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

Question
I think I'm being discriminated against as a tenant. 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.
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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