Students moving nightmares

Concordia students talk about the challenges they face finding housing

In 1973, the Liberal Party of Quebec declared July 1 as the province’s unofficial moving date. Since that decision nearly half a century ago, March 31 has become the deadline for tenants to notify their landlords if they intend to terminate their lease.

The period between the beginning of April and the end of July can be particularly challenging for university students, especially those from outside of Montreal. 

Sierra McDonald is a first-year political science student at Concordia University. She said she had difficulties trying to find an apartment before starting school. 

“I’m from the Northwest Territories, and that’s pretty far away from Montreal,” said McDonald. “I found it really difficult having to find apartments online that fit my budget.”

According to Adia Giddings, an assistant for Concordia’s Housing and Job Resource Centre (HOJO)  out-of-province students like McDonald are in a vulnerable position when searching for housing because they often cannot visit apartments in person.

“Specifically international students who are trying to sign a lease from another country and can’t visit the apartment, they enter into the lease and then they look at the apartment, and it is not what it looks like in the pictures,” she said.

 A common issue thatGiddings deals with relate to students struggling to find leases outside of the standard lease duration of one year. 

Dana Hachwa, a second-year journalism student at Concordia, said she has noticed that  the vast amount of short-term accommodations on advertised Facebook Marketplace are for “apartment swaps.” 

Hachwa believes the practice is exploitative in nature and blocks students like her from entering the housing market.

“You see a nice apartment in a great area. It’s big, it’s affordable. The person’s looking to transfer their lease, but it’s only a swap. So if you’re not giving them something in return, you can’t have the apartment,”

said Hachwa.

Another scam that students should be on the lookout for, Giddings warned, is promotional deals or limited time offers that include discounts on rent. 

“Big landlords will advertise a month free of rent or a little bit off every month that you live in the apartment for your first year,” said Giddings. “Those fields are especially worrisome because a lot of them have clauses that are considered punitive by the tribunal.” 

Giddings explained that many of these deals include provisions that allow landlords to negate on these terms if the tenant attempts to conduct a lease transfer or pay rent late.
Students looking for more information about their renting rights can go to HOJO’s website or visit their offices at the Henry F. Hall building, room number 224.


It’s time to reject unpaid internships once and for all

Unpaid internships exacerbate the rampant inequalities in our labour market

National Football League (NFL) reporter Jane Slater sparked the ire of young journalists all over the Twittersphere earlier this month when she promoted an unpaid internship position. After receiving an avalanche of responses on how unpaid internships are unethical, unsustainable, and exploitative, she responded that this was simply the norm and that, “There is a reason not everyone makes it in this business.” She continued, “I don’t have time for those of you who don’t understand grind.”

While Slater’s unwavering commitment to the practice of unpaid internships is baffling, she wasn’t exactly incorrect that they are omnipresent in media and journalism fields.

Although no career field could ever be a true meritocracy, unpaid internships are pushing us further and further from that ideal. This is because to even be able to work unpaid, you must start out with a base level of economic security and privilege.

A student who needs to pay their own way through university or support dependents would simply not be able to allocate their time and labour to a company not willing to pay them. This leads to a culture where the only people applying for these entry-level internships are those who already have a financial leg up.

Additionally, working for free can put interns in precarious situations. Despite the fact that, as of 2019, all interns in federally regulated industries, including unpaid student positions, received standard worker protections, there are still many interns across Canada left without proper protections. This ruling did not account for federal civil service jobs or positions under provincial jurisdiction. Thus, the burden of adequately caring for their unpaid interns is placed on the employer, who often has little incentive to provide anything above the bare minimum needed to not get sued.

Not to mention, the mere concept of unpaid internships perpetuates the notion that one’s labour can be removed from their pay. The more a young person gets used to not being paid for their work, the less they’ll value their labour as they move into positions later down the line, which may lead to them not properly advocating for themselves.

Full disclosure, I have worked an unpaid internship. I am privileged enough that working for pay part-time over a summer and interning the rest was enough to sustain me. Looking back, I hate myself for offering my labour to such an unethical system, but at the same time, it’s what I was told was common, if not necessary, to have a career in media.

