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Monday, March 1st, 2011 --- International students who are victims of predatory apartment rental practices by unscrupulous landlords should take their case to the Quebec Human Rights Commission. This would help end the exploitation, said Concordia Students’ Union Off-Campus Housing and Job Bank (HOJO) and Legal Information Clinic Coordinators.

Last September, HOJO and the Legal Information Clinic joined with CRARR to confront the growing problem of Concordia’s international students, estimated at 4,400 each year, being exposed to illegal practices such as:

  • Being required to make a deposit equivalent to 2 to 6 months rent;
  • Illegal and non-refundable application fees;
  • Large fees for sublet and lease transfers; and
  • Collection of private information including passport, visa and health insurance numbers.
  • The three organizations, with the support of the CSU, consider these widespread practices to be a violation of international students’ civil rights, including the right to equality without discrimination (as guaranteed by the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms) and the right to fair housing and other tenant protections as guaranteed by Quebec’s housing laws.

    As an external civil rights organization, CRARR is ready to represent these students in complaints filed with the Quebec Human Rights and Youth Rights Commission, which is still waiting for students to come forward. Based on past cases and other benchmarks, CRARR is ready to demand up to $15,000 in moral and punitive damages for each student victim of these practices, not including material damages such as reimbursement of deposits and fees plus interests.

    “We are ready to take action because these practices are so well documented, many students have come forward with photocopies and other proofs of illegal and discriminatory treatments by landlords, ” said Leanne Ashworth, HOJO Coordinator.

    “Case after case shows that it is often the same landlords. We know who they are and we are sure that they will be quickly found guilty of discrimination if the Human Rights Commission proceeds to investigate,” continued Ashworth.

    According to LIC Coordinator Walter Chi Yan Tom, the problem is that international students are either too afraid or intimidated, and that many are unaware of their rights. This is particularly true of international students of Chinese, Arab and Eastern European origins, who may not have the cultural references or reflexes to combat discrimination through human rights legislation.

    “Students don’t realize that as international students on visas, they are as equally protected against discrimination, harassment and reprisal as Canadian students,” said Tom. “They don’t realize that visa, immigration and passport information is not supposed to be required from landlords, who may use that data for improper or illegal purposes.”

    “We believe that most predatory landlords will settle out of court once the legal action is undertaken because the situation is so well documented by HOJO. Students will not only enjoy greater housing conditions and protection of private information, but they can also receive financial compensation for being victims of discrimination”, added CRARR’s Law Intern Anthony Morgan.

    Since the requirement of passport, visa and other personal information also violates privacy legislation, CRARR can also take the landlords to other tribunals such as the Access to Information Commission, the Rental Board or even, to the RCMP due to the possibility of identify theft.

    Although McGill student associations have not expressed any interest in this issue, international students at McGill University are encouraged to counter these practices.

    To obtain more information on how to file civil rights complaints against landlords for these discriminatory practices, contact:

    See also: