Human Rights and Rental Housing

Learn about your rights and responsibilities in rental housing under the Ontario Human Rights Code.

This e-learning video is for the public, private and not-for-profit sectors. The module has been divided into five (5) parts including an optional quiz, and takes about 20 minutes to view. To begin, click on “Part 1.”

Thumbnail: Part 1, Rental Housing and the Code.
Rental Housing and
the Code: Part 1
Thumbnail: Part 2, Discrimination in Rental Housing.
Discrimination in
Rental Housing: Part 2
Part 3: Patterns of Discrimination.
Patterns of Discrimination:
Part 3
 

 

 

 

Thumbnail: Part 4, Landlords and Rental Housing.
Landlords and Rental Housing: Part 4
Thumbnail: Part 5, Review.
Review: Part 5
 

 

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Cover photo. Links to Human Rights and Rental Housing
Short Title: 
Rental Housing

Rental Housing and the Code

Good and affordable housing is a right for everyone.

In rental housing, people are often denied these rights because of their colour, a disability, their age or sex, or because they have children.

The Code may not apply if you simply don't agree with your landlord or tenant about something.

Most housing providers treat people fairly. But some do not and refuse to rent to people because of their religion or skin colour or because they are gay.

Some don't know about the Code — but they still have to follow it.

The Code applies to all rental housing. The Code may not apply if you simply don't agree with your landlord or tenant about something.

Most housing providers treat people fairly. But some do not and refuse to rent to people because of their religion or skin colour or because they are gay. Some don't know about the Code — but they still have to follow it.

Housing providers include:

  • Landlords or landladies;Home owners who rent out a room
  • Condominium owners
  • Government agencies that provide subsidized housing, for people with low incomes
  • Social service agencies that manage supportive units (such as apartments for people with disabilities)
  • Property management companies, including building superintendents, managers and caretakers.

The Code covers all public and private housing: apartments, condominiums, co-ops and houses.

The Code includes everything in rental : advertising, being evicted, the rental agreement, rules for living in the unit or property and using the swimming pool or party room.

The Code is for tenants AND landlords. By 'landlord' we mean anyone who rents out a room, house, or apartment.

Tenants should be treated without discrimination. Landlords must make sure that their rentals are free from discrimination and harassment. Both have rights AND responsibilities.

Short Title: 
Rental Housing

Discrimination in Rental Housing

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.

 

Short Title: 
Rental Housing

Patterns of Discrimination

Some people refuse to rent to families, young people or those receiving disability benefits. They use ads that screen out people they don't want. For example, saying "Adults only," "Not suitable for children," "A quiet building," ...can screen out families and children.

Wording like: "Suits professional couple," "Working people only"  ...can screen out lone parents receiving social assistance or people with disabilities.

Landlords must not ask questions that could lead to discrimination. For example, questions about income, rental, employment, or credit history, or a social insurance number can give information about race, place of origin or receiving public assistance.

Harassing or discriminating against a tenant creates a pattern of discrimination. For example: negative comments about someone's faith, a superintendent who won't make repairs because he doesn't approve of same-sex couples, policies that won't allow pets and keep out guide dogs, that won't allow a growing family to transfer to a larger unit or which restrict children from using recreational facilities like the swimming pool or party room can all be discrimination.

Short Title: 
Rental Housing

Landlords and Rental Housing

In this section, we'll look at how to choose tenants without violating their human rights. We'll look at rental ads and first contact. Next, we'll talk about which questions you can ask, and what to do with information about income, work, credit checks, rental history, security deposits, a social insurance number, a guarantor or a co-signer and direct deposit. And we'll look at adult-only buildings, children and recreational facilities, and renting out rooms in your home.

Be informed. Know your responsibilities under the Code and respect your tenants' human rights. Rental housing rules, policies and practices must not discriminate. Screening out people because of their race or other Code ground is not allowed. For example... screening out a possible tenant by telephone because she has an accent can result in discrimination based on language, place of origin, ethnic origin, race, ancestry or creed.