Yet, I now believe that no internship, no matter the prestige, would be worth selling out my labour for free. I can no longer in good conscience prop up any company not willing to pay their workers a living wage, because when privileged people feed into these systems, they’ll continue functioning regardless of backlash. There are so many resources such as Concordia’s Housing and Job Resource Centre (HOJO) or Career and Planning Services (CAPS), that make it easier to find paid opportunities and avoid falling victim to the unpaid internship scam.

If we all as students reject the concept of unpaid internships wholeheartedly, the industry will eventually be forced to follow suit.


 Graphic by Alex Hutchins


$18-million building for affordable student housing

“Not only are rental prices hiking every year but also the vacancy rates are currently at a 15-year low,” Megan Quigley said.

As vacancy rates hit record lows in Montreal, the Concordia Student Union (CSU) and the Unité de travail pour l’implantation du logement étudiant (UTILE) strike back for student rent by opening the Woodnote Collaboration.

The Woodnote Collaboration project will be an $18-million building that will offer 90 units to house a total of 144 students. Though the building will only be built by July 2020, students can apply as of Feb. 5 for the first phase of available units. The building will be located on the corner of Papineau Avenue and Sherbrooke Street across from Lafontaine Park.

“The housing crisis is making finding quality housing particularly difficult for students. Not only are rental prices hiking every year but also the vacancy rates are currently at a 15-year low,” said Megan Quigley, an assistant at the Housing and Job Resource Center (HOJO), in an email to The Concordian. “It can be challenging for students to be competitive renters especially if they do not have credit histories, are new to Quebec, etc.”

Vacancy rates in Montreal dropped to 1.5 per cent in 2019 and are expected to keep tumbling to 1.3 per cent this year, as indicated in an article by the Montreal Gazette. In the meantime, the average rental pricing rate in Montreal climbed to $841 in 2019, an increase of 3.6 per cent from the previous year, reported Global News.

Quigley mentioned to many issues students are facing in regard to housing. “Sometimes we see students who are facing discrimination at the application stage due to their citizenship, immigration status, age, etc.,” Quigley said. “We often see students in precarious or even illegal housing situations, or being subjected to unlawful and predatory landlord practices.”

Other factors include short-term rental companies like Airbnb. A study published in 2019 by McGill University found that those companies take roughly 31,000 housing units out of the Canadian market with thousands in Montreal only, reported the Montreal Gazette.

General coordinator and spokesperson of UTILE Laurent Levesque thinks the Woodnote Collaboration project will help students in need; although the organization still has a long way to go.

“Obviously, 90 units are not enough, and we expect the Woodnote to fill up very quickly,” Levesque said in an email to The Concordian. “We are already working on another 120-unit project, open to students of all campuses, slated to open in Rosemont in 2022.”

The building currently under construction was initially funded by the CSU after a referendum in 2015. The initial $1.85 million from the CSU’s Popular University Student Housing Fund accounted for 10 per cent of the total costs. The City of Montreal also donated $1.6 million. Other investors included the Fond d’investissement pour le logement étudiant, the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation, and Desjardins.

“Our objective now is to start many more projects, because with a housing crisis like the one we’re facing it’s urgent to offer students more housing options,” said Levesque.

Students can send application forms for available units on


Photo courtesy of UTILE


Know your rights as a tenant

As we enter the third week of the fall semester here at Concordia, many students are beginning to settle into their routines, their workloads and their living spaces. The experiences students have with their living situations vary widely: some are finding themselves in the apartment of their dreams with a landlord who is attentive and sympathetic, while others, unfortunately, are not.

It is not uncommon for landlords to take advantage of the inexperience of their student-tenants. This is why we at The Concordian hope to help educate students about their tenant rights and how to defend them. We’ve heard many horror stories of students being taken advantage of by their landlords. It’s for this reason that we’ve decided to address some of the injustices that are commonly inflicted on student-renters, and encourage students to stand up against them.

Believe it or not, landlords are not allowed to ask for any kind of deposit—for keys, damage or otherwise—when you first move in. This will come as a shock to some students, as we have heard countless stories of landlords asking for these payments. But it’s an important fact to be aware of.

