Tuesday, 11 December 2018
featured Poverty

Landlords flout the law while government looks the other way

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – Nova Scotia landlords openly flout the law and families with children suffer the consequences. And nobody within the provincial bureaucracy seems to give a damn.

In Nova Scotia it is considered discriminatory under the Nova Scotia Human Rights Act, and therefore illegal, to refuse potential tenants because they have one or more children.

Just to be sure, I checked with the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission (NSHRC).

“This practise would be considered discriminatory under the Act with the protected area being Accommodations and the protected characteristic being Family Status,” writes NSHRC spokesperson Jeff Overmars.

There are common sense exceptions such as buildings specifically for senior citizens, Overmars explains, but otherwise the law applies.

That may be the law, but google apartment adult only and you will find lots of landlords discriminating to their heart’s delight. Finding the ones shown below took mere minutes. And plenty more where these came from.

 

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Or you may apply for an apartment, and get a note like this.

None of this would matter much if there were plenty of apartments to be had, but that’s not the case.

Brenda Thompson tells the story of a bunch of single mothers on social assistance who rallied against discrimination on the basis of family status and source of income in the early eighties.

To get this protection in the legislation was what my activist friends call a hard-fought victory. The mothers actually occupied Province House, and the cops arrived with paddy wagons!

Did they fight this fight only to see the law openly ignored by landlords?

When people aren’t obeying the law, the first step is to raise awareness of that law.

Nothing happening on that front. There is no mention of it on the NS Human Rights Commission website. And no plans to address this either, Overmars tells the Nova Scotia Advocate.

Another place where a little awareness-raising would be helpful is Residential Tenancies, the government-run program you refer to in case of a landlord-tenant dispute.

Again, there are FAQs, and landlord rights and tenant rights brochures on the website, but no mention anywhere that refusing a potential tenant because there are children in the family is discriminatory.

“The Residential Tenancies Act does not address interactions between prospective landlords and tenants. Its jurisdiction begins when a landlord-tenant relationship has been formed,” writes Access Nova Scotia spokesperson Marla MacInnis.

You could of course have a child after you move into an apartment, but never mind.

“If we were to receive a complaint from an individual stating they feel they are being discriminated against when trying to obtain housing we would refer them to the Human Rights Commission. We do not track such complaints,” MacInnis writes.

I know, no matter what the law says, and no matter how widely people are aware of that law, you can always cheat, and it would be hard to prove.

But for landlords to flout the law so openly, and for the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission to do nothing at all?

There ought to be a law against that.

 


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