Monday, October 5, 2009

Human Rights for You Not Me

How to Screw Your Potential Landlord

Press Release today from Barb Hall and her gang at the OHRC on rental housing in Ontario here:

New guidelines will help improve equal access to rental housing for all Ontarians. The Policy on Human Rights and Rental Housing, Canada's first comprehensive look at how barriers to housing can be identified and eliminated, was released today by the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC).

The policy follows extensive research and consultation with tenants, housing providers, decision-makers and other partners. Its aim is to provide tools, practical scenarios and information that can be applied to everyday situations, so that human rights problems can be eliminated quickly or prevented from happening in the first place.

"The evidence is very clear," said OHRC Chief Commissioner Barbara Hall. "Discrimination occurs in many forms in rental housing across Ontario. Vulnerable and marginalized people have a much tougher time getting the housing they need because they face a number of barriers. This new policy is just part of a wider effort to break down those barriers to fair rental housing."

Under Ontario's Human Rights Code, tenants and housing providers have rights and obligations. But the Code does not spell out what these protections and duties mean. The policy gives practical advice on how people can exercise their rights and fulfill their obligations.

"There is an undeniable link between affordable and adequate housing and quality of life," Barbara Hall said. "Secure housing is a starting point for access to good employment, strong community resources and supports, and educational opportunities."

Housing is a strategic priority for the Ontario Human Rights Commission. Today's policy release will be followed by a report on the progress of recommendations made last year in the OHRC's consultation report, Right at Home as well as new public education "e-learning" tools and other materials to help build awareness of human rights protections in housing.

As Barb tells the Star here, Housing is a human right. Last week it was access. Next week, who knows.

Says here:

Vince Brescia, president of the Federation of Rental Housing Providers of Ontario, talked of his concern that accommodating people who are physically disabled could bankrupt small landlords. Hall said the policy is flexible enough to give them a recourse if they prove an elevator in a single four-storey building, for example, would be too expensive for a landlord.

Wanna bet that it works that way. I don't.

Landlords can do the following while vetting prospective tenants:

They can ask for rental history, credit references and do credit checks

They can ask for income information and use that together with other important income information

They can only use income information to decide if a person has enough money to cover the rent

They cannot use the "30 per cent rule" — whether rent is 30 per cent or less of the person's income — to turn down a tenant

They can ask for a guarantor to sign the lease, but only if all tenants are asked.

I see disaster on the horizon for small landlords. The UN saw a housing crisis on the horizon for Canada. Well, it is now a guarantee for Ontario.

It is discrimination for a landlord to want to rent to the tenant of his/her choice, if the rejected tenant is from one of the target discrimination groups. It's OK if the prospective tenant is white though. That still flys. So, for landlords, I recommend that they use a blind screening agent.

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