Human Rights Legal Support Centre

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Frequently Asked Questions

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Human Rights and Housing

Ontario’s Human Rights Code and housing: do you think you have been discriminated against or harassed in your search for a home or by your current landlord?

This is general information only. It is not legal advice about your situation.


Can the Code protect me if I experience discrimination in looking for housing or in how my landlord treats me?

Yes.The Code protects you against discrimination in buying a condominium, in renting an apartment or a unit in a co-op or in purchasing a home. For example, a condominium owner cannot refuse to rent to you and a condominium board cannot refuse to approve your purchase because you are a recent immigrant. A vendor cannot refuse to complete a house sale because of personal characteristics covered by the Code (see also Contracts).

If you are renting accommodation, there is an exemption in the Human Rights Code that means you if you share a bathroom or a kitchen with your landlord, the Code does not apply.

The Centre for Equality Rights in Accommodation and the Commission are good resources for more information about your rights to protection from discrimination when looking for housing or keeping your housing.

Also see materials on the web sites of the Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario (they do not provide direct service) and the Landlord and Tenant Board of Ontario.

If you are a tenant facing eviction or experiencing harassment that is not related to a discriminatory ground, you can get help from the Landlord and Tenant Board at 1-888-332-3234 or 416-645-8080.

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Is it legal for a landlord to ask for six months rent in advance?

No. In Ontario, it is normal for a landlord to ask you to pay the last month’s rent in advance, as a deposit. The landlord must give you a written receipt. However, a landlord cannot ask for more than that.

A landlord should not refuse to rent to you because you have no previous Canadian landlord references or credit history. An absence of credit and landlord references is not the same as bad credit and bad landlord references. If you have a bad rental history, a landlord can ask you to have a co-signor or someone to “guarantee” your rent. However, a landlord cannot require this just because you are a refugee or a recent immigrant.

Try to take someone with you when you are looking for an apartment and take notes of the date and time and names of the people who you talked to.

See the Centre for Equality Rights in Accommodation information called New to Canada and Facing Discrimination? .

Also see Settlement.org's Rent Basic FAQs

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Landlords have told me that they don't rent to people on welfare. Can they do that?

No. It is against the Code to discriminate against a person looking for housing simply because they receive social assistance. Under the Code, this ground of discrimination is called “receipt of public assistance.”

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A landlord told me the unit is too small for me and my children. Is that legal?

A landlord cannot refuse to rent you an apartment on this basis unless you would be considered to be “overcrowding” under municipal occupancy by-laws. To refuse you an apartment because they “prefer” one child per bedroom, for instance, is considered discrimination on the basis of “family status.”

See: Housing and the Human Rights Code (English only) and the Commission's tenants' rights information.

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I asked the superintendent to speak to my neighbour about the way he harasses me because I am a lesbian, but the super says it is none of his business. Does my landlord have any responsibility to help me?

Yes. The landlord and his or her agents have a responsibility to protect you from harassment based on Code grounds.

It is illegal for a landlord, agent of the landlord or another occupant of the building to harass a resident on the basis of any of the prohibited grounds of discrimination. If one resident is subjecting another resident to discriminatory harassment, it is the landlord’s responsibility to take reasonable steps to ensure that the harassment stops. If he/she does not take steps to stop the harassment, he/she could be subject to a human rights application.

The Centre for Equality Rights in Accommodation has a range of materials on housing and human rights. See The Human Rights Code and Rental Housing web seminar on their web site.

For information about general landlord and tenant issues that are not related to human rights see the web sites of organizations such as the Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario and the Landlord and Tenant Board of Ontario. Also see the web site of the Federation of Metro Tenants’ Associations. Although the Federation only provide service in the GTA there are helpful documents on the site for tenants.

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I need help finding housing in Ontario. Where should I look?

The Housing Help Association of Ontario (HHAO) is a provincial association of community-based, not-for-profit organizations delivering free assistance to help people find and keep their housing.

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