Volunteers helping newly-arrived, privately sponsored refugees find housing say landlords are refusing to approve refugee families for apartments because they understandably do not have jobs, bank accounts or credit histories.

At the Armenian Community Centre of Toronto on Wednesday, Angelique Astourian-Kirijian said some landlords are under the impression that privately-sponsored refugees will receive monthly payments from the federal government.

Unlike government-sponsored refugees, sponsor groups are solely responsible for supporting privately-sponsored refugees with their expenses.

“They’re not understanding that they’re all privately sponsored and we’re not seeing any of that (government) money,” Astourian-Kirijian said.

To make matters worse, Astourian-Kirijian said landlords have asked refugees and their sponsors for six, eight or twelve months’ worth of rent in advance, which is against Ontario rental regulations, according to the Landlord and Tenant Board.

“For some of these applicants, they’ve lost everything. They’re barely going to make it a few months and we’re going to find them employment so they get on their feet,” she said.

When sponsors offer to co-sign the leases, Astourian-Kirijian said landlords have asked for the sponsors’ banking information. But even disclosure of bank information from sponsors hasn’t swayed some landlords.

“What else do they want from us, we’re showing them bank statements, they’re not agreeing to it, they’re asking for more than they should, and they want to do credit checks.”

“Logically you can’t do a credit check because the (refugee) just landed.”

In the meantime, Astourian-Kirijian said refugees are staying at the Toronto East Radisson Hotel, which has offered a discount for refugees and their sponsors.

“At this point, we don’t know what to do. This is not the way it is supposed to be.”

Ward 39 Coun. Jim Karygiannis visited the Armenian Community Centre Wednesday and called what he saw “chaotic.”

“There were all kinds of bags and suitcases all over the place, which is pretty normal when people arrive in the country. A lot of people don’t have apartments, they don’t have furniture.”

He said he came across a case where a landlord asked a refugee and their sponsors for “10 cheques” in advance in order to offer them an apartment.

“I can understand the perspective of the landlord; I can understand the perspective of the person who might be hiring (a refugee) tomorrow. But these are extreme circumstances and I think people have to more or less put a little water in their wine.”

Most of the hundreds of refugees who have arrived in Montreal and Toronto over the past several days are privately sponsored refugees, as Immigration Minister John McCallum has said refugees with private sponsors made up most of the people who were first cleared to leave for Canada.

On Dec. 11, Public Works and Government Services Canada issued a request for proposals for 300 hotel rooms in Toronto and another 300 hotel rooms in Montreal to house up to 600 refugees from Dec. 21 up to March 31, 2016. The tender also calls for meals to be provided. The National Post reports these rooms could cost the federal government as much as $80 million.

It is not known whether these rooms could be used to house privately-sponsored refugees.