Section 10 of the BC Human Rights Code lists the grounds on which landlords are not allowed to discriminate in residential tenancies. A landlord may not refuse to rent to you because of your:
- place of origin
- marital status
- family status
- physical or mental disability
- sexual orientation
- age (if 19 or older)
- lawful source of income
Most of the above points are fairly straightforward, but let’s take a closer look at a couple of the more complicated grounds for discrimination:
- Family status: a landlord is allowed to restrict the number of occupants in your rental unit, but they are not allowed to refuse to rent to you because you have children. Also, if you are looking to find a place with a boyfriend or girlfriend, a landlord may not refuse to rent to you because you are unmarried.
- Age: The Residential Tenancy Act (RTA) allows landlords to rent to minors (under age 19). In fact, this is quite common. If you are a minor and have entered into a tenancy agreement with a landlord, you have all the same rights and responsibilities as any other tenant covered under the RTA. However, be aware that if you are under age 19, landlords are allowed to lawfully discriminate and not rent to you because of your age.
- Lawful source of income: A landlord is allowed to ensure that you will be able to pay the rent. This could include asking to see recent paystubs, ordering a credit check, or contacting your employer to verify employment. However, they are not allowed to discriminate based on your source of income, as long as it is legal. For example, many tenants receive income from welfare, disability pensions, or student loans.
There are a few exceptions to the grounds listed above. The law may not apply if:
- the tenant will be sharing kitchen, bathroom, or sleeping accommodations with the landlord (for example, if a woman is renting a room in her unit, she is allowed to only rent to other women);
- every unit in the building is designated for adults age 55 and older; or
- if the unit is designated for people with disabilities and has the required permits.
For a good overview of human rights law in BC, see the BC Human Rights Clinic’s website.
This video has been taken from TRAC’s online course, Renting It Right.
Landlords have a duty to accommodate a tenant’s disability, up to the point of undue hardship. This means that if a disabled tenant requires part of the building, or a building policy, to be changed in order to use their rental accommodation fully and with dignity, the landlord must comply as long as it does not cause unreasonable challenges. If a tenant in a wheelchair requires a ramp to get into the building or a blind tenant requires brail to be installed in an elevator, a landlord may be required to accommodate these tenants.
What is considered a disability?
“Disability” is not defined in the BC Human Rights Code. For information on what courts often consider to be a disability, please read the BC Human Rights Clinic’s page on disabilities.
What does undue hardship mean?
Just because the cost of accommodating a tenant’s disability is expensive, does not necessarily mean that it will cause undue hardship for the landlord. Generally, in order for a landlord to prove that the cost of accommodation would cause undue hardship, they would need to prove that paying for the accommodation would make it difficult for them to continue providing adequate services as a landlord. Accommodating a tenant’s disability could also be considered undue hardship if it would significantly interfere with other tenants’ rights in the building.