The Ontario Human Rights Code prohibits housing providers from discriminating against families with children. This applies to renting, being evicted, building rules and regulations, repairs, and use of services and facilities.
Families with children can face a range of negative and discriminatory attitudes and stereotypes. Some landlords prefer not to rent to families with children because they believe that children are noisy, disruptive, and will damage the property. Female-headed lone parent families are the subject of negative stereotypes, particularly if they are Aboriginal, racialized, young, or in receipt of social assistance. Landlords may directly refuse applications because of the presence of children, or may use euphemisms to discourage or deny applications from families with children, such as that the building is “a quiet building”, “not soundproof”, or “adult lifestyle”. Such policies and practices violate the Code.
Families with young children may also face harassment and eviction because of the normal noise associated with children. It is natural that children run, play, and cry, and while parents are obliged to take steps in accordance with good parenting practices to manage the noise made by their children and to be good neighbours, it should be recognized that children naturally make some noise, and such noise should not be cause for harassment or loss of housing. Landlords should take steps to ensure that families with children are not harassed by neighbours because of the normal noise associated with children, just as they would with regard to harassment based on other Code grounds.
The Commission is also concerned about other rental policies and practices that create barriers for families with children, such as arbitrary occupancy standards, no transfer policies, and restrictions on children’s access to recreational facilities or common areas.
The problems that families with children face in the housing market are exacerbated by that fact that certain types of families, such as lone parent families, are disproportionately poor, and by the shortage of adequate affordable housing. As well, it is clear that many landlords are unaware of their responsibilities under the Code. The Commission has launched a public consultation and policy development on broader human rights issues in the area of housing.