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Syrian refugees targeted with higher rent by landlords

Posted: 11:38 PM, Jan 16, 2017
Updated: 2017-01-18 09:56:30-05

Its a growing scam targeting a community settling in Metro Detroit. Tonight, we're revealing how Syrian Refugees fleeing their country, are falling into a major trap.

Most are even unaware of what's happening, before it's too late.

Ahmad Halabi, a Syrian American who sponsored relatives says it all began when they needed to find a home.

"The organization was not able to find houses, so they told us to go look for houses for them" says Halabi.

But his loved ones ran into a major problem becoming more and more common. He says landlords are hiking prices when dealing with refugees.

He adds, "Just single family homes. 2 or 3 bedroom. Nothing that big. Greed basically. Taking advantage of little people or weak who aren't able to assist themselves."

Dave Abdallah, a top realtor with Century 21 says, "A lot of times when people are in a bad situation, people take advantage of them for the purpose of profit. For instance, on a property that rents for $1,000, $950 or $900, its proposed to a refugee at $1,300, $1,400, $1,500 or even higher."

The problem is actually bigger than that.

"A lot of times they don't even know they are overpaying. Once the money runs out, they have to borrow from family or friends. They are in a position where they have to pay more than market value because they are stuck," says Abdallah.

Another Syrian refugee family now living in Dearborn, first settled in Hamtramck, where they also saw super high rental prices.

Their father says they've now found a better home that's fairly priced.

"This home is much better for us, we pay a reasonable rate. There's also enough space for my entire family," says their father.

Civil rights organizations and social service agencies like Leaders Advancing and Helping Communities are also speaking out.

Wassim Mahfouz, LAHC Exec. Director says, "This is unacceptable. Immoral. Inhuman. They don't even have coats or basic necessities and another human being gives themselves the right to steal their money."

Mahfouz adds, "Refugees receive a subsidy called a welcome package to help for the first 3 months. After that you are on your own. They are on the streets because they can't afford paying the rent."

He says education is important for the community.

Abdallah says there are ways to protect against this form of discrimination. He recommends comparing prices on sites like Zillow and realtor.com.

He also says check with neighbors and the state of Michigan to make sure there are no complaints against the property owner.

It's also best to contact the city where the property is listed.

For Ahmad Halabi, the benefit of speaking the language for years and knowing how to shop around, made a big difference in keeping family members protected.

He says, "We finally found a 1 story house for $850 and $50 for utilities, so $900."

We reached out to both the office of U.S. Housing and Urban Development, and the State Attorney General. Both are aware of this, and looking into ways to crack down.