Even some of our own editors at The Concordian have experienced situations where their landlord asked for a deposit of one month’s rent. Not knowing otherwise, they complied. Yet when they moved out, the landlord kept the $200, claiming it was for cleaning fees, even though the tenant cleaned the space before leaving without existing laws requiring them to do so.

One of our editors, Matthew Coyte shared his experience with renting apartments. He had found an apartment that seemed ideal on Kijiji, for $1,600 a month. But when he and his friends got to the apartment, it was the complete opposite of ideal.

“The place was run down, unfurnished,” he said. “The worst part was the landlord, who had demanded that if we were interested in renting the apartment for the coming school year, we would need to put down a security deposit, which would cost us the first two months’ rent.” When Coyte and his friends explained that Quebec renting laws make it illegal for landlords to ask for payment before the beginning of the lease, the landlord cited reasons of “making sure [they] would honour the agreement.”

These are just a few of the many situations students face when trying to find an apartment. As a renter, you sometimes have to use your own discretion when deciding whether what a landlord is asking for is fair. You should be aware of the risk you are taking if you decide to go through with renting an apartment.

Students should also be aware that landlords are, by law, required to clean an apartment before the move-in date, perform necessary repairs in a timely fashion and give 24 hours notice before entering the apartment. Concordia Student Union’s Housing and Job Resource Centre (HOJO) has a website listing all of the things landlords are and aren’t allowed to do, as well as a list of precautions to take prior to signing a lease.

François Saillant noted in the Montreal Gazette in 2016 that the average rent in Quebec was $712 per month ($744 in Montreal). “To pay such a sum without spending more than the standard of 30 per cent of your revenues,” he wrote, “you must have an annual income of more than $28,500, which is obviously not the case for many tenants.” With rent this steep, students need to make sure they get what they’re paying for. It’s your duty as a tenant to stick up for your rights, not only for your sake, but for the sake of other tenants. It’s much harder to fight injustices when they become the norm.

Landlords have been taking advantage of young people for a long time because, well, first-time renters are often naive. If you’re renting an apartment this year, take the time to learn your rights so that you know when they’re being violated. If you think something about your rental agreement or living situation seems unfair or unclear, the university offers a variety of services, including HOJO, where you can speak to someone about the issue. The important thing though, is to make sure you speak up about it.

Graphic by Zeze Le Lin


Red flags to watch when renting in Montreal

Staying cautious while apartment hunting

Montreal was named the number one city in the world for students, according to the 2017 QS Student City rankings, a bump up from seventh place last year. A big reason for its popularity among students is the abundance of affordable housing—some of the cheapest in the country—in almost every borough.

Nonetheless, there are scammers and landlords who specifically target students, who may be desperate to find a place to live.

Leanne Ashworth, a coordinator at Concordia’s Housing and Jobs Office (HOJO), has some tips for students and specifics to watch out for when apartment hunting.

“If [landlords] are just contacting by email or by text message, that’s not good enough,” Ashworth said. “You always want to see in person what you’re going to be committing to. If the apartment seems too good to be true for the neighbourhood that it’s in, then that’s a good sign that it’s not actually a real apartment.”

This is the kind of situation Concordia student Roba Riad Bairakdar encountered when she was looking for an apartment earlier this month.

“I was looking through the ads on Kijiji, and I came across a place that was unbelievably cheap,” she said. “There was no phone number in the ad, and I was only allowed to message the person through Kijiji.”

The scammer, who did not use a name in the emails Bairakdar shared with The Concordian, displayed many red flags indicative of fraud. This included the demand that Bairakdar must pay one month’s rent upfront to secure the apartment. Under the Quebec Civil Code, landlords are not allowed to demand deposits to guarantee apartments—tenants only need to pay for the months agreed upon under the official provincial lease once they move in. The scammer also claimed to be out of the country, in France, Bairakdar said.

Another red flag was the pictures that accompanied the apartment ad on Kijiji. Bairakdar said she reverse searched the images and found they matched the photos of another apartment worth almost three times what this ad was offering.

