One of your major responsibilities as a sponsor group is to secure suitable housing for/with the refugee newcomers you sponsor. This can be challenging due to uncertain timelines, low vacancy rates, high rent, and the need to have someone act as guarantor or co-singer.
Refugee newcomers face a disadvantage in accessing housing, and acting as a guarantor/co-signer is one of the many ways in which sponsors help them overcome these barriers. However, this comes with risks.
In the best-case scenario, sponsors secure housing using personal networks and connections or with an accommodating landlord, avoiding the need for a sponsor to act as co-signer or guarantor. We advise sponsor groups to avoid an individual sponsor group member acting as co-signer or guarantor by explaining the unique situation of Privately Sponsored Refugees. However, landlords in Ontario have the right to ask for a co-singer or guarantor, and many quickly move on to the next prospective tenant if one cannot comply. Without a co-signer or guarantor, securing housing may become impossible and this can put sponsors and refugee newcomers in a difficult position.
Support Letters: Upon request, AURA will write a letter for you to provide to potential landlords with your rental application as well as a template letter for the church to complete (if applicable).
Feedback we have received from sponsors tells us that experiences vary widely. Some landlords have accepted a letter but in most cases, a guarantor or co-signer is required, and groups must prepare for this reality. We have heard from several sponsors about rental companies demanding commitments that even a sponsor who has agreed to act as a guarantor is not comfortable signing. Given the demand from prospective tenants, landlords say “take it or leave it” and sponsors have no choice but to move on with their housing search. While we suggest avoiding signing as a guarantor or co-signer if possible, and AURA cannot sign for you, we also acknowledge that in many cases this is the only way sponsors can secure housing.
If you or a member of your group act as a guarantor/ co-signer, consider the following:
1. Does the commitment extend beyond a one year lease? There is often a clause included in leases which allows the guarantor’s commitment to continue, unless specifically addressed in an amendment.
2. Have a conversation as a group to ensure that the individual who is signing has the support of the group and any issues resulting from their commitment will be addressed by the group as a whole. While not legally binding, this may be helpful.
3. Have a conversation with the newcomer(s) to ensure they understand the need for and role of their guarantor or co-signer.
4. Check with the newcomers and/or landlord after the 12-month lease is up to ensure the guarantor’s name is removed.
This is a challenge we wish to flag for all sponsor groups well in advance of the search for housing so that you can be prepared. Sponsor group members make a serious commitment when they agree to be a guarantor or co-signer.
For Anglican Parishes: The Anglican Diocese of Toronto will not allow a parish representative or Churchwarden to act as guarantor. However, they can authorize the parish to provide a rental guarantee letter. This requires multiple approvals in advance, and we recommend you start this process at least 2 months before an expected arrival date. Contact AURA and we will connect you with our liaison at the Diocese who facilitates this process.
City of Toronto: Tenant Rights and Responsibilities
Renting in Ontario: Your rights
Guide to Ontario’s standard lease for newcomers (available in several languages)
Help Over the Phone:
- 24/7 Info on Community Services Telephone: 2-1-1
- Tenant Hotline Telephone: 416-921-9494
- Landlord Tenant Board Telephone: 416-645-8080