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Can a landlord refuse to rent to me because of my immigration status or the country I am from? What can I do?

Can a landlord refuse to rent to me because of my immigration status or the country I am from? What can I do?
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Reviewed: 
January 18, 2018
Answer

No. A landlord cannot deny you a rental unit just because of where you were born or your immigration status.

In Ontario, it is against the law for a landlord to refuse to rent to you because of your:

or because you:

  • are pregnant
  • have children
  • are on social assistance (welfare)

So, if you have been denied housing because of where you were born or your immigration status, this is called discrimination and it is against the law.

Direct Discrimination

Some discrimination can be very obvious. This is sometimes called direct discrimination.

Here are some examples:

  • A landlord refuses to rent to people from a certain country. This is discrimination against you because of where you were born.
  • A landlord refuses to rent to you because you are a refugee claimant and he is concerned that you will be deported and he will lose you as a tenant. This is discrimination because of your immigration status.

It can be hard to prove discrimination because often the landlord will not say the real reason that they won't rent to you.

Sometimes discrimination is less obvious. The landlord might not even realize that what they are doing is wrong. One example is a landlord who asks for a security deposit because a tenant is new to Canada or does not have permanent residency in Canada.

Constructive discrimination

Sometimes a rule or practice that is applied to everyone in the same way might affect one group of people differently and can lead to unequal treatment. This is called constructive discrimination. Here are some examples:

  • A building has stairs at its entrance and this is the only way to get in or out of the building. This can lead to unequal treatment of people who use wheelchairs and need a ramp instead of stairs.
  • A landlord won't rent to anyone who doesn’t have Canadian references or a credit history. This can discriminate against tenants who are new to Canada and have not yet built up a credit history or been employed here.

Even if they don't mean to discriminate, landlords who will not change things like these could be breaking the law. A landlord should try to accommodate you as long as doing so doesn't cause the landlord undue hardship. For example, if you don't have a credit report because you are new to Canada, the landlord could look at your income to decide if you would be a reliable tenant.

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