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Human Rights in Rental Housing

Under the Ontario Human Rights Code, everyone has the right to equal treatment in housing without discrimination or harassment. As a landlord, they are responsible for ensuring the housing they operate is free from bias. Read on to find out more about your rights in rental housing.

Code-Protected Grounds

People cannot be refused an apartment because of their:

  • Race, colour or ethnic background
  • Religious beliefs or practices
  • Ancestry, including people of Aboriginal descent
  • Place of origin
  • Citizenship, including refugee status
  • Sexual orientation (including pregnancy and gender identity)
  • Family status
  • Marital status, including people with a same-sex partner
  • Disability
  • Sexual orientation
  • Age, including people who are 16 or 17 years old and no longer living with their parents
  • Receipt of public assistance.
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students working together in library

What Landlords Can Ask For

The Code says what business practices are acceptable and what information a landlord may ask for when choosing tenants:

  • Rental history, credit references and/or credit checks may be requested. A lack of rental or credit history should not be viewed negatively.
  • Landlords can ask for your or your parent’s income information. Still, they must also ask for and consider any available information on rental history, credit references and credit checks (such as through Equifax Canada).
  • Landlords can only consider income information on their own when no other information is made available.
  • Landlords can only use income information to confirm the person has enough income to cover the rent. Unless you provide subsidized housing, applying a rent-to-income ratio such as a 30% cut-off rule is illegal.
  • The Government of Canada states that you should not give your Social Insurance Number (S.I.N.) in an application for a rental apartment. Landlords do NOT need your S.I.N. to check your credit history. They can check your credit with your name, address, and birth date.


A landlord can ask for a “guarantor” to sign the lease – but only if they have the same requirements for all tenants, not just for people identified by Code grounds, such as recent immigrants or people receiving social assistance.

The Code does not apply in the case of a disagreement or “personality conflict” with a landlord or another tenant unrelated to a Code ground, or if a tenant shares a bathroom or kitchen with the owner or the owner’s immediate family.

For more information on landlord and tenant rights and responsibilities in rental housing, see the Ontario Human Rights Commission’s Policy on Human Rights and Rental Housing. This policy and other OHRC information are available online at www.ohrc.on.ca.


If you feel you have been discriminated against, contact the Equity and Inclusion Office at McMaster University, University Hall, Room 104, ext. 27581 or the Ontario Human Rights Commission at www.ohrc.on.ca.

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Expandable List

Renting a home can be especially challenging for our international students and visitors. Many landlords will expect you to offer proof of your financial status and reliability to pay your rent. As a first step, open a bank account at a Canadian bank. Transfer funds from your home country into this account. Once this is done, ask the bank to supply you with a letter stating the date the account was opened, funds available (or any regular deposits that are expected) and that you are in good standing with the bank.

You may also benefit from producing the letter of offer from your supervisor (if you are a graduate student or employee) from McMaster, showing your monthly salary or other funding you might be receiving while here. If you are an undergraduate student and will be receiving an award or funding from Financial Aid & Scholarships office, ask that department for a letter stating the details. All of these will help to establish your credibility and financial ability which might satisfy a potential landlord.

If you are trying to secure a place to live BEFORE you arrive in Canada, it can be quite challenging to do so. It is always advisable to make plans for a hotel stay for the first few days when you arrive here, and then use that time to make appointments to go see places before making your decision. Not only will the landlord be more trusting of you if they meet you in person, it will be better for yourself, too, to be sure you are actually going to like the place – rather than just deciding based on some photographs seen over the internet.