February 21, 2014 – Thank you for pointing out that “student housing can benefit a neighbourhood.” The points you make about not applying different rules for students, and the need to focus on the character of a building instead of potential tenants, echo the human rights messages we have been sending across Ontario. Everyone – including students – has human rights in housing. Making decisions based on the “perceived desirability of the people who might want to live there” is not the way to build healthy, welcoming communities.
Use of the term “accommodation” refers to housing. You have the right to equal treatment when buying, selling, renting or being evicted from an apartment, house, condominium or commercial property. This right also covers renting or being evicted from a hotel room.
The Code applies to terms and conditions in contracts and leases such as the amount of rent, security deposits, the requirement of guarantors, occupants’ rules and regulations, lease termination and eviction. Your right to housing without discrimination also includes suitable access to doors, laundry rooms, swimming pools, other common areas, repairs and other aspects of housing.
The Code does not apply if you have a “personality conflict” with the landlord or another tenant that is not linked to a Code ground. Also, the Code does not apply if you share a bathroom or kitchen with the owner or the owner’s family.
The Code also applies to municipalities, as both regulators and providers of housing. They must ensure that their bylaws, processes and decisions do not target or disproportionately affect groups relating to a Code ground.
OHRC policies, guides and other publications include:
- Policy on human rights and rental housing
- In the zone: Housing, human rights and municipal planning
- Room for everyone: Human rights and rental housing licensing
- Human rights for tenants (brochure)
- Human rights in housing: an overview for landlords (brochure)
- Writing a fair rental housing ad (fact sheet)
- Guidelines on developing human rights policies and procedures
For other publications on housing, click “Resource Types” on the left-hand panel.
December 2013 - Under the Code, all organizations are prohibited from treating people unfairly because of Code grounds, must remove barriers that cause discrimination, and must stop it when it occurs. Organizations can also choose to develop “special programs” to help disadvantaged groups improve their situation. The Code and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms both recognize the importance of addressing historical disadvantage by protecting special programs to help marginalized groups. The Supreme Court of Canada has also recognized the need to protect “programs” established by legislation that are designed to address the conditions of a disadvantaged group.
January 2014 - The Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) has used a range of its functions to reduce and eliminate discrimination relating to land use planning. However, to meet Ministry goals and be consistent with Ontario’s Human Rights Code, the land use planning and appeal system needs to incorporate a human rights lens and provide human rights-related information, education and resources to those who implement and use the system. Planners and decision-makers throughout the system and in municipalities will benefit from clear guidance from the Province.
Sexual harassment in housing and workplaces
“Harassment” in this section means comments or actions based on sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression that are unwelcome to you or should be known to be unwelcome. They may include humiliating or annoying conduct. Harassment requires a “course of conduct,” which means that a pattern of behaviour or more than one incident is usually required for a claim to be made to the Tribunal. However, a single significant incident may be offensive enough to be considered sexual harassment.
Every person has the right to be free from discrimination in housing because of Code-protected grounds. You have the right to equal treatment when buying, selling, renting or being evicted from an apartment, house, condominium or commercial property. This right also covers renting or being evicted from a hotel room.
The Code applies to terms and conditions in contracts and leases such as the amount of rent, security deposits, the need for guarantors, occupants’ rules and regulations, ending a lease and eviction.
The ultimate responsibility for maintaining an environment free from sexual harassment rests with employers, housing providers, educators and other responsible parties covered by the Code. From a human rights perspective, it is not acceptable to choose to stay unaware of sexual harassment, whether or not a human rights claim has been made.
Section 7(1) of the Code states that every person who occupies housing has a right to freedom from sexual harassment by their landlord, an agent of their landlord, or someone who lives in the same building.
The City of Waterloo’s rental housing licensing bylaw came into effect on April 1, 2012. The Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) was concerned that the licensing regime might discriminate against groups protected under the Ontario Human Rights Code (the Code) and cause them to lose their current housing, or to have a harder time finding housing in future. As a result, the OHRC initiated an inquiry to learn more.
May 2013 - The City of North Bay’s rental housing licensing bylaw was enacted on January 1, 2012 and came into effect on May 1, 2012. Among other things, this bylaw imposed a bedroom cap, gross floor area requirements and a licensing fee on certain rental units. The OHRC was concerned that the bylaw might reduce the availability of low-cost rental housing and in turn disadvantage groups protected under the Ontario Human Rights Code (the Code) who rely on that housing. As a result, the OHRC initiated an inquiry to learn more.
May 2013 - Room for everyone: Human rights and rental housing licensing addresses how licensing provisions in municipal bylaws may disadvantage groups protected by Ontario’s Human Rights Code (the Code), gives an overview of human rights responsibilities in licensing rental housing, and makes recommendations to help municipalities protect the human rights of tenants.