Alleged Discrimination in Milton Rental Market
The average price of an existing home broke the $1 million mark in March, 2023. That marks an increase of 7.4 percent over February 2023 as well as a 13.4 percent decrease of the same month the previous year, according to the Toronto Real Estate Board (TREB). The high house prices have pushed many interested buyers into the rental market. The Landlord and Tenant Board (LTB) receives over 80,000 applications per year, 90 percent of which are for evictions, according to the website TribunalsWatch.
Gurpreet Singh and his five-person family moved to Milton from Chicago in 2021, without any ties to the local community, signing a 12-month lease on a 3 bedroom, two-bathroom home for five people. In August 2021, they decided to break their lease, having bought a home elsewhere.
The landlord agreed to not only break the lease but assign it to another tenant. Singh advertised it on Facebook marketplace, and Kijiji for rent, referring potential tenants to the landlord’s real estate agent for further screening. The landlord declined two potential tenants. The first was on the basis of income, and the second was on the basis that the landlord allegedly felt the house was too small for the five-person family.
In 2021, the landlord filed a complaint with the Landlord Tenant Board (LTB) for two months’ back rent, which was heard in March 2023, with the adjudicator deciding in the landlord’s favour. Efforts were made to contact the landlord, who declined further comment for this story. Singh believes the potential tenant was discriminated against because of the family construction. Singh’s is made up of four adults, and one child; the potential tenant’s family was comprised of two adults and three children.
This practice violates section 1 of the Ontario Human Rights Code which provides everyone equal treatment “without discrimination because of race, ancestry, place of origin, ethnic origin, citizenship, religion, sex, (including pregnancy, and gender identity), marital status, or family status.” Angela Browne, Managing Partner at Invictus Legal Services agrees that the landlord cannot turn them down based on family size alone. “A landlord cannot refuse or withhold permission without undue reason,” she said in a phone interview. An undue reason can include things like bad credit, a landlord reference, or total income. The government has zero tolerance for discrimination of any kind in our province. Under the Human Right Rights Code all tenants have the right to equal treatment in housing without discrimination and harassment,” Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing Spokesperson Victoria Podbielski said.
Scheduling, and slowness of appointing, and reappointing adjudicators are other areas needing attention according to Browne. The province has announced $6.5 million in funding to hire 40 adjudicators and five staff to help with scheduling. The additional adjudicators are only being assigned to virtual cases, something Browne finds challenging because not all clients have access to the necessary technology. It’s because Tribunals Ontario, the agency that oversees the Landlord Tenant Board has implemented a digital-first strategy. “Virtual hearings have increased access to justice for many individuals who experience barriers with an in-person hearing model,” Ministry Spokesperson Janet Deline said in an email statement.
Singh filed an appeal last month, and an adjudicator issued a decision dated April 24 2023, declining the request for a review. “The review will be dismissed unless the LTB is satisfied the new evidence could not have been produced at the original hearing,” it read in part. Singh is consulting with his lawyers regarding the possibility of a further appeal.
By Laura Steiner, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Milton Reporter, Milton Reporter