When writing rental ads, do not use questions on income, age, sex, marital status, number of children, religion, health, etc. If you have a good reason for needing the information, ask for it after the housing application is approved.

Landlords may ask many things, but they need to be clear on why they're asking...

  • You can ask questions about work, but landlords can't require that an applicant be working or have a full-time job.
  • You can ask about income to make sure the rent can be paid, but not to screen out people because of how they get their money — such as getting employment insurance. The Code does not allow a rule where the rent cannot be greater than 30 per cent of the tenant's income.
  • You can ask for a credit check but get permission from the person before you have a credit or police check done. No credit rating is not the same as a bad credit rating.
  • You can ask about rental history — where people have lived in the past — but not having a rental history isn't the same as a bad rental history, and shouldn't be treated in the same way. For example, those new to Canada are not likely to have local rental history.
  • You can ask for a security deposit but not for Code-related reasons such as race or disability. For example, if references are poor or there's a history of not paying rent it may be appropriate to ask for a security deposit.
  • A Social Insurance Number (S.I.N.) isn't needed for renting property. The information on a S.I.N. could be used to discriminate. For example, some S.I.N. numbers will reveal that a person is a refugee.
  • You can ask for a guarantor or co-signer (someone else that promises to make sure the rent is paid) but only if all potential tenants are asked. You should not ask only because of Code-related concerns. Examples would be only asking single parents, youth, persons with a physical or invisible disability, racialized persons or someone who receives social benefits.
  • You can't ask a person who receives government assistance to have the rent cheque deposited directly to you unless you have a legitimate reason for asking and the reason is not Code-related.

Here's what the Code says about specific policies some landlords may wish to have...

  • Guest policies must be respectful and reasonable. For example, don't use policies to target a lone-parent whose friend spends the night, or a person with a disability who has overnight visitors.
  • The Residential Tenancies Act says landlords cannot have "no pets" policies. The Code says landlords must accommodate tenants with service animals — such as guide dogs.

Questions frequently asked by landlords...

  • What about: number of people to a room? Landlords cannot allow overcrowding, but limiting the number of people in each room must be based on real health and safety needs, not on a Code ground.
  • What about: adult-only buildings? Adult-only buildings are not allowed in Ontario except for care facilities and seniors' homes.
  • What about: limiting facilities or services to children? Unless the landlord can show that allowing children to use the pool , gym or party room only at certain times is necessary, the landlord is discriminating based on family status.
  • What about: renting out rooms in my house? The Code allows landlords, or the landlord's family, who share a kitchen or bathroom with a tenant to decide who they want to rent to, but the Code doesn't allow the tenant to be harassed.

 

Short Title: 
Rental Housing

Review

Questions

1. I can’t live in adult-only apartments because of my children.

  • True
  • False

2. I’m 72, so it’s alright for the building manager to keep asking me if I’m ready to move into a retirement home.

  • True
  • False

3. I’m 16 and because I’m on my own, the Code protects me from discrimination if I want to rent my own apartment.

  • True
  • False

4. The woman who lives in the main floor unit doesn’t hide her dislike for tenants who receive social assistance. She says they should move away. If I complain to the co-op, they could evict me instead of her.

  • True
  • False

5. A landlord can’t refuse to show me and my boyfriend the apartment because we are a gay couple.

  • True
  • False

6. I’m a student with a young child. The landlord said he wants to rent to a couple. Is this discrimination?

  • Yes
  • No

7. I rent an apartment in a low-rise building with 3 floors. I live on the top floor, but now use a walker. I asked to transfer to a unit on the 1st floor, but the property manager said there’s a long waiting list. Is this discrimination?

  • Yes
  • No

8. Nobody wants noisy neighbours. The tenants upstairs work at night and sleep during the day. So when they come home, I can hear the TV or music playing in the morning. Is this discrimination?

