Litigation between two parties occurred when a notice of rent increase was signed by two tenants on January 19, 2006. The increase notice contains two (2) different lines at the bottom of the page to include a reply.
‘’I accept to renew my lease for a term of one (1) year according to the conditions mentioned above,
Date Tenants’ joint signatures ___________
I do not wish to renew my lease and I am moving out at the end of the lease,
January 19, 2006 Date Tenants’ joint signatures
X Christine Bennet, André Benoît ‘’
The landlord was represented by Pierre Leclerc.
The tenants’ version
The tenant recognizes his signature on the document. He states that Mr.Leclerc visited the unit on January 19, 2006 around 7:30 pm with the increase notice. At that time, he was in the kitchen while his co-tenant was in the living room. According to the tenant, Mr. Leclerc explained that he was requesting a monthly increase of $30 and seemed to be in a rush. In addition, Mr. Leclerc wanted an immediate answer and that the lease be signed right away which is what he did but noticed that Mr. Leclerc hid the content with his hand. In fact, that same evening the tenant was convinced that he signed the line about renewing his lease for another year with the required increase of $30. In addition, he stated that Mr. Leclerc left with the original of the lease without leaving him a copy.
The tenant explains to the Tribunal that he suffers from diabetes and consequently cannot see that well, especially when he is having a hypoglycemic crisis which he was that evening. According to the tenant, he uses a magnifying glass to read which he did not do on January 19, 2006.
The tenant states that this was the firs time he signed a rental increase. He admits having met Mr. Leclerc at the beginning of February 2006 when the latter showed up at his unit to get the rent. At that time, he had empty cardboard boxes stacked in his apartment.
He explained to the landlord’s representative that the boxes belonged to a friend whose unit had just experienced the ravages of fire. He had never discussed moving out with Mr. Leclerc at the beginning of February 2006. As the landlord was a trustee, he did not recognize the wife of the landlord’s representative who was the estate trustee and who was present at the hearing.
The co-tenant, Christine Bennet, states that she cannot read, write or count. Her mother tongue was English. She recognized her signature on the notice of January 19, 2006, but specified that she must always be assisted by her co-tenant prior to signing a document. During Mr. Leclerc’s visit, she said she was alone with him and it was during this time that Mr. Leclerc asked her to sign the notice. Although she was alone for a bit with Mr. Leclerc, her co-tenant André Benoît returned while Mr. Leclerc was there.
The landlord’s version
Mr. Leclerc has been a trustee since 1999. He testified that every year, he prepares rent increase notices. He visits the tenants and gives them a copy and keeps the other, and asks them to sign an acknowledgement of receipt. He produces as evidence the rental increases from 2000 to 2005. On each of the notices, the name of the two tenants is written every year, and each year both signatures are signed opposite his name at the bottom of the notice with the inscription ‘’I accept to renew my lease for one (1) year according to the conditions mentioned above.’’
According to Mr. Leclerc, on January 19, 2006, he visited his tenants’ unit. On that day, two tenants were present and Mrs. Bennet first signed followed by Mr. Benoît, the co-tenant. Mr. Benoît had not mentioned his health problem to Mr. Leclerc who stated that he left a copy of the notice. Mr. Leclerc declared that he had not been aware of his tenant’s diabetes and hypoglycemic problem. The latter had never mentioned this to him. According to him, the visit occurred in the afternoon around 3 pm.
On February 1, 2006, Mr. Leclerc collected the rent and noticed that many empty cardboard boxes were stacked in the apartment. He asked the tenant if he had started to pack them. The latter stated that they were to be filled with things to be given away. Mr. Leclerc stated hat Mrs.Bennet had signed in Mr. Benoît’s presence after having asked him his opinion. Even when Mrs. Bennet had signed a notice in the past, Mr. Benoît was always present.
Finally, Mr. Leclerc’s wife testified that she knew the tenant well as Mr. Benoît has helped them move three years ago, and that she speaks to him regularly.
The Régie’s Conclusion
According to the Régie du logement, tenants have the burden of proof either by establishing the cause for their request. They had to prove that they were led in error as they never had the intention to terminate their lease, and that they were forced to sign the notice without thinking about it. The Régie du logement did not believe the tenants’ version and it rejected the tenants’ request.