio of three high-rise buildings has 832 units and 38,702 square feet of commercial space. The acquisition would increase Centurion’s Edmonton portfolio to 1,278 rental units (including The Mayfair on Jasper).
The 17-storey Grand Central Manor II and III at 109th Street and Jasper Avenue offers 306 suites with one or two bedrooms, plus penthouses. All feature spacious balconies and six full-size appliances.
The 18-storey Oliver Place, also along Jasper, is a mixed-use building with 234 residential units, a four-storey parkade and a 37,788-square-foot commercial space on the main floor. It also has a fitness centre, social room, outdoor pool and resident lounge. The suites feature floor-to-ceiling windows, spacious balconies, in-suite storage and full-size appliances including dishwasher.
The third property is just east of downtown near the Brewery, ICE, Financial, and Government districts. Riverside Towers comprises twin apartment buildings with 292 units, a 914-square-foot commercial space on the main floor and a common recreational area connecting the two 21-storey towers. Units range from studios to three bedrooms and penthouse suites. All suites overlook the North Saskatchewan River Valley.
The newly constructed Hockley Corners is adjacent to five other properties Centurion purchased in July and will bring Centurion’s portfolio to 10 properties and 664 rental units in the Greater Vancouver Area.
The six-storey, purpose-built rental developed by Design Build Services of Langford at 765 Hockley Ave. was completed in August 2019. Hockley Corners has 63 residential units with underground parking and optional out-of-suite storage.
The suites offer one- and two-bedroom units, some with dens. They feature nine-foot ceilings, condo-quality finishes, stainless-steel appliances, individual heating and cooling system, and in-suite washer/dryer.
Hockley Corners is close to Millstream Village Shopping Centre, transit and Bear Mountain Golf Resort
Guelph real estate agents to trek 100 km in Sahara Desert
Four Guelphites will be trekking 100 km across the Sahara Desert in Morocco this month to raise money for the Guelph-Wellington Women in Crisis.
The venture organized in support of the Royal LePage Shelter Foundation will see local real estate agent David Halls along with his wife Robin-Lee Norris, real estate agent Ariana Chhina and John Van Buskirk trek for five days straight, seven hours a day across the sand in the hot and dry desert climate.
“Truly it’s about supporting our local shelters. All of us who are participating, we cover 100 per cent of our own costs, our own flights, our own hotels. Every penny that we raise feeds through the Royal LePage Shelter Foundation and then ends up coming back to shelters,” says Halls.
Halls indicates that as a real estate professional, his job is to help clients find the perfect safe place to call home.
According to Statistics Canada, there were 552 residential facilities for victims of abuse across Canada that have seen 68,000 admissions in 2017 — 60.3 per cent of them being women and 39.6 per cent being their accompanying children.
On the snapshot day of April 18, 2018, 3,565 women, 3,137 accompanying children and eight men were staying in residential facilities due to some form of abuse. Over 80 per cent of women on that snapshot day reported abuse as their primary reason for seeking shelter.
The trek this month will include 120 agents and hikers across Canada representing The Royal LePage Foundation where they will be divided into four groups between 29 to 30, reside in large group tents, use camp-stye bathroom facilities and live without electricity, cell phone service and the other comforts of a modern-day home.
To participate, members must raise 5,000 each and cover their own travel costs. Each agent raises funds in any way they can.
“Royal LePage corporately pays all of the overhead expenses, all the staff salary so that every penny raised goes out directly towards a shelter or to education programs against violence,” says Halls adding that each city supports their local shelter.
The trek to the Sahara desert will be Halls’ third trip with the foundation. In 2017, he travelled over 100 km across some of Iceland’s most actively volcanic areas and in 2015, he travelled to the ancient Inca capital of Cusco and visited Ina ruins and Spanish colonial churches where he hiked through remote areas that have been the same for centuries.
“I think part of the experience is that you’re putting yourself in such an uncomfortable position. Most of us are blessed to never have to leave our house and go into a shelter,” says Halls.
“You’re putting yourself in a position that’s uncomfortable for a little period of time just to try and remember there are ladies out there and kids out there who have to do this regularly.”
To date, the Royal LePage Shelter Foundation has raised over $30 million in support of Canadian women’s shelters and violence prevention programs.
Halls says he continues to see a passion from everyone involved in the project to support the charity.
“We have a thing through Royal LePage called the commission where every single deal we do, we have a slice of our commission that goes towards this charity. So collectively again across the country its millions of dollars raised. It’s phenomenal,” says Halls.
So far, Halls’ campaign raised helped raise $12,141 which is 1 percent over their goal before he officially kicks off toward the middle of the desert on Nov. 20.
Executive director Sly Castaldi says the Royal LePage Shelter Foundation has been extremely supportive throughout the years and are huge community champions for which the Guelph-Wellington Women in Crisis is extremely grateful.
“Their impact has been immeasurable to us,” says Castaldi
“Any funds they raise go toward our overall operation which we depend on in terms of overall fundraising goals and managing the organization,” she said adding that the impact is both national and local.
Richmond-based Chinese real estate company targeted by false posters
An online posting announcing the bankruptcy of a Richmond-based real estate agency is fake news, according to the owner of the company. It has just relocated to Vancouver.
Photos showing posters on the window of Maxcel Westcoast Realty, a real estate company located at 6020 Blundell Rd., began circulating on Chinese social media sites, including one of the biggest Chinese language online forums VanPeople.
These posters, dated Nov. 5, 2019, printed in Chinese characters, stated “the company has closed, which means it doesn’t exist anymore, please stop knocking on my door.”
However, when the Richmond News visited the office on Thursday, all the posters had been removed from the office windows.
According to Kathy Xu, owner and co-founder of Maxcel Westcoast Realty, the online posting isn’t real. The company is still operating and the whole team relocated from Richmond to Vancouver office earlier this week.
Xu isn’t aware of who hung these posters on the window.
A spokesperson from the Real Estate Council of British Columbia (RECBC) also confirmed that the company is licensed and they have just moved to Vancouver.
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