Rent Control Bulletin Human Rights Crackdown: Landlords Beware! Rental Unit Advertising Targeted

For years, we have cautioned landlords about the content of advertising of their rental product. Landlords who advertise “Adult Community”; “Student Housing”; “Ideal for Working Couple”; and so on are exposing themselves to liability under the Ontario Human Rights Code (the Code).

Under the Code, landlords are prohibited from discrimination in housing accommodation. The phrases above, and many others commonly used by landlords or their marketing/leasing consultants, constitute evidence of discrimination in housing accommodation as they suggest the landlord is restricting accommodation to those persons who fit the profile of the advertising message. Whether you actually do restrict your acceptance of prospective tenants based on the advertising profile is irrelevant. The type of advertising cited above, whether in media or at your building/community, is enough to raise an inference that you have restrictions in place which violate the Code.

The last place professional landlords want to find themselves is at the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal. The costs of filling out forms; attending at various stages of the proceedings; the potential for bad publicity; and the costs of a “mediated” (a benign synonym for “extortion”) settlement of a claim all dictate a risk management strategy of Compliance and Avoidance.

Until now, many landlords have openly advertised their restrictive acceptance policies because it was effective in attracting tenants who fit the demographics and profile of the residential complex or community. Generally landlords got away with apparent violations of the Code because few people complained.

Landlords should now be aware that the likelihood of complaints being filed has risen exponentially with the publication of a “Fact Sheet” by the Ontario Human Rights Commission.

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