OLA Member in the Toronto Star-Exploitive rent for newcomers

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OLA Member in the Toronto Star-Exploitive rent for newcomers

#1 Unread post by LLC » January 30th, 2012, 12:09 am


Published On Sun Jan 29 2012

Iranian immigrant Shahrzad Zofan in her old neighbourhood, where she was asked by landlords to pay six months of rent upfront to secure an apartment.

Nicholas Keung
Immigration Reporter

Rafiqul Islam paid his landlord $8,600 of rent upfront for a bachelor apartment in Mississauga.

Unaware of tenants’ rights under Ontario law, new immigrants like Islam are being asked by landlords to pay as much as a full year of rent upfront to secure their first home because they have no Canadian employment or credit history.

Housing advocates say such demands are illegal and the exploitation of immigrants has become all too common, due to loopholes in the Ontario Residential Tenancies Act, as well as weak provincial enforcement.

“Sad to say, there is a subset of landlords who prey on newcomers’ lack of education of the law and lack of understanding of the rental situation,” said Geordie Dent, of the Federation of Metro Tenants Association.

“The biggest problem is, by the time we hear about it, the tenant has already paid and moved in. They don’t want to make waves and risk losing their apartment.”

There are one million renters in the city, of which about half are immigrants.

The federation often gets calls from immigrants about the so-called “rent deposits” requested by landlords, demanding a payment of six to 12 months’ rent.

In one case, Dent said, an immigrant family paid three years of rent, amounting to $36,000 upfront, simply to secure an apartment.

Islam, a financial manager from Bangladesh, and wife Nucun, a teacher, spent six months bunking at his brother and sister’s cramped apartments after arriving in Canada in 2010.

They had been turned down by four landlords after they refused to pay a full year of rent. In the end, they succumbed.

“The landlords said we had no jobs and no credit, and we must pay up. It is just unfair, but what can we do?” said Islam, 41, whose landlord recently renewed a one-year lease and finally agreed to have his rent paid monthly.

Iranian immigrant Shahrzad Zofan paid a $6,000 deposit to secure her first apartment near Yonge St. and Steeles Ave. after being turned down by a dozen landlords, who also refused the offer of a co-signer on the lease.

“We were tired and desperate. We just wanted to settle down and move out of our friend’s home as soon as possible,” said Zofan, an English teacher who came here in June 2010.

“I understood it was not fair for us to pay in advance. But we had no other option. We needed a place to live.”

The Centre for Equality Rights in Accommodation holds clinics at immigrant service agencies to help newcomers understand their rights. It also trains settlement workers on housing issues and rental laws.

“Immigrants being asked to pay a substantial rent deposit is the norm,” said the centre’s program director John Fraser. “We’ve done sessions in English classes, and often a substantial portion of the room has done that.”

Jennifer Ramsay, of the Ontario Human Rights Support Centre, said being asked for extra deposits or additional fees, and being told children are not allowed and they wouldn’t “fit in,” are among the most common complaints by immigrants.

“We are not talking about mom-and-pop operations. There are large corporate landlords engaging in this practice of illegal deposits,” she said. “Making additional requirements of newcomers is discriminatory and exclusionary.”

However, Mike Chopowick, policy manager of the Federation of Rental Housing Providers of Ontario, said he has not seen any evidence that indicates such rent deposit requests are a widespread practice.

“Tenants in Ontario receive far more protection under the law than anywhere else in North America,” said Chopowick, whose 800 members operate 300,000 rental units across the province.

“Both landlords and tenants have the obligation to educate themselves on their rights.”

Georgina landlord Stephen Peacock said non-paying tenants are a real concern for landlords, regardless of whether the renter is an immigrant or not.

“I have bad Canadian tenants and good immigrant tenants,” said Peacock, who has had his share of bad renters, with one Canadian father and son owing him $7,000 in rent and $3,000 on unpaid hydro bills.

“A landlord can have a tighter screening process, but you can’t ask for anything over and above the law.”

If landlords could easily evict non-paying “hell” tenants and ask for a damage deposit as a safeguard, he said, they would be more willing to take a chance on those with no credit history and employment references.

Ontario’s Residential Tenancies Act allows landlords to ask for first- and last-month rent deposits and requires them to make tenants aware of their rights by providing a government information sheet.

Chopowick, of the landlord group, said currently it takes 90 days to resolve a rent dispute in Ontario, three times longer than in other provinces — the result of statutory delays and backlogs at the Landlord and Tenant Board.

