Many residential landlords and property managers understand that the
Residential Tenancies Act, 2006 (he “RTA”) is a complete code for the rights and
responsibilities of landlords and tenants; what can be forgotten is that the Human
Rights Code and the duty to accommodate supersede the provisions of the RTA.
The case of Madkour and Ismail v. Alabi is an important reminder.
In this case, during the final months of a tenancy, the landlord began showing the
unit to prospective tenants. The tenants had requested additional notice beyond
that being provided by the landlord and for the landlord and prospective tenants to
remove their shoes when entering the rental unit. The tenants were practicing
Arab Muslims and the requests were made to accommodate the tenants’ religious
beliefs and practices (prayer times; the cleanliness of a person’s prayer space;
and modest attire for women). The landlord did not accommodate the requests.
There were also several text messages exchanged between the landlord and the
tenants, including one sent by the landlord to the tenants that suggested the
tenants needed to somehow conform to unspecified expectations relating to living
in Canada (the tenants had immigrated from Egypt).
The tenants pursued an application before the Human Rights Tribunal where the
Vice-Chair hearing the case determined that the landlord discriminated against the
tenants when he failed to accommodate their requests and that some of the
landlord’s behavior amounted to harassment under the Code. The tenants were
each awarded $6,000 to compensate them for the injury to their dignity, feelings
and self-respect caused by the landlord’s actions.
While it is a landlord’s right pursuant to subsection 26(3) of the RTA to show an
available unit to prospective tenants after giving reasonable notice of the intention
to do so, where religious accommodation is requested by the tenant(s), the
landlord’s duty to accommodate has precedence.