Real Estate Empire of Henry Zavriyev: Controversial Tactics and Legal Loopholes

2023-12-11 10:00:00

He is not yet 30 years old and has been building his real estate empire since 2017. Henry Zavriyev, notably owner of the now famous Mont-Carmel residence, from where 60 elderly people are fighting in court to avoid being evicted, is probably the speculator the best-known real estate in Quebec.

Posted at 5:00 a.m.

In 2022, a survey by Duty established that Henry Zavriyev owns 1,000 homes in Montreal alone, including at least 4 buildings in the territory of the Mercier–Hochelaga-Maisonneuve district. And yet, Christine Harrisson, head of the borough’s permits and inspections division, and Radia Zatout, inspector on file at 4790, rue Sainte-Catherine, both say that they did not know who Mr. Zavriyev was when he acquired the building at 4790 Sainte-Catherine Est.


Henry Zavriyev

The “Zavriyev technique” is always the same, affirms Me Manuel Johnson, who defended several tenants evicted by Henry Zavriyev: over the last few years, 130 cases have been opened against him at the Administrative Housing Tribunal. “The technique that he uses very well is that he will knock on the tenants’ doors, he explains that there will be work, that it will be hell, and he proposes an amount,” explains Me Johnson.

“Its business model is to buy blocks and “renew” the tenant population. He renovates, and then he increases the rent substantially. This is his pattern, this is the modus operandi of his speculative operations,” he said.

And it pays off. His deals earned him $13 million over the years, calculated The duty.

Because when the price of rent increases, the value of the building increases significantly, explains Martin Blanchard, of the Regroupement des committees logement et associations de tenants. Speculators like Mr. Zavriyev then use the value of their buildings to borrow more and buy other buildings.

The scenario repeated itself, in exactly the same way, at 4790 rue Sainte-Catherine. The eviction attempts began in August. At the beginning of September, while the fire was still raging in the building, “in the middle of the disaster and the flooding caused by the [lances d’incendie] firefighters”, a bailiff was carrying out evictions on the sidewalk, noted Annie Lapalme.

“We can say that he is a bad character. We can deplore the fact that its business model is at the expense of vulnerable people. But the most important thing is that the structure in place allows him to act in this way,” underlines the lawyer.

The moral of the story is that there are big profits to be made quickly, and the law and regulations allow it. And as long as the law allows it, it will continue.

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Me Manuel Johnson, lawyer for evicted tenants

And Bill 31?

In theory, Bill 31 on housing led by Minister France-Élaine Duranceau, which should be adopted at the beginning of 2024, aims to make unjustified evictions more difficult and more costly for owners. Thus, the tenant who does not respond to an eviction notice will no longer be deemed to have accepted. Then, the compensation for an eviction increases from 3 to a maximum of 24 months of rent. Finally, the minister claims to have “reversed the burden of proof” for tenants who believe they have been unfairly evicted, and who would like to sue their landlord before the Administrative Housing Tribunal. On the other hand, to obtain additional punitive damages, the tenant will have to prove the landlord’s bad faith, which is not currently the case.

However, the Regroupment of housing committees and tenant associations of Quebec (RCLALQ) believes that the bill will not have the expected effects. First, because the compensation given on the market when a tenant leaves their accommodation is often much higher than 12 months’ rent. “I have already seen compensation go up to $50,000,” relates Martin Blanchard, of RCLALQ. Second, because the bill will actually make it much more difficult for a tenant, before the TAL, to obtain punitive damages. Proving bad faith, “in fact, is impossible,” says Mr. Blanchard.

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