When it comes to housing in Quebec, discrimination is not allowed. A landlord cannot refuse to sign a lease with a tenant because of characteristics such as skin colour, religion or age.
Kinds of Discrimination Not Allowed
Quebec’s Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms lists the kinds of discrimination that are not allowed:
- race and colour
- gender identity or expression
- pregnancy (being pregnant or being on parental leave)
- sexual orientation
- civil status (a person’s family situation – being single, married, divorced or having or not having children)
- political beliefs
- ethnic or national origin
- social condition (a person’s social situation based on income, job or level of education,for example, being a student, retired or unemployed)
- disability and use of an aid to overcome the disability (for example, having a guide dog or using a wheelchair)
Landlords Can Refuse to Rent in Some Cases
Landlords can rent to anyone they want to, as long as they do not refuse someone for based on discrimination.
In general, landlords can refuse to rent to people who
- have a criminal record,
- have not respected their responsibilities as a tenant in the past, or
- cannot pay the rent.
What counts is whether the tenant can pay the rent. Tenants who are unemployed or are on social assistance might still be able to pay the rent. Refusing to rent just because someone is jobless is against Quebec’s Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms.
Recourses for Victims of Discrimination
One solution is to file a complaint with the Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse (Quebec’s human rights commission).
The person filing a complaint must prove there has been discrimination. The more evidence there is to support the complaint, the easier it will be to prove. If the Commission decides that there is sufficient evidence to accept the complaint, it will decide whether it will represent the victim before the Human Rights Tribunal, or whether the victim must represent themselves before the tribunal. If the Commission represents the victim, the service is offered free of charge.
Sometimes discrimination is obvious, for example, if a landlord makes it clear that the refusal to rent is based on one of characteristics (race, etc.) mentioned earlier.
But usually discrimination is harder to prove. This could be the case, for example, if the landlord says an apartment has already been rented but keeps advertising that it as being available.
To prove discrimination, it’s important to gather as much information as possible:
- reason for the refusal
- facts, actions, words or other signs of discrimination
- name and phone number of the person the potential tenant met with
- address of the rental unit
- date and time of visit to place for rent
- amount of the rent
- fact that the apartment is still available and the date this was checked (The Commission suggests asking a relative or friend to check if the apartment is still for rent.)
Tenants can ask for someone to accompany them as a witness when they visit an apartment or meet with a landlord.
The landlord and tenant will be encouraged to settle the case by using mediation or arbitration. If this does not work, the Commission can suggest steps to stop the discrimination. It can also ask the landlord to pay compensation (money).
If the landlord refuses to follow the Commission’s requests, the Commission can send the case to a special court called the Human Rights Tribunal to get a decision that must be respected.
If the Tribunal finds that there was discrimination, it can order the landlord to
- pay money to the person who filed the complaint, and
- take any other steps to end the discrimination.