When Discrimination is Not Prohibited: Housing

August 24th, 2017 by

Caleb Pheluong, a Vancouver resident, was served eviction papers once his landlord discovered that he intended to have his boyfriend stay over one night. The landlord expressed to him via text message that homosexuality was against her “Christian beliefs” and she could no longer have him living in her house.

Is this discrimination? Sexual orientation is a protected ground under Human Rights Codes, and the landlord, in writing, expressed that his sexual orientation was the reason for his eviction.

According to the B.C. Human Rights Code, no, it is not unlawful discrimination.

And the answer would be no different in Ontario.

Both Codes prohibit discrimination in accommodation and list sexual orientation as one of the grounds that are protected. This means, for example, that sexual orientation cannot be a reason for refusing to rent to a tenant.

However, the Codes provide an exception for landlords who provide accommodation in dwellings that they also occupy. In Ontario, section 21(1) expresses that landlords who share either a kitchen and/or a bathroom with their tenant are exempt from the prohibitions on discrimination.

Sharing a bathroom or kitchen with your landlord or their family takes you out from under the protection of the Human Rights Code and leaves you vulnerable to discrimination without legal recourse. Caleb fell victim to this loophole; he has no right under the law to remain a tenant in his present house or be compensated for the discrimination he faced.

If, however, you fall outside this exception, you do have protection under the Code from such discrimination in accommodation.

A recent Ontario Human Rights Tribunal decision awarded a couple $12,000 for their landlord’s discriminatory attitude and actions when he failed to accommodate their religious practices while he was re-letting the apartment they were vacating. The landlord’s refusal to agree to their requests, such as removing outdoor shoes before entering their prayer space, was held to be discrimination under the Code.

Two very different legal outcomes from what appears to be acts of discriminatory conduct from a landlord towards a tenant. What these tenant situations illuminate is the difference in treatment of tenants who rent shared spaces with those who rent self-contained, private spaces.

For information or assistance in regards to protections and legal recourse for human rights claims please contact one of our Human Rights Litigation Lawyers.

By: Samantha Hamilton, Student-at-Law

“This article is intended to inform and entertain. Its content does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon by readers as such. If you require legal assistance, please see a lawyer. Each case is unique and a lawyer with good training and sound judgment can provide you with advice tailored to your specific situation and needs.”

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