Reading through a recent tenant complaint to the Human Rights Commission has been a disturbing
experience, to say the least. Taking the complainant’s account on its face, it would appear that the landlord and the person holding herself
out to be the letting agent have completely failed the fundamental obligation for a landlord (or anyone, for that matter) not to discriminate.
With the bulk of private rentals being owned by ma-and-pa investors who do not necessarily treat their investments as a business, this complaint highlights
the urgent need for landlords to become more educated and aware of our various obligations towards tenants. Under the Residential Tenancies Act, it is unlawful for a landlord to discriminate on the basis of gender, marital status, religious/ethical belief, race/colour, ethnic/national origin, disability, age, political persuasion, employment status, family status, and sexual orientation. Assuming
that this account has not left behind any material facts, then the breach would simply be a foregone conclusion.
This is no doubt a disappointing showing in a time when landlords are already struggling to represent ourselves as law-abiding citizens who make a positive
contribution to society. It also exposes the risks set-and-forget landlords expose themselves to by keeping up with legal obligations and upskilling
accordingly. We have said this several times, and we will say it again here – the days of set-and-forget landlording is at an end. Landlords
can no longer afford to turn a blind eye to what is happening to our tenants and at our rentals.
This is also a timely reminder for landlords to be careful about sharing too much information. While most of us do not consider ourselves as racist
or bigoted, our words (and intention behind those words) can sometimes be interpreted as so. There is no obligation for landlords to disclose the reason
for their decision to grant (or withhold) tenancy to an applicant. In fact, we strongly recommend all landlords not to do so in the interest of running
your tenancies efficiently. If for any reason you choose to decline a tenancy application, simply communicate the outcome to the tenant and wish
him/her all the best.
Take a look at this helpful article you
are not sure what your human rights obligations are vis-à-vis residential tenancy.