What landlords need to know about human rights

What landlords need to know about human rights


Red HouseThis post is about the landlords and property managers responsibility as it relates to human rights.  This could be some of the most important information you ever read.  I often see ads that are written in a way that violates the Human Rights Act.  In Nova Scotia we have a Human Rights Act.  All provinces in Canada have a similar document, however, for the sake of this blog post, I am going to refer to the Human Rights Act of Nova Scotia.  If you require additional information you should refer to the official document or act in your state or province.

Meaning of discrimination – A person discriminates where the person makes a distinction, whether intentional or not based on a characteristic, or perceived characteristic, that has the effect of imposing burdens, obligations or disadvantages on an individual or a class of individuals not imposed upon others or which withholds or limits access to opportunities, benefits and advantages available to other individuals or classes of individuals in society.

Prohibition of Discrimination:

5(1) No Person shall in respect of

(a) the provision of or access to services or facilities (b) accommodation (c) the purchase or sale of property (d) employment (e) volunteer public service (f) a publication, broadcast or advertisement (g) membership in a professional association, business or trade association, employers organization or employees organization.

No one shall discriminate against an individual or class of individuals on account of the following:]

Age, race, color, religion, creed, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, physical disability or mental disability, an irrational fear of contracting an illness or disease, ethnic, national or aboriginal origin, family status, marital status, source of income, political belief, affiliation or activity, association with another individual or class of individuals having characteristics referred to in any of the listed clauses.

No person shall sexually harass an individual and no person shall harass an individual or group with respect to a prohibited ground of discrimination.

Wow, that is a mouth full, and believe me that is just a small portion of the act.  You might be asking yourself, well what does the human rights act have to do with renting apartments?

It is really important to note that ignorance is not an excuse for violations of protected classes of people.  If you are a landlord or a property manager, you need to educate yourself.  I read rental ads on a regular basis to check out what my competition is offering and to make sure I know the market rent of apartments in the areas I rent homes in.  I often see ads written that could be considered human rights violations.

Here are some common examples I have seen in rental ads:

No children allowed – I see this quite often.  You cannot deny occupancy to people who have children.  It is a violation based on family status.  This might be unintentional if you are renting an apartment in a retirement home, or an upper flat in a poorly soundproofed building, however, it should never be stated in a rental ad.

Must be employed or no welfare recipients – This is also common, and once again it is worded in a way that violates human rights.  It discriminates against source of income. 

Here are some examples of face to face intentional discrimination:

Saying nothing is available (when it is), telling someone the apartment was just rented (when it wasn’t), finding ways not to rent to families with children, or charging a higher rent because of the persons protected class, or not renting to non-Canadian citizens.

My intent is to educate not to scare any potential or current landlords / property managers out of the business, so now I will tell you what you can do.  The intent of landlords is to provide nice homes to nice people.  We all want great tenants and tenants all want great landlords.

What you can do and ask:

Pets are not a protected class, you do not have to accept dogs, cats or any other pets as part of a family.  The exception to this would be working dogs.  That is dogs that have a purpose to help a person, such as a guide dog for a visually impaired person.  I will tell you the gray area on this seems to be in retirement homes.  Many elderly tenants are claiming that they require there pets for there own mental well being, however, as of right now, pets are not a protected class.

Smokers are not a protected class, you do not have to rent to a smoker.

Establish written, reasonable rental qualifications that are consistently applied to all applicants:

Here are some examples:

– meeting a reasonable rent to income ratio (you do not have to rent to someone who cannot afford the rental)

– having a good credit history (be specific)

– having a good rental history (be specific)

– having a reasonable occupancy standard (be specific)

– not having a criminal background that would indicate that the person is a current direct threat to the health and safety of others or the property.

I hope by posting this I can help landlords write productive ads that talk about the features and benefits of the rental unit, and not have ads directed at the kind of people they want, or do not want to rent from them.

Until next time

Michael P Currie

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