(December 22, 2015)
The Federation of Rental-housing Providers of Ontario (FRPO) represents more than 2,200 members who own or manage more than 350,000 households in every area of Ontario. We well understand the housing needs, costs and capacities in the communities that we build and manage.
Our members are a diverse group – from those with one small building or a single rental unit up to the largest property management firms and institutional owners. Renting to refugees in Ontario is not new to our members. Some 26,000 refugees from all over the world are admitted to Canada every year. A large percentage of these newcomers land in Ontario, and for a large number of them, the quality rental housing and communities built and provided by our membership play a vital role in their accommodation and re-settlement. We are proud of that.
What is new, however, is the pace and quantity with which Syrian refugees are now coming to Canada. We foresaw this. Since mid-November, our organization has been seeking a process with appropriate provincial government representatives to assist in meeting the immediate needs of those in crisis. We have offered our expertise, information and resources.
Our members continue to be ready, willing and able to rent quality housing to refugee newcomers. Housing providers that have the opportunity to do more are doing so. For example, in Ottawa, Q Residential is reserving 150 apartments for refugee families in two apartment towers. Boardwalk has a plan in place to accommodate up to 350 refugee families.
Our members also continue to be duty-bound by the laws of the Human Rights Code and the Residential Tenancies Act. As housing providers, we must ensure a tenant screening process that is fair, diligent and legal. We must strictly apply equally the application process for all new prospective renters, regardless of their residency status. This means:
- Housing providers cannot discriminate based on immigration or refugee status
- Housing providers cannot impose different criteria to assess newcomers; housing providers are required to request the same credit history, employment history and income information of refugees that is requested of all rental applicants.
- Housing providers’ rental application can consider credit references, rental history information and credit checks, alone or in any combination in order to assess the prospective tenant. A guarantor can also be required to sign a lease. It is also important that potential guarantors realize they remain guarantors for the duration of the tenancy, and not just the original lease. This is set out in the Residential Tenancies Act, and not by the policy of any one housing provider.
- Housing providers cannot require pre-paid rent, or a signed termination notice for a fixed term as a condition of approving a rental application.
Our members understand the exceptional challenge and frustration this may present Syrian refugees and their guarantors. That is why we have been communicating with government officials to offer suggestions on what can be done to respond more appropriately to the influx of families requiring rental housing.
FRPO believes the rental housing application process for the Syrian refugees that are now coming to Ontario in an unprecedented number and at an unprecedented pace demands an exception to facilitate their speedy accommodation and community re-settlement. In fact we have already provided our best advice to the provincial government on how they can use existing regulatory authority to expand the number of options housing providers would have to meet both the short term and longer term needs of Syrian refugee families. We continue to be hopeful that the provincial government will respond positively to our advice.
In the meantime, FRPO is providing our members with ongoing, and publicly available, information on their rights and responsibilities with respect to providing rental housing within the existing regulatory regime. We have begun to reach out to the community services and associations that are supporting the Syrian refugees to provide facts and information on how to find a quality housing provider in Ontario and the rights and protections for tenants in the province.
Our members will do their best to support arriving refugee families as best as we are able within the prescribed regulatory environment. We encourage interested parties to contact FRPO for information on rental housing services.
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FRPO is the largest association in Ontario representing those who own, manage, build and finance residential rental properties. Our membership includes a diverse group of owners and managers, from those with one small building or a single rental unit, up to the largest property management firms and institutional owners and managers. The association also includes our colleagues and partners in industry, including service providers, suppliers, and industry consultants. With more than 2,200 members in every area of Ontario, and with over 350,000 homes, we represent the full spectrum of the industry in Ontario.
Kristina Lauesen, Vice President, Government & Industry Relations
Phone: 416-385-1100 x21