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What are my rights as a tenant if I have a disability?

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What are my rights as a tenant if I have a disability?

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Reviewed: 
August, 2015
Answer

Ontario's Human Rights Code says that if a tenant has a disability, landlords must try to "accommodate" their disability.

This means landlords must take away barriers for people with disabilities. They might have to make physical changes to the building, or they might have to change their rules or practices.

There are many different kinds of disabilities that affect people in different ways. Accommodating your disability means doing whatever is needed to give you equal access.

Here are some examples of how landlords might accommodate disabilities:

  • installing a ramp and automatic doors for tenants who use wheelchairs
  • putting Braille buttons and a voice announcement system in elevators for tenants with visual impairments
  • avoiding materials or substances that cause allergic reactions for certain tenants
  • helping family members or caregivers to support a tenant with mental health problems, instead of evicting them for disturbing other tenants

If the landlord says they can't accommodate your disability

The law says that landlords must try to accommodate your disability, even if it costs the landlord money or is inconvenient.

This doesn't always mean the landlord has to do whatever is needed, no matter how difficult or expensive. But it means they have to make very serious efforts to accommodate your disability.

If your disability can be accommodated without "undue hardship" to the landlord, then the landlord must do it. If a landlord will not accommodate your disability, that is discrimination.

Undue hardship

The only things that can be considered undue hardship to a landlord are:

  • costs that the landlord's business cannot afford, taking into account any outside sources of funding
  • health and safety problems so serious that they outweigh the benefit of having more accessible housing

Every situation is different. If a landlord and tenant cannot agree on how to accommodate a disability, then the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario might have to decide. In some situations a decision can be made by the Landlord and Tenant Board.

Next steps

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The law says you and your landlord must work together to accommodate your disability. You must start by asking the landlord for what you need.

You might have to tell your landlord that you have a disability, if your disability is not apparent to your landlord. And you might need to explain how you are being discriminated against, if this is not obvious to your landlord.

Your landlord can ask for more information about your disability and how you are being affected as a tenant. You do not have to give them a medical diagnosis. But you have to give them enough information so they can figure out how to accommodate your disability.

You are responsible to co-operate with your landlord so they can find the best solution.

It is a good idea to keep notes or records of your discussions with your landlord.

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You might want someone else to contact the landlord for you, especially if they don't respond well to your request. You can call the Centre for Equality Rights in Accommodation (CERA), or the Human Rights Legal Support Centre. They might be able to convince your landlord to try to accommodate your disability. Or you can hire a lawyer to contact the landlord.

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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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If your landlord won't accommodate your disability, you might have to take legal action.

Some cases of discrimination can be decided by the Landlord and Tenant Board. In other situations, you might 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. For example, the accommodation you want might be for the landlord to repair something that’s already there, like a ramp or an automatic door.

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, repairs, or anything else.

Human Rights Tribunal

In most situations where you are experiencing discrimination, you can file an application to the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario. This includes when a landlord is not accommodating your disability.

If a landlord won't rent to you or you can't rent a place because the landlord won't accommodate your disability, the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario is usually the right place to have your case considered.

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
Centre for Equality Rights in Accommodation (CERA)
Human Rights Legal Support Centre (HRLSC)
Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC)

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