The Ontario Human Rights Code protects all people from discrimination. This code protects a person when trying to rent accommodations (housing).
A landlord or a prospective landlord can not discriminate against tenants or prospective tenants who are on government assistance. Government assistance is classified as unemployment insurance (now called employment insurance), social assistance, disability benefits, etc. A landlord can ask a person what their source of income is but can not use that information to refuse to rent to a prospective tenant or to refuse to allow a tenant to renew the lease.
Discrimination can not be done in a direct or constructive manner. Constructive discrimination means a landlord can not put a restriction on the terms of the tenancy that would in effect discriminate against a tenant or prospective tenant. An example would be that if a prospective landlord stated that he does not accept letters of guarantee from social services he is also saying he does not accept people on welfare. As well, if a prospective landlord requires the tenant to have an income such that the rent would not be more than 30% of the income could be seen as discriminatory. This practice not only discriminates against persons on social assistance, but also discriminates against women who are known to earn less income than men and discriminates against young adults who could also have lower income than older adults.
A landlord also can not discriminate against a person because of their age or sex. You can not be discriminated against due to race, religious beliefs, colour, citizenship, ethnic origin, creed, sexual orientation, marital status, family status, or a handicap.
What do you do if you believe that you are being discriminated against by a landlord or a prospective landlord?
The Centre for Equality Rights in Accommodation (CERA) assist tenants and prospective tenants protect their rights. You can reach CERA by calling 1-800-263-1139; or on the Internet at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For assistance in other areas of law, please call the community legal clinic in your area. For residents living west of Holland and Fisher Avenues, please contact West End Legal Services at 596-1641.