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This section discusses the most significant rental housing issues affecting individual tenants and housing providers. Many of the experiences of discrimination and harassment, tenant screening and accommodation are intrinsically linked to the systemic elements discussed in section 5. For example, the individual barriers to housing experienced by tenants in receipt of social assistance are, in many cases, linked to the broader societal issues of inadequate income levels and poverty.

However, this section focuses attention on the human interactions, actions and inactions that are at the heart of human rights in rental housing. The Commission recognizes that most landlords and housing providers are anxious to comply with the Code and work hard to meet the needs of their tenants. However, as the Commission heard in this consultation, for some tenants, discrimination in housing in Ontario is not an unusual occurrence.

In housing, as with employment or other social areas, persons in positions of power may be held responsible if they condone or further discrimination that has already occurred and if they fail to investigate a complaint of discrimination. When there is an imbalance in bargaining power, such as that between landlords and tenants, there is potential for these kinds of stereotypes to give rise to discriminatory treatment. The lack of affordable and adequate housing, when combined with overt and subtle discrimination in housing, means that many people protected by the Code are excluded from the housing market, forced to pay higher rents than they can actually afford, or relegated to poor quality housing options.

The submissions of tenants and their advocates indicated that many Ontarians expect to experience discrimination when seeking and occupying rental units, even when they are assisted by professionals and community workers.

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As one tenant advocate noted, the search for a rental unit for a lone mother on social assistance is essentially a search for a landlord or property manager willing to rent to her. The Commission heard repeatedly that often the involvement of workers from community agencies actually serves as a trigger for discrimination. The Algoma Community Legal Clinic gave an example of landlords screening out prospective Aboriginal tenants who were being helped by an Aboriginal homeless program.

A front-line worker indicated that landlords did not respond to his calls when he called on his office line. Similarly, the involvement of social service workers or medical practitioners helping people with mental illnesses to obtain housing may cause some landlords to incorrectly assume the person will be a problem and refuse tenancy Psychiatric Patient Advocacy Office — PPAO. This section highlights situations that arise in relation to particular grounds such as sex, disability or race. As with past consultations, a major theme in this consultation was the intersecting impacts of multiple grounds of discrimination.

In the past, the Commission has recognized the importance of applying an intersectional approach to complaints of discrimination. They listed the following factors, among others, as having contributed to the inadequate housing conditions and homelessness experienced by women:. Many consultees commented on the power imbalance between landlords and tenants who are women with low incomes.


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The Commission heard that this power imbalance may result in inappropriate behaviour by landlords and property managers, particularly when women are at risk of losing their tenancy due to financial difficulty or a personal crisis. For example, the Commission was told that some landlords may seek sexual favours from low-income women in lieu of rent if they have fallen into arrears, to prevent eviction or if they require maintenance services.

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This can make an affordable and otherwise adequate rental unit uninhabitable. As the Commission heard, for some women, homelessness is a preferable alternative to this kind of infringement of fundamental human rights. Women living in subsidized housing in certain areas of Kingston voluntarily leave their rent-geared-to-income units and stay in homeless shelters for months on end because of concerns about their safety and sexual harassment Kingston Community Legal Clinic — KCLC. After the breakdown of a relationship, women may be disadvantaged in obtaining a rental unit on their own without a credit rating or landlord references.

The Commission also heard that women leaving or returning to situations of domestic violence are at increased risk of having their children removed by child welfare authorities because of housing that is unsuitable due to violence or poor living conditions. See also section 5.

The Commission was concerned to hear that the lack of affordable housing and assistance prevents some women from leaving abusive relationships. This means that for women with disabilities, access to temporary shelter or transitional housing may not be a viable alternative. This denies them some of the benefits associated with such options [24] and increases their already extreme vulnerability as women trying to leave abusive relationships. Consultees reported that discrimination against, and stereotypes about, women who have experienced domestic violence are also factors affecting the availability of housing.

For Aboriginal women, who experience higher rates of violence compared to non-Aboriginal women, [26] the situation is particularly bleak.

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The lack of adequate and affordable housing, financial assistance and social supports — coupled with other intersecting grounds — leaves many Aboriginal women with no choice but to return to their abusers. The Ontario Federation of Indian Friendship Centres OFIFC told the Commission that some women turn to the homes of family or friends, but may be subject to unwarranted intervention of child welfare authorities due to perceived overcrowding reported by neighbours or housing providers.

The Commission was told that the combination of these factors results in the children of Aboriginal women being apprehended at a much higher rate than the children of other women. Although women are particularly at risk of housing discrimination due to their low social and economic status, the Commission also heard about instances in which men are differentially treated because of their sex.

For example, the Housing Help Centre described a case in which a man seeking housing was asked to provide custody papers for his children because he was a man. Women were not asked to provide such proof. Under the current Code , claims based on gender identity may be filed based on the ground of sex, and calls have been made for its inclusion in the Code as a separate ground.