Ashworth recommends students who are unsure about the legitimacy of their lease or are worried their landlord is taking advantage of them to come to HOJO. The office offers a legal information clinic by appointment for those seeking advice.

“The best thing for students to do is to prepare themselves for how the process should go,” Ashworth said. This process includes potential renters ensuring they visit the apartment with the landlord and go over all the details before handing over any money or signing anything. The only lease that should be signed is an official provincial lease.

She also suggests students visit the housing committees that exist in each neighbourhood in the city, and speak with them directly regarding any problems. These committees can help students by offering help to find apartments with credible landlords.

For more information, visit HOJO on the second floor of the Hall building. The office is open between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. from Monday to Thursday, and from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Fridays. There is also a HOJO in the CC building on the Loyola campus, open on Thursdays from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.


Housing tips for students

CSU Housing and Jobs Office luncheon for students

Looking for a place to live in Montreal can be overwhelming, especially for international students who are unfamiliar with the city. Concordia’s Student Union off-campus housing and job bank (HOJO) held a free lunch for students on Jan. 16, offering tips on how to find a place to live in the city.

HOJO is an off-campus resource centre in the mezzanine of the Hall building at Sir George Williams Campus and CC-426 on Loyola Campus which advocates for students’ workers’ rights and tenant rights. HOJO helps students find affordable, safe and clean housing in Montreal. They also provide free-legal information to students regarding leases, roommate problems, jobs and any other issues they may face.

The “Lunch and Learn” featured a presentation on apartment renting laws in Montreal and different tips to help students find a home in the city.

“Landlords pray on international students who are afraid to point out problems they might have with their lease and apartment,” said Safrine Mouajou, a HOJO representative. “So many students come to our services afraid of their landlords and scared to defend their rights.”

When searching for a place to live, students should look at whether their future home has gas or electric heating, what sorts of appliances are included and whether the place is furnished, said HOJO representative Hannah Brais to the crowd of students during the presentation.

“Students should take into account factors such as proximity to their schools and if they are looking for a roommate when searching for a place to stay,” Brais added. “Make a list of [traits] you search for in a roommate.” In addition, students should find out whether electricity, heating, phone, Internet and parking are included in their rent.

Brais said HOJO does not recommend homestay, where a Concordia student lives with a Montreal family and shares their home. She recounted previous instances of abuse in homestay situations, where locks had been put on the fridge, preventing students from eating and keeping food at the home they were renting.

Mouajou also suggested that students “go out and explore the city” when searching for a place to live. “Do not simply rely on the pictures listed online,” she said. “See the place for yourself.”

“When signing your lease, make sure that the unit you saw is the same unit you are renting,” said Brais. “Leases automatically renew each year and tenants should give three to six months’ notice in writing to their landlords if they wish to end or transfer their lease.”

HOJO representatives also discussed students’ rights, such as how the landlord must give tenants 24-hours’ notice before entering their apartment space. Students always have the right to refuse rent increases, said Mouajou. If they have a problem with the amount, they can discuss it with their landlord or file a motion with the rental board commissioner.

For more information on student housing and job options, HOJO encourages students to make an appointment or visit their website


Montreal promises focus on housing

An update on the ongoing effort to court International students.

Concordia’s Housing and Job Bank (HoJo) is saluting a recent Montreal report calling for better housing as one of its key priorities in attracting and retaining international students.

The report, titled L’urgence d’agir pour attirer et retenir les meilleurs étudiants internationaux à Montréal, reiterated the rising importance of foreign students as a potential demographic resource for skilled and integrated citizens in a globalized world where mobile human capital is to be courted and enticed.

HoJo is joined in its statement of support by the L’unité de travail pour l’implantation de logement étudiant (UTILE), an organization promoting co-operative student-run housing in the city.

Off-Campus HoJo Assistant Kyle McLoughlin agrees the rector’s report is a start, but says the universities and government have their work cut out for them. In his professional experience, the difficulties for international students come from both being unaware of the resources available to aid them and not knowing their legal rights.

“International students pay an average of 20 per cent higher than the median rent in Montreal,” said McLoughlin of the existence of a ‘predatory market’ of landlords making a business from vulnerable international students.

