As a tenant you have rights including the right to privacy and the right to notice upon a landlord’s entry into your premise. As a renter, you should be aware that there are questions that a landlord simply cannot ask you, be it once you have occupied the property or in the stages of completing a rental application.
- Nationality – A landlord cannot discriminate against you based on your nationality, citizenship or anything related to your ethnic background. This question should never be asked.
- Sexual Orientation – A landlord cannot ask you if you are straight, gay, lesbian, queer bisexual, etc., and they cannot deny you a rental unit based on your gender identity or orientation.
- Religion – A landlord cannot ask you about your religious affiliation or if you are religious in general.
- Public Assistance – While a landlord has the right to know if you are employed, they do not have the right to know where all of your money comes from. If you are employed but on public assistance for example, your landlord cannot treat you differently or deny you the unit.
- Family Status – Though a landlord has the right to ask you how many people will be living in the unit, they cannot ask if you are pregnant or plan to have children in the future. In that same vein, landlords cannot turn applicants away based on their relationship status.
- Age – Landlords also cannot discriminate against a renter or applicant based on age. This includes people who are 16 or 17 years old and no longer living with their parents. However, note that a landlord is entitled to verify that an applicant is of age to enter into a legally binding contract. For the purposes of housing, age is defined under the Ontario Human Rights Code as 16 years of age or older as long as the applicant has withdrawn from parental control.
- Physical Disability – A landlord cannot ask you if you have a physical disability. Such disabilities are protected under human rights legislation and can be viewed as a form of discrimination.
- Mental Disability – Much like a physical disability, a landlord cannot ask you if you have a prior or current mental disability. Such disabilities are also protected under human rights legislation and can be viewed as a form of discrimination.
- Notice – As mentioned above, landlords must give proper notice before entering the premise. This question cannot merely be asked at the time of entry but must rather be obtained withing 24-hours minimum of the desired entry time.
- Repairs – Your landlord is responsible for maintaining the appliances in your rental unit. They are not allowed to ask you to make the repairs yourself.
- Arrest – A landlord may be able to ask you if you have ever been convicted of a crime, but a conviction is much different that an arrest. If you have been arrested in the past but not convicted, there is no obligation to disclose, and the landlord should be refraining from such questions.
- Pets – Ontario’s Residential Tenancies Act does not permit landlords to include “no pet” clauses in rental agreements and landlords should usually refrain from asking a renter or applicant if they have pets. The only exception is if the rental property is a condominium and the condominium corporation’s declaration, by-laws or rules prohibits pets.
- Smoking – The Residential Tenancies Act does not address matters relating to individuals before they become tenants, so if a landlord refused to rent to a person on the basis of smoking or insists on a “no smoking” clause, an applicant has no recourse and can be refused tenancy. However, while a landlord may refuse an applicant for smoking, a landlord is not able to amend an existing lease to add such a provision, or legally evict someone once they become a tenant merely because they committed the specific act of smoking in violation of a “no smoking” clause in the rental agreement. If a landlord wants to evict someone for smoking, they have to prove more than just the act. The key to evicting someone for smoking is if the smoke damages the property or infringes on the rights of other tenants.
If you have been asked any of the following, your rights under the Residential Tenancies Act may have been violated and you may have standing to bring an application before the Landlord and Tenant Board of Ontario. Contact Robert Adourian at Devry Smith Frank LLP to have your rights assessed and protected.