See also section 4. People who are transgendered may be exposed to stereotypes, harassment or demeaning comments. These can affect their experience in accessing housing and may result in the outright denial of a rental application. One participant in the consultation described her experience in trying to find accommodation in a student residence following her transition from male to female. In the spring of , I needed to look for rental accommodation, and there were three choices: there was mixed, there was male, and there was female.

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So, being a woman, I phoned up a few places looking for female accommodation. I was very frustrated, so I decided to phone the next number on my list. I phoned them and identified myself as a woman, and they told me the apartment was already taken. Transgendered people may be exposed to comments or conduct that poison their environment and undermine their dignity during tenancy. These kinds of ads are not permitted under the Code.

Knowledge is Power

Families with children may be turned away, particularly when applying to small owner-operated apartment buildings or second units. However, the normal noise and activities of children should not be used as reasons to exclude them, and their families, from housing.


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Lone mothers with older children, particularly teens and pre-teens, may face additional barriers in trying to obtain shelter or permanent housing. One woman noted that after she and her husband separated, she had difficulty renting housing because she had two teenage boys and a younger son and a credit history and landlord references that were affected by the circumstances of the marriage breakdown. Yet, she could not get into a shelter because they were full, or because her family was ineligible as one son was over age She expressed her fears of homelessness due to lack of other options to house her children.

Consultees indicated that some landlords still use restrictive definitions of family to be able to evict existing tenants and increase the rents. However, this provision does not apply to buildings with three or fewer units in which the landlord lives. Families with children may be told that they have to rent an apartment with a specific number of bedrooms to accommodate the size of the family. This affects both small and large families. As is noted further in section 4. The Commission was told a number of times that tenants feel that they need to lie about their families to qualify for or find a decent apartment, but are scared to do so because of the fear of eviction when their children are discovered.

Similarly, tenants may face rent increases or eviction when additional family members move into the rental unit even if municipal occupancy standards have not been violated The Community Legal Clinic of York Region.


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  • Section 21 3 of the SHRA allows housing providers to establish rules for the temporary accommodation of guests in its rent-geared-to-income units. The Commission was told that strict enforcement of these policies can have far-reaching effects on the ability of tenants to maintain their privacy and lead normal lives while at the same time maintaining their housing.

    In one case at this office, a single mother of four children relied on her ex-husband to babysit while she attended the hospital with her four-year-old undergoing cancer treatment. She was repeatedly requested to provide proof that he was not staying overnight. Despite supplying affidavits and proof of his residency elsewhere, the provider removed her subsidy and brought an application to the housing tribunal to evict her family on the basis of sightings by neighbours and the superintended of his alleged overnight stays.

    When the so-called evidence was challenged, the matter was withdrawn, but not before serious suffering was inflicted on the entire family over the extended period. The Commission heard that Aboriginal people, and in particular women, are frequently discriminated against in rental housing because of their family status.

    This arises from stereotyping and a lack of understanding of Aboriginal cultural and social norms and practices, familial and kinship ties, and the importance of extended families OFIFC. Finally, it was noted that single people, particularly single Aboriginal males, have difficulty obtaining affordable housing.

    These difficulties are heightened for single Aboriginal people with mental illnesses, addictions or who are transitioning out of homelessness. Families of people with mental illnesses also suffer from stigma and discrimination when applying for and occupying housing People Advocating for Change through Empowerment — PACE.

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    As a result, they may conceal mental illness or addiction problems and face these issues in isolation because they have distanced themselves from friends, family and the community Ontario Federation of Community Mental Health and Addiction Programs — OFCMHAP. In some cases, these kinds of issues can lead to eviction. Submissions relating to Code amendments are discussed in section 4. For example, Aboriginal people comprise For example, the Commission was told that people with low incomes, including people on social assistance, tend to be viewed more reprehensively and receive more severe criminal sanctions than wealthy people who have similarly broken the law.

    In other cases, prospective tenants walk away from a suitable unit when they find out that a criminal check is a required condition of tenancy. When successful in obtaining a unit, some people with criminal records are told that they will be watched and more closely scrutinized than other tenants. Some consultees raised concerns about blanket policies that restrict or ban people with criminal records from housing, such as those which exist in various parts of the United States.

    CERA pointed out that such policies will result in human rights violations for individuals who have addictions, or other disabilities such as mental illness or cognitive disabilities, if housing providers are not sensitive to the individual circumstances of each prospective tenant. The Commission heard about examples of discrimination experienced by people at both ends of the age spectrum. They also face challenges arising from the lack of safe and affordable housing in various communities across the province. Due to discrimination and other barriers to housing, young people may be drawn to high-risk neighbourhoods, return to abusive family situations, become homeless or pay high fees to private companies that will find them housing.

    Rooming houses provide a common alternative. However, the youth who live in them, in particular the young women, are vulnerable to human rights violations. Young people are frequently stereotyped as being irresponsible, having too many parties, not paying the rent or destroying the property, and consequently have a difficult time finding rental housing Housing Help Centre. The Commission heard that young people may be told that they have to be 18 years of age to enter into tenancy agreements.