Several people in the Fraser Valley advertising housing rentals appear to be violating B.C.’s human rights code by discriminating against certain potential tenants.
Several recent online ads specify individuals on welfare or disability income assistance need not apply, while other similar have been removed (possibly because the place was successfully rented out.)
“It’s certainly a form of discrimination,” said Pivot Legal Society‘s housing lawyer DJ Larkin, who said such advertisements have been an issue in Abbotsford for several years.
The B.C. Human Rights Code protects against discrimination based on an individual’s lawful source of income.
Individuals could potentially bring a Human Rights Tribunal complaint against landlords who deny access to tenancy but there is no framework to address it as a systemic issue, according to Larkin.
— TRAC Tenant Resource (@TRAC_BC) August 30, 2016
She said the practice perpetuates a stigma about people on government assistance and those with disabilities.
“It presumes that these people are not good tenants and it’s one of the drivers of continued homelessness because even where there is an empty apartment, there are classes of people who are being excluded,” she said.
Affirmative action housing likely OK
On the other hand, it may be permissible to advertise rental housing that gives preference to people on disability.
“It is possible in the law to prefer people who are coming from a historically disadvantaged perspective in order to create substantive equality,” said Larkin.
Once such example is a room for rent in a mobile home in Hatzic, Mission, advertised on Craigslist by a retired chemical engineer.
He wants to rent the room to someone who has a disability because he is himself disabled from a back injury and the mobile home he bought a year ago has been retrofitted with ramps, wide hallways and a specialized bathroom to accommodate someone in a wheelchair.
“I think disabled people are discriminated against and very, very hurt,” said the man.
But the same post goes on to list a number of “preferences” the prospective landlord has for a roommate, which Larkin called “blatantly discriminatory,” by specifying that he does not want to rent to Muslims, people on welfare or recovering addicts. The man said this is not due to any prejudice he has against the religion but because of his neighbours, who he called “redneck Trump supporters.”
He said he believed he was within the law because of a “disclaimer” included in the post which states that he simply will give preference to some groups over others but will consider all applicants.
Larkin said this could create “a thin veil of protection” but will still likely serve to keep people from ever reaching the front of the line and finding housing.
No consideration for disability or welfare recipients
But the same ad goes on to state that those on welfare, as well as people able to work, will not be considered at all.
Another post currently online specifies “no disability or welfare” for a room in a home listed for $650.
In response to a query from The News, the poster said the tenant was to share a home with her and her young daughter, and believed someone on income assistance could not afford the rent.
Larkin said while it is not acceptable for landlords to make such specifications, it is worse when commerical renters do so.
Larkin said that the posts may be removed by Craigslist if they are reported and are found to violate its policies.