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8. Housing

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Section 2 of the Code protects a woman against discrimination if she is, was or may become pregnant. This right applies to renting, being evicted, building rules and regulations, repairs, harassment, and use of services and facilities.

The Code also protects against such discrimination in other housing situations, including buying property, negotiating mortgages,[151] and condominium living arrangements (for example, discriminatory restrictions on the use of shared spaces).

Pregnant women who are seeking housing may face a range of negative and discriminatory attitudes and stereotypes. Some landlords prefer not to have children in their premises because they believe that children are noisy, disruptive, and will damage the property. Lone mothers face powerful negative stereotypes, particularly if they are racialized, Aboriginal, young or receiving social assistance, including stereotypes that they are less responsible, less reliable, inadequate parents, and more likely to default on their rent.[152]

In some cases, landlords directly refuse applications because a woman is expecting a child.[153] For example, a landlord may refuse to accept an application from a pregnant woman because the apartment is “not childproof.” They may also use a number of euphemisms to discourage or deny applications from families that are expecting children. Statements that a building is:

  • A “quiet building”
  • An “adult lifestyle” building
  • “Not soundproof”
  • “Geared to young professionals”

may, when coupled to a refusal to rent to a pregnant woman, indicate that discriminatory attitudes related to pregnancy played a role in the refusal. Section 13 of the Code prohibits the publication or display before the public of any notice, sign, symbol, emblem or other representation that indicates the intent to discriminate. Using such phrases in advertisements may be considered an announcement of intent to discriminate.

Example: Over time, a young woman shared a two-bedroom apartment with various roommates. The owners were aware of the arrangement, and she received their approval for each co-tenant. She was later involved with one of these co-tenants and became pregnant. When the superintendent found out she was pregnant, he asked her if she was “intending to give the baby up for adoption” and said that the owners “didn’t want kids in the building.” The Board of Inquiry found that the woman had been discriminated against because of her sex and family status. In the Board’s view, one of the main reasons she was evicted “was her pending motherhood.”[154]

There is no defence under the Code that permits “adult lifestyle” housing that results in the exclusion of children.[155] However, the Code does permit age restrictions in housing under some circumstances.[156]

As well as direct discrimination, pregnant women may also face systemic barriers in accessing and maintaining housing. For example, as children join a family, housing needs will change and additional space will be required. Families expecting children are therefore more likely to request transfers between rental units in the same building, and to be disproportionately negatively affected where such transfers are denied. An Ontario Board of Inquiry[157] found that rules prohibiting transfers between rental units are discriminatory.[158]

Landlords must address any discrimination or harassment related to pregnancy that may arise within their rental housing environment, whether between tenants, or involving agents of the landlord, or others who are part of the housing environment, such as contracted maintenance workers. If landlords become aware of discrimination or harassment, either through a complaint or other means, they must respond appropriately. Landlords who fail to take steps to address a poisoned environment or a complaint of discrimination may be found liable.

[151] Federally regulated banks that provide mortgages are not under the jurisdiction of the Ontario Code. These are covered by the Canadian Human Rights Act.

[152] See, for example, Humewood House, Submission to the OHRC Public Consultation on Human Rights and Rental Housing, July 2007. Also see The Cost of Caring, supra note 35 at 47-50.

[153] For example, in Segin v. Chung, 2002 BCHRT 42, CHRR Doc. 02-0223, the BCHRT found that a landlord discriminated based on sex when it refused to rent an apartment to a pregnant woman because of concerns about liability should her baby fall down the stairs.

[154] Peterson v. Anderson (1992), 15 C.H.R.R. D/1 (Ont. Bd. of Inq.).

[155] See further Dudnik v. York Condominium Corp. No. 216 (1990), 12 C.H.R.R. D/325 (Ont. Bd. of Inq.), reversed in part (1991) (sub nom. York Condominium Corp. No. 216 v. Dudnik 79 D.L.R. (4th) 161 (Div. Ct.)).

[156] Section 15 of the Code permits preferential treatment of persons aged 65 and over, and therefore permits housing that is limited to persons over the age of 64. Section 14 of the Code permits special programs to alleviate hardship and disadvantage, such as specially designed barrier-free housing projects aimed at older persons with disabilities. Section 18 creates a defence for religious, philanthropic, educational, fraternal or social institutions or organizations that primarily serve the interests of older persons and that provide housing as part of their services.

[157] Before the HRTO was established, decisions under the Code were made by Boards of Inquiry.

[158] Ward v. Godina (1994), CHRR Doc. 94-130 (Ont. Bd. of Inq.).


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