Disabilities and Rental Housing

CERA provides free legal information and advocacy services to Ontario renters who require accommodations their housing. For more information about our services, click here.

The Ontario Human Rights Code dictates that it is illegal to deny someone housing or to treat them unfairly because of a disability. Persons with disabilities have the right to equal treatment when it comes to accessing and maintaining housing. The Human Rights Code has a very broad definition of disability which includes most physical, mental, visible and invisible disabilities and landlords have an obligation to accommodate renters’ disabilities.

Obligations of the Housing Provider

Under the Code, housing providers are not permitted to discriminate against persons with disabilities, and in fact, have a “duty to accommodate” persons with disabilities. The duty to accommodate means that structures, rules, policies or practices that are discriminatory may have to be changed to ensure that persons with disabilities are able to fully enjoy equal benefit, equal treatment, equal rights and equal access with respect to housing, employment, or services, etc. These changes must be made in a reasonable and acceptable time-frame.

Obligations of the Person Requesting Accommodation

The person who requires the accommodation must establish that discrimination has occurred and must make a request for accommodation. The individual will also need to provide some evidence as to why the accommodation is required. This does not necessarily require disclosure of the type of disability.

The purpose of accommodation

Respect for Dignity. This means that any accommodation provided must be done so in a manner that most respects the dignity of the person. Dignity includes consideration of how the accommodation is provided and the individual’s own participation in the process of accommodation.

For example: A ramp built at the back of an apartment building that requires a person with a disability to access their home through the building garbage room does not respect the human dignity of the individual.

Individualized Accommodation. This means that each person must be considered, assessed and individually accommodated. Moreover, that each person’s needs are unique and must be considered on an individualized basis if a request for accommodation is made. There is no set formula for accommodating people with disabilities.

For example: Two residents with the same condition may require different accommodations to address their particular needs.

Integration and Full Participation. In order to achieve genuine inclusiveness for persons with disabilities, structures and social attitudes must be barrier free and inclusive. Integration and full participation for persons with disabilities means that they should be able to access housing or employment, etc. equally and without impediment. If barriers do exist, and removal is not possible, then accommodation should be provided short of undue hardship. Segregated treatment in services, employment, or housing for individuals with disabilities is less dignified and is unacceptable, unless it can be shown that integrated treatment would pose undue hardship or that segregation is the only way to achieve equality.

For example: Sometimes a housing provider will say to a prospective tenant, “This is not an accessible building. I have another building that is accessible—you can apply for an apartment there.” Equal treatment with respect to housing, and more specifically integration and full participation, mandate that the person with the disability should have equal access to all the buildings—just like persons applying who do not have disabilities. It is the responsibility of the housing provider to ensure that all of his or her buildings are accessible.

Resources

The Ontario Human Rights Code and Rental Housing: A Self-Advocacy Toolkit (2016) – CERA

Policy on Ableism and Discrimination Based on Disability (2016) – Ontario Human Rights Commission

Policy and Guidelines on Disability and the Duty to Accommodate (2016) – Ontario Human Rights Commmission