Housing is a human right. According to Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services…”
In Ontario, the Human Rights Code of Ontario explicitly prohibits discrimination in the social area of housing. Section 2 states that, “Every person has a right to equal treatment with respect to occupancy of accommodation, without discrimination because of race, ancestry, place of origin, colour, ethnic origin, citizenship, creed, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, age, marital status, family status, disability or the receipt of public assistance.” For example, a landlord must not refuse a rental property to a person because of their sexual orientation, the colour of their skin, their ethnicity, or their place of origin.
Complaints of discrimination in the social area of housing can be brought to the Landlord Tenant Board or the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario. Deciding on whether to bring a complaint of discrimination during housing to the Landlord Tenant Board or the Human Rights Tribunal on Ontario, or another forum, depends on multiple factors.
The Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario has heard complaints of refusal to rent because of a protected ground. In Thomas v Haque, 2016 HRTO 1012, a landlord refused to show an apartment to a person because of the place of origin of the person. The Human Rights Tribunal found that the landlord's refusal was discriminatory. The landlord was ordered to pay the person $10,000 within 30 days, and participate in Human Rights training.
The Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario also hears complaints of refusal to rent because of age. In BA v Havcare Investments Inc., 2014 HRTO 1087, the Tribunal agreed that the landlord had discriminated against a prospective tenant, a 17 year old, on the basis of age. The landlord was ordered to pay $10,000 in compensation.
Landlords may also be prohibited from requesting information about the age of co-occupants of a prospective tenant. St. Hill v VRM Investments Ltd., 2004 HRTO 1 was about a person who was searching for a tenancy for herself and daughter. The landlord asked about the age of the daughter. The Human Rights Tribunal agreed that the landlord had discriminated against the mother and ordered the landlord to pay $5,000 for general damages, plus $1,230 in monetary damages for extra transportation costs, extra food costs, and a deposit not returned, for a total of $6,230.
Section 2 of the Ontario Human Rights Code further clarifies that every tenant has a right to be free from harassment by the landlord or agent of the landlord, and the Residential Tenancies Act sets out additional rights, protections, and responsibilities of tenants and landlords.
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