Ask the CCLA: A landlord refused to rent to me, what can I do?

May 19, 2015

A landlord refused to lease me an apartment because of my sexual orientation. Is that allowed? What are my options?

The Canadian Human Rights Act prohibits discriminating against someone in the provision of accommodation (such as a rented apartment). Discrimination may take the form of denying someone accommodation based on their sexual orientation, or providing someone accommodation in a way that treats them adversely and differently based on their sexual orientation.

For information on filing a complaint to the Canadian Human Rights Commission, please see our response to the question “People are harassing me at work because of my sexual orientation or gender identity. What can I do to stop it?”

Furthermore, every provincial and territorial government in Canada has a human rights code that explicitly prohibits discrimination in housing based on sexual orientation.

In Ontario, for example, the Ontario Human Rights Code aims to ensure that everyone has the equal opportunity to access housing accommodation and its attendant benefits without discrimination based on any of the grounds protected by the Code. Section 2(1) of Ontario’s Code states: “Every person has a right to equal treatment with respect to the occupancy of accommodation, without discrimination because of race, ancestry, place of origin, colour, ethnic origin, citizenship, creed, sex, sexual orientation, age, marital status, family status, disability or the receipt of public assistance.

Ontario’s Code does include some defences and exceptions to the above protection.

Section 18 of the Code offers a defence for some housing providers: “The rights under Part I to equal treatment with respect to services and facilities, with or without accommodation, are not infringed where membership or participation in a religious, philanthropic, educational, fraternal or social institution or organization that is primarily engaged in serving the interests of persons identified by a prohibited ground of discrimination is restricted to persons who are similarly identified.”

Section 21 of the Code sets out three exceptions to the equality rights with regard to housing:

Shared accommodation: The right under section 2 to equal treatment… is not infringed by discrimination where the residential accommodation is in a dwelling in which the owner or his or her family reside if the occupant or occupants of the residential accommodation are required to share a bathroom or kitchen facility with the owner or family of the owner.

Restrictions on accommodation, sex: The right under section 2 to equal treatment without discrimination because of sex is not infringed where the occupancy of all the residential accommodation in the building (other than the owner or their family’s accommodation) is restricted to persons who are of the same sex.

Prescribing business practices: The right under section 2 to equal treatment with respect to the occupancy of residential accommodation without discrimination is not infringed if in selecting prospective tenants, a landlord use income information, credit checks, credit references, rental history, guarantees or other similar business practices, and does so in a manner prescribed in the regulations.

The human rights codes of other provinces and territories are very similarly structured to the Ontario Code discussed above. They prohibit discrimination on the same or similar grounds, in the same or similar social areas, have similar exceptions and defences, and have official complaints procedures at their own Human Rights Tribunals.

For more on discrimination in housing, and how to launch an official complaint, check out the useful information on the websites of your applicable human rights tribunal:

Alberta

British Columbia

Manitoba

New Brunswick

Newfoundland

Northwest Territories

Nova Scotia

Nunavut

Ontario

PEI

Quebec

Saskatchewan

Yukon


We hope that you find this information helpful. The information provided is current to January 2017, and consists of general legal information. It is not legal advice. CCLA does not take responsibility for information found on external websites, even where we have provided links to that information. Everyone’s legal situation is different. If you are facing a legal issue, we recommend that you seek independent legal advice. You can find a list of legal clinics and other resources to help you here.