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On what grounds can a landlord refuse to rent to me?

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 based on:

  • family status;
  • marital status;
  • age;
  • receipt of public assistance (like employment insurance);
  • sex (including pregnancy and gender identity);
  • disability;
  • race;
  • colour;
  • sexual orientation;
  • ancestry;
  • citizenship;
  • ethnic origin;
  • place of origin;
  • religion;

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 more contentious.

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.