A Bangladeshi immigrant has filed a human rights complaint against a Mississauga landlord who allegedly demanded a year of rent upfront because the tenant lacked a Canadian employment and credit history.
An inquiry by the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario into Rafiqul Islam’s complaint was adjourned last week until March. But advocates say the case sheds light on a common grievance among newcomers, who find their housing options limited if they don’t give in to similar demands, which are not legal under Ontario tenant law.
Islam, 42, a financial manager in Bangladesh, arrived in Toronto with his wife, Nurun Nahar, a teacher, in June 2010. After staying with his brother for five months, the couple started looking for their own apartment later that year.
After seeing an advertisement outside an apartment building at 2365 Confederation Parkway in Mississauga, Islam said he applied for a bachelor apartment and paid a deposit for first and last month’s rent, using his brother as a co-signer, on Nov. 5, 2010.
About 10 days later, “I spoke to the superintendent . . . who told me that my application had been denied. I was told that, in order to be accepted, I would have to provide 12 months’ rent in advance,” Islam said in his complaint. The deposit would amount to $8,880.
A caseworker at the Centre for Equality Rights in Accommodation, working on Islam’s behalf, called the superintendent and was allegedly told that Trevi Investments, the building’s owner, had a policy of requiring newcomers to Canada and those without employment to provide a year of rent in advance.
Islam filed a complaint to the commission alleging that Trevi Investments discriminated against him because of place of origin and citizenship.
While landlords typically ask for a so-called “rent deposit” — first and last month’s rent — it is illegal for them to ask for a full year of rent upfront, under the Ontario Residential Tenancies Act and Human Rights Code.
Bruce Best, senior legal counsel for the Human Rights Legal Support Centre, which is helping Islam, said tribunal inquiries like his client’s are rare because most newcomers are unfamiliar with Ontario law and the rental market, or are reluctant to come forward for fear of losing their home.
Islam has asked for $10,000 for the loss of the right to be free from discrimination and the insult to his dignity, and $142 for out-of-pocket expenses associated with the discrimination. He has also asked the tribunal to order the landlord to provide him with a letter of apology.
In addition, to address the broader public interest, Islam is seeking an order that the landlord remove policies that either “directly discriminate against or have an adverse effect on rental applicants who are newcomers to Canada.”
The tribunal inquiry was adjourned Tuesday because Islam had amended his application to include Helrit Investments Ltd. and Trevi Contractors Ltd. as respondents. The hearing resumes March 6.
The case can’t be dealt with in a civil court because the claim is based on issues under the human rights code — place of origin and citizenship. The Landlord and Tenant Board is able to deal with disputes over rent deposits, but has a limitation period on when an application be made.
— Torstar News Service