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I think I'm being discriminated against. Is that legal?

Question
I think I'm being discriminated against. Is that legal?

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Reviewed: 
August, 2015
Answer

Discrimination is against the law. According to the Ontario Human Rights Code, discrimination in housing means being treated unfairly because of your:

  • race, colour, or ethnic background
  • birthplace or citizenship
  • religion
  • age (if you are at least 18, or if you are 16 or 17 and not living with a parent)
  • sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression
  • disability
  • marital status

or because you:

  • are pregnant
  • have children
  • are on social assistance (welfare)

This law bans discrimination by landlords or people working for them. It also means your landlord must try to do something about it if you are being discriminated against by other tenants.

Direct discrimination

Some discrimination can be very obvious. This is sometimes called direct discrimination. Here are some examples:

  • A landlord refuses to rent to you because of your colour or religion.
  • The building superintendent makes sexual advances knowing that you do not want them.
  • Some tenants use racial slurs against other tenants from a different ethnic group.

Indirect discrimination

Indirect discrimination is often less obvious. Some practices are considered discrimination because of how they affect different groups of people differently. Here are some examples:

  • A building has no ramp at the main entrance – this can discriminate against people who use wheelchairs.
  • A landlord threatens to evict tenants because of noise complaints – this can discriminate against people with children.
  • A landlord won't rent to people with no credit rating – this can discriminate against tenants who are young or new to Canada.

Even if they don't mean to discriminate, landlords who will not change things like these could be breaking the law.

Exceptions

In some situations, the Human Rights Code does not protect tenants who are looking for a place to rent:

  • Landlords are allowed to rent all the units in a building only to tenants of one sex.
  • Landlords can refuse to rent to someone for any reason, no matter how discriminatory, if the landlord or their family will be sharing a kitchen or bathroom with the tenant.

Next steps

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The Human Rights Legal Support Centre has an online tool to help you figure out if what happened to you is considered discrimination under the Human Rights Code. For more information and advice, you can also speak to staff at the Support Centre.

If the Human Rights Code does not apply, check other topics and questions on this website. There might be a solution to your problem using your other rights as a tenant.

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In some situations it might make sense to talk to your landlord about the problem. Other times it is better to do this in writing, especially if the problem is not resolved quickly or if the landlord is intentionally discriminating against you.

You may want someone else to contact the landlord for you. You can contact the Centre for Equality Rights in Accommodation (CERA) or the Human Rights Legal Support Centre. They might be able to convince your landlord to stop the discrimination. Or you can hire a lawyer to contact the landlord.

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Discrimination is sometimes hard to prove. Talking to other tenants or other people might give you information to help prove what is happening. It is a good idea to keep notes of events and conversations because you might have to remember these things much later.

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You can call the Human Rights Legal Support Centre or the Centre for Equality Rights in Accommodation (CERA) for advice. They can tell you if your situation is what the law considers discrimination. They can also give you suggestions about ways to resolve the problem or how to get evidence to back up your case. They might also be able to help you deal with your landlord or take further legal steps.

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Some cases of discrimination can be decided by the Landlord and Tenant Board. In other situations, you may have to take your case to the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario.

Landlord and Tenant Board

If the solution you want is something that the Landlord and Tenant Board can order, you can file an application to the Board.

Or the discrimination might be related to a case your landlord is bringing to the Board. For example, your landlord might be trying to evict you for a reason related to your disability. You might want to talk about the discrimination at the hearing of the landlord’s case.

The Board has to consider the Human Rights Code when making decisions about eviction or anything else.

Human Rights Tribunal

Some cases of discrimination can only be taken to the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario. For example, the Landlord and Tenant Board can't do anything about a landlord who won't rent to you for a discriminatory reason, but the Human Rights Tribunal can.

In other cases, you can choose between the Human Rights Tribunal or the Landlord and Tenant Board. The Human Rights Legal Support Centre can help you choose the best option and help you apply to the Tribunal if that is what you decide to do.

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

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