However, it is difficult for tenants to go after bad landlords, said the Metro Tenants Association’s Dent.

“Even for established tenants, these (complaint) forms are not easy to fill and the process is very time-consuming,” he said. “We need stronger proactive enforcement (such as spot checks on landlords) and heavier punishment against those who engage in this kind of practice.”

Immigrant tenants pressured to pay up hefty rent deposits may have better success by filing a human rights complaint.

Fraser, of the Centre for Equality Rights in Accommodation, said asking for huge rent deposits is an outright violation of the law, and his centre has helped tenants recoup damages ranging from $2,000 to $12,000 from unscrupulous landlords.

“If landlords are caught, they know they can’t win and will settle,” Fraser said.

Ramsay urged immigrant tenants to take someone along when looking for an apartment and take notes of dates, times and names. “The more specific you are,” she said, “the easier it is to follow the trail.”

http://www.thestar.com/news/article/112 ... omers?bn=1

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Re: Exploitive rent demands ‘a norm’ for newcomers

#2 Unread post by silky28 » January 30th, 2012, 1:23 am

It would be nice if people would post something then comment about what they have posted. What is the point of just posting articles? I don't need you to provide me with reading material, believe me!

As far as the story goes it is another example of landlords being damned if you do and damned if you don't. Since there is no credit history or employment history we are supposed to just HOPE that they are good, reliable people who can afford their housing. Then when we go to the tribunal because the person has ripped us off the adjudicator tells us to do a better job screening tenants and blames us.

In the end the alternative is to simply not rent to these people and save youself from the double jeopardy.

I wonder if the same tenants rights groups could convince the government that people with no credit or employment history deserve credit cards. I wonder how Visa would take to that one.


OLA Member in the Star-Exploitive rent demands for newcomers

#3 Unread post by Skitter » January 30th, 2012, 12:12 pm

Apparently some tenants are being asked to pre-pay their rent many months in advance before being allowed to move in.

Obviously this is in contravention of the RTA.

No doubt some politicians and "activists" will demand more regulations in the hope of curbing this practice.

Of course it wont work.

The politicians and "activsits" fail to understand:

1)current legislation ALREADY prohibits landlords from collecting several months pre-paid rent. A preventive authority (LTB) ALREADY exists and the ability to take punitive action against the landlord ALREADY exists.

2)If Politicians and "activists" really want to resolve this issue, they need to ask, themselves. ......WHY are landlords requiring pre-paid rent? Only then can the real cause be dealt with. But politicians and "activists" dont REALLY want to address the REAL issues.

And I caution the OHRC, socialist politicians and "activists"....................dont forget..........at least these high risk tenants ARE being given rentals and they ARE receiving housing for their rent.

Frankly I will not rent to anyone that can not provide proof of a source of income and whom can not complete a satisfactory credit check. As a small, law abiding landlord, the risks for me to do otherwise are simply too great.

These requirements ARE legal and would likely result in many tenants being rejected: tenants who ARE currently being given a home, ironically by the same landlords that are being targeted in the media.

http://www.thestar.com/news/investigati ... -newcomers

Perhaps the reporter would like to investigate WHY this situation has arisen............but I doubt it, the star doesnt write about "WHYs".

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Re: OLA Member in the Star-Exploitive rent demands for newco

#4 Unread post by silky28 » January 30th, 2012, 2:33 pm

I think cause and affect are what they really don't understand. They really seem to think that there are no reprocussions to their actions. They don't understand that when you run face first into a wall you absorb as much impact as the wall.

They don't seem to understand that the increased regulation realizes increased cost and also drives landlords and prohibits new investment which ultimately drives up the cost of rents as supply goes down and demand goes up.

They really don't understand compromise. Look at their posts. They always say "tenants are discussing this with Mpp's" or "landlords have no say"...sure we have a say. We can jack up rents or close up shop.

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Re: OLA Member in the Star-Exploitive rent demands for newco

#5 Unread post by JanetS » January 30th, 2012, 2:47 pm

I understand that the law states that we cannot collect more than first/last month's rent. But, in past years when I housed a lot of international students, they WANTED to pay a few month's at a time, coinciding with when their money came in. It was easier for THEM...and I had to tell them NO. (believe me, they were very confused about why the law did not allow me to collect months ahead (if they were in school dorms, that is how they pay).

It should be something between LL and tenant IF the tenant wants it. In this case it is a tenant's right that is being infringed upon.


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