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Can a landlord refuse to rent to me because I have children?

Question
Can a landlord refuse to rent to me because I have children?

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Reviewed: 
August, 2016
Answer

Usually, a landlord cannot refuse to rent you a place or discriminate against you in any other way because you have children or because you're pregnant or might become pregnant.

The Ontario Human Rights Code protects you from these and many other types of discrimination.

Landlords also cannot ask you questions or advertise in a way that discriminates. For example, a landlord must not:

  • call a building "adult-only" or "adult lifestyle"
  • advertise a unit as "Suitable for young professionals"
  • show you only certain units or floors that they say are better for a family with children

Exceptions

If the tenant would be sharing a kitchen or bathroom with the owner or their family, the owner can refuse to rent to anyone for any reason.

There are also exceptions for seniors' housing, and housing that is designed to help people who are also protected by the Human Rights Code, for example, people with certain kinds of disabilities.

1. Keep notes about what happened

It can take a long time to deal with a situation that involves discrimination. As time goes on, you and the landlord might not remember everything that has happened. It is a good idea to have notes and other records of what happened and what was said.

You might want to keep a notebook to write down what you and the landlord said to each other. Or you might keep notes some other way. Make notes as soon as possible and include the date and time that events or conversations happened.

If possible, have a friend or other person with you, who can be a witness if you need one later.

Keep copies of your rental application and any communication you have with the landlord. Keep copies of any letters, e-mails, text messages, and advertisements or listings about the place.

If the landlord told you the place was no longer available, you might want to check to see if it’s still listed for rent, or get a friend to ask about it.

Reviewed: 
December, 2016
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2. Get help dealing with the landlord

If you are being refused housing or treated unfairly because you have children or are pregnant, you may be able to get help dealing with the landlord.

A landlord might change their mind if they understand that what they are doing is against the law.

The Centre for Equality Rights in Accommodation (CERA) may be able to speak to the landlord for you. CERA also has publications that explain the rules about discrimination in housing.

You might also be able to get help from the Human Rights Legal Support Centre (HRLSC). The HRLSC might be able speak to the landlord for you or write a lawyer's letter if necessary.

If the landlord still refuses to treat you fairly, these places might be able to help you take the next steps.

Reviewed: 
October, 2016
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3. Apply to the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario

If you think the landlord has violated your human rights, you can apply to the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario (HRTO). You must do this within 1 year.

The Tribunal is like a court, but less formal. First it will try to get both sides to make an agreement about how to settle the case. If there is no agreement, the Tribunal will hold a hearing to decide the case. At the hearing, a Tribunal member will listen to evidence and legal arguments from both sides.

After holding a hearing, the Tribunal can make different kinds of orders. For example, it could order the landlord to rent to you. Or it could order the landlord to change their policies about tenant selection, or take an educational course about discrimination.

The Tribunal could order the landlord to pay you money to compensate you for not respecting your human rights.

You can get help with your application from the Human Rights Legal Support Centre.

Reviewed: 
December, 2016
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Learn more about this topic
CLEO (Community Legal Education Ontario/Éducation juridique communautaire Ontario)
Centre for Equality Rights in Accommodation (CERA)

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