  • Yes
  • No

9. The hall lights in Building A are dark and the common area is never cleaned. When new Canadians apply for an apartment, they are shown the new building but are given units in Building A instead. The landlord says the new building is for “Canadians”. Is this discrimination?

  • Yes
  • No

10. The manager of a local motel automatically gives Aboriginal guests rooms at the back. These are smoking rooms with no view of the lake. Is this discrimination?

  • Yes
  • No

11.What questions can you ask on a rental application form? Click all that apply.

  • Birthdate
  • Religion
  • Social insurance number
  • Employment
  • Income
  • Credit check
  • Current address

12. Which of the following may screen out tenants based on Code grounds? Click all that apply.

  • Proof of income in the form of pay stubs
  • Current address and phone number
  • Credit profile and criminal check
  • Minimum 6 months steady work history

13.Which of the following may screen out tenants based on Code grounds? Click all that apply.

  • Broken leases or evictions from the past 3 years
  • Co-signers must be employed
  • Names of references
  • Emergency Contact

14.My boyfriend works out of town and stays with me on the weekend. The superintendent says that it’s not good for my kids to have a man around who isn’t their father. This is an example of:

  • Discrimination by association
  • Harassment
  • Sexual harassment
  • Poisoned environment
  • Systemic discrimination
  • NYMBYism

15. The office manager in my building always stops by the swimming pool when I’m there and tries to talk to me. He’s asked me out a couple of times and I told him I’m not interested. He knocked on my door and said the neighbours were complaining about the noise, but I’ve been away for the last week. This is an example of:

  • Negative attitudes, stereotypes, bias
  • Discrimination by association
  • Reprisal
  • Sexual harassment

16.What wording may screen out tenants on Code grounds in rental ads?

  • A. Two bedroom condo. Ideally suited for mature couple.
  • B. Pet friendly building. Close to parks and schools.
  • C. Available now. Smoke-free apartment on main floor.
  • D. Must sign 1 year lease and provide verifiable source of income.

Answers

  1. “Adult-only” buildings are not allowed in Ontario, unless it’s a care facility or residence for seniors.
  2. Repeated, unwanted questions about age could be harassment.
  3. If you are 16 or 17 and living on your own, you have a right under the Code to sign a rental agreement or lease.
  4. The co-op is responsible for providing its tenants with an environment that is free from racial discrimination. The Code does not allow the co-op to take actions or threaten to take actions, also known as reprisal, against you for being a witness to discrimination.
  5. Landlords have a responsibility to provide housing accommodation that is free from discrimination. The Code covers the process from applying for an apartment up to and including eviction.
  6. There are assumptions that come with “preferring a couple”.  Is the reason for not renting the unit because of the age of the mother or father, or because the parent is not married (marital status) but has a child (family status), or the parent is gay or lesbian (sexual orientation)?
  7. Housing providers have a duty to accommodate tenants short of undue hardship. A waiting list that doesn’t consider Code-related factors may discriminate against people with, for example, disabilities or families with young children. 
  8. The answer is ‘No’ because it is not a concern that comes under the Code.  The noise is not based on a ground under the Code.  Check the Residential Tenancies Act.
  9. Streaming of tenants based on race-related grounds including language and culture, is discrimination under the Code.  “Canadian” is often used to refer to people who are Canadian-born and usually white.
  10. Equal treatment in rental housing includes renting a room in a hotel, motel or bed and breakfast. This is another example of streaming based on Code-related grounds.
  11. A rental application may include questions related to income, credit checks and current address.
  12. Proof of income in the form of pay stubs, credit profiles and criminal checks, and work history may screen out tenants based on Code grounds.
  13. Broken leases or evictions and employment of co-signers may screen out tenants based on Code grounds.
  14. This is an example of discrimination by association, harassment, and poisoned environment based on the Code grounds of sex, family status, and marital status.
  15. This is an example of reprisal and sexual harassment.
  16. Answers A, C and D may screen out tenants on Code grounds.
Short Title: 
Rental Housing

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