“We see at HoJo an endless amount of students who are taken advantage of and who are asked for [such unlawful things as] illegal deposits, they’re asked for illegal personal information like photocopies of their passports [or] driver’s licenses, or cases where landlords refuse to rent to non-Canadian students,” McLoughlin said. Corporate entities sponsoring workers also frequently cross the line in their demands.

For McLoughlin, one particular vector of abuse is the avenue available to Quebec landlords in demanding a guarantor in for tenants they suspect of bad faith or financial insolvency, a normally sensible enough option.

“However, many companies will require that the guarantor be somebody from Quebec or from Canada, and if you’re an international student who doesn’t have any family or friend connections to the city, it can be exceptionally complicated,” McLoughlin said.

“The university can do anything it wants to in its ability to act as the official voice in these matters, but at the moment they don’t,” he said of the university’s ability to alleviate the situation, suggesting a streamlined form system to confirm student status, which confirms financial stability, as it is one of the requirements for studying in Canada to begin with.

Justice, when available, can be glacial. “The law only favours somebody to the extent that it’s enforced,” he said of the Regie du logement’s newest figures which point out wait times that stretch up to a full year. For many international students, they’ll sooner receive their degree and move on then receive a resolution to their problem from the overwhelmed Regie. “It can take so much time [to exercise their rights] that the students don’t find it worth it.”

“What we would like to see is a more effective, more streamlined Regie du logement, a body that enforces the rules and regulations that exist in Quebec, and a sort of focus towards creating a better student housing situation.”

He said HOJO and UTILE’s mission, in addition to providing legal and informative aid, is also to get the information out to both sides of the divide.

“We feel we’re educating landlords at the same time as informing students about what their rights are.”

Student Life Uncategorized

HOJO helps save your sanity and your home

Off-campus legal resource tells you how to avoid hellish housing situations

It was around five a.m. when my roommate came to say goodbye, giving me a half-hearted wave before vanishing forever into the snowy February morning. The furniture was sold and out of sight, the fridge emptied, and his affairs wrapped up in a neat two-week whirl, giving me barely enough time to process that he was leaving before I found myself alone in the apartment with no roommate and no sofa to flop exasperatedly onto. My personal horror story ended that pre-dawn morning, with nothing but dumb luck protecting me from having to pay the $900 rent on my own.

Don’t end up in my shoes. Concordia’s Off-Campus Housing and Job Bank (HOJO)  is a free legal information (not advice) treasure trove wrapped up in brightly-coloured brochures and presented by friendly students.

Moving in with roommates for the first time? Do you know what hours they like getting freaky, how often they believe in cleaning the toilet, or who they’re down with crashing on your couch? You will soon enough, so HOJO has a list of everything that causes major conflicts between students living with one another and recommends sitting down with your new roomie and discussing the items on that list.

“You definitely see a lot of people live together that would never meet if it wasn’t for Craigslist,” said Leanne Ashworth, HOJO coordinator. Talking to one another about boundaries, limitations, and sharing is always best before tensions rise—in my case over who kept stealing my food and refusing to pitch in for toilet paper.

Roomies can write a roommate agreement, which is a legally binding document. The agreement will come under the rule of the Rental Board of Quebec, a small court that can sort your housing issues for only $70.

Headaches over leases, subleases, joint tenancy, and occupancy agreements can be cured by HOJO’s handy fact sheets (powerpoint diagrams included) or by their friendly assistants.

Even if, like me during first year, you thought you knew it all and didn’t need HOJO’s advice, I still recommend dropping by a HOJO workshop for the free pizza (sometimes) and the handy advice (always) held throughout the year.

I learned from HOJO that my landlord asked for a key deposit, forbade me to paint, and renovated my bathroom (using the Esso across the street to pee at three a.m. for three nights in a row) without offering any compensation—all illegally. And that was before the pizza even arrived.

If you are new to living on your own or just never bothered to read some legal textbooks to figure out your rights as a tenant (because who does, really?), then hit up HOJO for some sweet free information, advice, and tips to make home where your heart is, and not where World War III breaks out daily.

Housing advice, student classifieds, and other useful links can be found at

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