Many wealthy countries are joining a push to recognize housing as a fundamental human right, with approximately 1.6 billion people living in inadequate housing worldwide. Housing, according to some, is a human right since it comprises a right to peace, security, and dignity.
Table of Contents - What to Legally Ask and Avoid Asking Prospective Tenants?
The International Covenant of Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, signed in 1966, is a multilateral United Nations treaty that recognizes the right to a decent standard of life, including the right to housing. The Liberal Party has lately stated its goal to make dwelling a human right in Canadian law. "Housing rights are human rights, and everyone deserves to be living in a secure and affordable place to call home," Prime Minister Justin Trudeau remarked in December 2017.
The government's plan to enhance housing in Canada does not imply that thousands of additional apartments would be built to accommodate everyone; instead, the government will get more involved in preventing racism, combating homelessness, and monitoring rent pricing.
What does this imply for you as a property manager? When it comes to renting a property, you must treat all applicants fairly and respectfully. This is particularly true when creating occupancy regulations, prioritizing maintenance, sharing amenities, and evicting tenants. Most significantly, you are accountable for ensuring that the housing you manage is free of discrimination and harassment.
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What information can and cannot be used to make a tenant decision
You want to thoroughly vet every prospective tenant as a landlord to ensure that he or she would pay rent on time and respect your property. You cannot ask your candidate some questions throughout the vetting process, and they cannot influence your choice to rent. Housing cannot be denied based on any of the following characteristics:
- Religious beliefs or practices
- Ancestry, including Mixed ethnicity
- Place of origin
- Sex, including pregnancy and gender identification
- Family status
- Marital status, including people with same-sex partners
- Sexual orientation
- Age, including people aged 16 or 17 who are no longer living with their parents
What you need to understand is whether the potential tenant is a responsible fit for your property. When interviewing a tenant, you may ask for the following information:
- Rental history: An insufficiency of rental history is not a reason for the application to be rejected. Previous evictions or any prior or existing legal proceedings involving property leasing are red flags. It is okay to pass over a tenant who has just been evicted or sued for property damage.
- Credit references and/or credit checks: A lack of credit history should not be seen as a negative factor. Late or missed payments, debt and loan defaults, and recent bankruptcy are all acceptable disqualifications.
- Income information: Income information is only available if you additionally ask for rental history, credit references, and/or checks. If you requested the other information and the applicant did not furnish it, you could factor in income information alone. The applicant's income is only utilized to establish whether they can afford to rent. Unless you are offering subsidized housing, you cannot enforce a rent-to-income ratio.
- Guarantors: You can ask for a guarantee to sign the lease, but only if all tenants must meet the same conditions.
Tenants are Accommodated
You are legally bound to provide any special accommodations that tenants may require. If a renter needs a wheelchair, for example, you may need to make improvements to the entryway, parking, or sidewalks. It would be best if you endeavored to meet any demands, such as cost, a lack of outside funds, or health and safety issues, up to the point of undue hardship.
The landlord must provide the best available accommodation as soon as possible. If the best accommodation cannot be found in a timely way, a temporary solution must be found. To make tenants more comfortable, accommodations also include controlling social situations. For example, suppose a tenant causes problems for neighbors because of their protected status (e.g., a renter who wakes up early to pray or a tenant whose medical equipment causes issues). In that case, you should explore what you can do as the landlord to help.
If a renter reveals information concerning their position as a protected group member, such as medical history, you should not discuss this information with anyone, particularly other tenants. It is your job to establish a safe atmosphere for everyone, which begins respecting your tenants' privacy.
Relationships with current tenants
Just because a tenant belongs to a protected group does not mean you cannot hold them to a higher standard than the rest of the tenants. You do not have to rent or continue to rent to a renter who has a genuine personality conflict with you on an unrelated matter. You may evict a renter who fails to pay rent if the tenant has been given the same options to correct the situation as everyone else.
You can take proactive measures.
With a few preventative measures, you can contribute to improve human rights in housing and avoid problems at your property:
- For your property (and business), develop an anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policy.
- Examining your property for any potential impediments to pleasant living and including any necessary repairs into your maintenance schedule.
- Create a policy for dealing with accommodation requests.
- Create a dispute-resolution policy.
- Take part in, develop, and exchange human rights and housing instructional materials.
It is essential to consider your legal responsibility as a landlord to provide tenants with fair and reasonable housing. Every province has its own human rights commission and housing discrimination legislation. The Ontario Human Rights Commission's recommendations are a solid starting point for establishing your strategy for addressing fair housing rules for your rental property.
12 Excellent Tenant Screening Questions You Cannot Fail to Ask
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