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Montreal, March 25, 2011---The first housing discrimination case involving predatory rental practices directed at international students was filed today by CRARR on behalf of a Hispanic Concordia University student against a landlord downtown.

The case involves illegal requirement of advance rent payments; illegal interests, penalties and other “administrative fees”; illegal breaking of leasing transfer rules and harassment.

The victim, like many others who travel from abroad to study in Montreal, found herself in a housing situation where her lack of knowledge about tenants’ housing rights made her an easy target for predatory apartment rental practices (PARP) and abuse from her landlord. The landlord and management staff employed various illegal and discriminatory tactics against the victim over the course of several months, starting with abusive clauses in the lease itself and culminating with illegal eviction threats, intimidation and harassment.

The victim’s problems began when, several months into her lease, she expressed her desire to move out of the apartment she shared with a co-tenant. The landlord informed her that she was not allowed to do so, despite the fact that housing law allows for the transfer or assignment of a lease. The victim’s subsequent efforts to find a new tenant to transfer her portion of the lease to were unsuccessful. Each potential tenant was promptly rejected by the landlord, the co-tenant, or both.

Instead, the co-tenant and the landlord made plans to immediately transfer the victim’s lease to a third party without the victim’s knowledge or consent. The victim was told that she had to vacate the apartment in less than three weeks (in the midst of final exams), even though she had never consented to the transfer of lease. What followed were weeks of continued harassment. The landlord made threats to call the police, if the victim did not move out, with suggestions that the victim might have problems with her legal status in Canada.

In addition to the lease containing clauses that contravene housing law, such as one that requires an administrative fee of several hundred dollars in the event of a lease assignment, the victim was required to pay an illegal last month’s rent deposit. Distressed by the continued harassment and threats, the victim eventually moved out. With the assistance of CRARR, the victim has been able to file a civil rights complaint.

International students arriving in the city to attend one of Montreal’s excellent universities are not often informed about their civil rights, including their housing rights. Unscrupulous landlords are banking on just that, resulting in many students, falling victim to PARP simply because they are unfamiliar with the rules.

Last fall, CRARR partnered with Concordia Student Union’s Off-Campus Housing and Job Bank (HoJo) and Concordia’s Legal Information Clinic to confront the problem of PARP. Given the large number of international students in the downtown Montreal area and the increasing problem of landlords exploiting these students' lack of awareness of their housing rights, CRARR strongly encourages students who are victims of PARP to file a complaint with the Quebec Human Rights and Youth Rights Commission.

CRARR is able to assist students file complaints and seek 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. In the present complaint, it is also asking the human rights commission to investigate the landlord's overall rental practices involving students.