The Duty to Accommodate: Tenant Rights

The Human Rights Code confirms that everyone has the right to be free from discrimination and harassment due to disability or perceived disability. This right extends to landlord and tenant relationships. It is unacceptable for a prospective tenant to be refused a rental opportunity due to disability. It is also unacceptable for a tenant to be harassed or treated unfairly by his or her existing landlord due to disability.

Whether due to acquired or traumatic injury, brain and spinal cord injuries can result in numerous accessibility issues within a home environment. Issues may arise due to physical or cognitive impairment and may relate to problems with home entrances, door and hallway widths, counter and cupboard heights, stairs, bathroom layouts, flooring styles etc. Making a home accessible can be a significant undertaking.

Landlords have a duty to accommodate tenants who have real needs as according to the Code. This duty requires that landlords actively work with tenants to find the best solutions to address the identified issues and it also requires that the accommodations be quickly implemented. Where accommodations can’t be quickly implemented, interim measures are to be put in place.

Despite this, and even when private funding is available, landlords sometimes resist this duty of accommodation. Quite sadly, my experience has been that some landlords attempt to refuse even simple accommodations such as installing ramps and grab bars, citing concerns that such installations would cause damage within the unit or to its exterior. Others may try to suggest that to accommodate the tenant would cause unacceptable disrupt to other tenants.

Under the Code, Landlords have a duty to accommodate the needs of their tenants and they must take steps to remove existing barriers, unless to do so would cause undue hardship.

There are only three conditions used in the assessment of whether an accommodation would cause undue hardship:

– Cost
– Outside sources of funding, if any
– Health and safety requirements, if any

No other considerations are to be factored into accommodation decisions. The onus of proving that a requested accommodation would cause undue hardship rests with the landlord.

When resistance exists, the task of educating landlords may fall on the tenant and his family. Such a discussion may not always be productive but it is an important first measure in attempting to overcoming dispute. When disability has arisen due to motor vehicle accident, or other negligence based events, the rehabilitation team members and the personal injury law firm may also opt to speak to the issues with the landlord.

Thankfully, landlords do typically respond well to a discussion about human rights. However, when landlords maintain a refusal to accommodate, escalation of a dispute may be necessary. If you or your loved one is suffering unyielding discrimination or harassment at the hands of a landlord, complaint may be filed at the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario at:

Toll Free: 1-866-598-0322
TTY: 416-326-2027

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