Finding a new place to live can be stressful and prospective
landlords sometimes make it tougher by imposing restrictions on who
they’ll rent to. A landlord obviously has some right as to who they let
into their buildings, but their restrictions aren’t always legal. You
have your own rights as well.
Each province and territory has a landlord and tenant act plus a
human rights code that dictate each party’s rights, including multiple
grounds on which a landlord cannot turn you down.
Prohibited grounds vary according to each province or
territory’s human rights code, but they are mostly similar. Ontario’s
code for example, includes 14 points that are typical to most
jurisdictions. According to the code, landlords cannot discriminate
- family status;
- marital status;
- receipt of public assistance (like employment insurance);
- sex (including pregnancy and gender identity);
- sexual orientation;
- ethnic origin;
- place of origin;
Alberta is unique in that age is not a protected ground. In
most other areas, a landlord can’t refuse you based on your age (within
reasonable limits though; they won’t rent to a 12-year-old). Typically, a
person must be of the age of majority (18 or 19 years old, depending on
where you live) to enter a legal contract, but minors can sometimes
still enter a tenancy agreement on their own.
A demand like “must show proof of employment,” is considered
discriminatory. You don’t have to have a job in order to get a place as
long as you can pay for it in some way.
Pets can be another common battleground between landlords and
prospective tenants. A landlord can’t refuse a service animal like a
guide dog for someone who’s visually impaired, but regular pets can be
Most provinces, except Ontario, allow landlords to impose
no-pet clauses. Even if they allow pets, they can typically impose other
restrictions on the size, quantity, or type of pet, for example.
No-pets clauses are unenforceable in Ontario unless the pet is
dangerous, disturbs other tenants (with allergens or excessive barking),
or causes damage to the property.
Consult your provincial or territorial laws and human rights codes
for more detailed information. If you’ve been discriminated against,
you can file a complaint with a human rights commission or a landlord
and tenant board.