Syrian Refugees and Real Estate

“Sponsors seeking homes for Syrian refugees instead find closed doors”. This article appeared in today’s Globe and it touched a nerve. The article is about landlords’ refusal to entertain tenancies when they find out that the applicants are Syrian refugees. 

Some people (just “some”) in this Great nation of ours have forgotten who we are.

The rental process

As a professional Realtor I do a number of rentals annually and represent both landlord and tenant side of these transactions. Here are the requirements we look for:

  • First and last month’s rent by bank draft or certified funds.
  • Rental Application
  • Minimum 2 referrals
  • Credit Check
  • Letter of employment with pay stubs, etc. 

These are all valid requests for landlords to protect their investment properties and not lose to real damages or opportunity cost. People that can pass the acid test of these requirements with an A+ are what we call “Triple A” tenants. 

We need more Bobs

I rented a townhouse for Bob, one of my old time clients about two years ago in Mississauga. The offer was from a family (husband, wife, and two young boys) from a similar part of the Middle East with similar status. No credit check. No letter of employment. No job, but they had a sponsor family who was willing to help with rent for six months. As expected Bob was reluctant with the offer and neither Bob nor I, his Realtor had violated any legal bounds in his right of refusal. I convinced Bob to a personal meeting with the family and based on just that he decided to rent his home to them. He even agreed to a rental amount a good 30% below market.

So, how did it work out?  Really great! The tenant got a job in his field of engineering and the kids are enrolled in the local school which is an easy walk from their home. In all honesty, they were late in rent on a couple of occasions, but who cares. 


We expect up to 25,000 Syrian refugees by the end of Feb and a lot of them will come to the GTA. A large percentage will go into Govt housing and the privately sponsored ones will end up in the rental market. They are furthest from our definition of “Triple A” tenants. Rentals are going to be challenging in our market where vacancy rates run in the order of 1.5% in Mississauga/Oakville and 1% in Toronto.

(Please put “if possible” at the end of each sentence).

Find a way to say Yes instead of No. 

Ask for a Guarantor to satisfy requirements.

Landlords educate yourself in Landlord Tenancy Act and Canadian Human Rights Act or get guidance from a good Realtor.

Make exceptions, take a cut, be like Bob and be a real leader.

Stories of compassion are abound and good people are stepping up to the plate with their help and generosity. No surprise there because lest some people forget, this is who we are.