Thunder Bay

International students exploited by some landlords, says Lakehead student rep

A student representative at Lakehead University says he's tired of hearing stories from international students who say they're being taken advantage of by some landlords in Thunder Bay, Ont.

Students are often not fully aware of their rights as tenants, says Farhan Yousaf

Farhan Yousaf is the vice president of finance and operations for the Lakehead University Student Union. (LUSU)

A student representative at Lakehead University says he's frustrated by stories he hears from international students, who say they're being taken advantage of by some landlords in Thunder Bay, Ont. 

"As we know the number of international students have been increasing steadily ... and with that we've seen some issues around housing," said Farhan Yousaf, vice president of finance and operations for the Lakehead University Student Union. 

Recently, he said he was approached by some students who told him a story that he said prompted him to speak out about the issue.

The students said that, among other things, their landlord had cameras inside the house, refused to take payment in a form other than cash, failed to provide receipts and demanded to see personal documents including social insurance numbers and copies of their passports. 

"It's just those kind of cases where you have students who are not really aware of their rights and not really aware of who to reach out [to] and we've seen landlords take advantage of that," he said. 

"And [the] university has been doing its job in educating, but I think it also falls on the landlords not to exploit students."

Some landlords go 'above and beyond'

Confederation College, is also doing its best to educate students, and protect them from bad experiences in the city, said Miriam Wall, the dean of international education at the school, who said she has also heard about some problems. 

Without family nearby, and in cases where they are not aware of their rights, international students can be vulnerable, she said, noting that high demand for housing can cause problems in any market — including rising prices. 

But while she has heard some negative stories about landlords and tenants, she said, she doesn't want to paint everyone with the same brush. 

"To be honest, with over a thousand students in the city, we've also heard stories of some exceptional landlords who've really gone above and beyond what one would expect of any landlord, and have really taken on almost the role of family," she said.

"So we've seen a bit of both."