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Discrimination in Rental Housing

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People must not be refused an apartment, bothered by a landlord or other tenant, or treated unfairly just because of their colour, age, sexual orientation or any of the grounds under the Code.

Let's look at some examples of discrimination in rental housing. We've heard things like:

  • "Sorry, it's rented."
  • "You promise to take your medications, right?"
  • "She lives by herself and really needs me to keep watch."
  • "Kids should live in houses, not apartments."

Here's what they mean.

A young Black man calls to see an apartment, but when he shows up, he is  told, "sorry, it's rented". The young man's White friend calls and is told the unit is available.  The Human Rights Tribunal said this was an example of negative attitudes, stereotypes and bias.

Subtle discrimination: the tenant has a mental illness. Before renewing the lease, the landlord says to her, "You'll take your medications, right?" and asks her to agree in writing to see her doctor. Here, the landlord tells the tenant that because she has a disability she has do something the other tenants don't.

The tenant has cerebral palsy and lives on her own. The landlord says, "She needs me to keep watch on her." He tries to control her life; he turns off the light as she goes down the stairs and often bangs on her ceiling from upstairs. The Tribunal said that he was harassing her.

A man tells his neighbours, who have young children, that kids should live in a house, not an apartment, and they should have a father and a mother, not two mothers. He complains to the landlord about any noise the kids make. Saying bad things about other tenants or doing things that make them unhappy because they are gay or don't have a "traditional" family can create a "poisoned environment" — a place or situation where some people are made to feel unwanted or insulted.

An example of systemic discrimination is when a landlord puts some people into apartments that need fixing, or into older buildings. He says the 'better units and newer buildings should be kept for Canadians', not immigrants.

A divorced white woman applied for an apartment. The father of her two children is black. The landlord tells her he doesn't want 'coloured' people visiting her. The Tribunal said that was "discrimination by association".

The Code protects tenants living in supportive or affordable housing. Neighbourhood opposition usually is often from people who say they agree with supportive or affordable housing as long as it's 'Not in my back yard!'  (sometimes shortened to the acronym NIMBY). Some people try to stop some groups from moving into their neighbourhood — such as people with mental illness or who live in affordable housing. Some people try to stop some groups from moving into their neighbourhood. Such as people with mental illness, or who live in affordable housing. Here are some examples of discriminatory neighbourhood opposition:

  • separating tenants from neighbours, by making them build a wall of fence,
  • blocking windows, so that tenants can’t look out at the neighbours, or
  • making tenants sign a contract as a condition of living in the neighbourhood.

Other examples are by-laws that don’t allow affordable housing in certain areas. Community meeting where the neighbours have signs or pamphlets that say negative things about the tenants who will live in the neighbourhood.


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