Trouble finding housing – Ontario housing law basics

April 16, 2021

  • I have a low income. Can a landlord refuse to rent to me?

    Under the Residential Tenancies Act, landlords have the right to request proof of income from prospective tenants, and they have the right to refuse to rent to someone if they believe their income is not high enough to afford the rent. However, receipt of social assistance is a protected ground under the Ontario Human Rights Code, and to prevent discrimination based on receipt of social assistance, under the Code, landlords do not have the right to request that prospective tenants provide the source of their income. This means that in some cases, when landlords ask for a letter of employment, it could act as proof of discrimination if the landlord refused a tenant who did not provide proof they are employed. Some prospective tenants may be refused by landlords because their income is not much higher than the monthly rent amount, even if they work full-time. While this is a serious concern for many tenants as housing in Ontario becomes increasingly unaffordable, it is not a violation of the Human Rights Code.

    If you think a landlord has refused to rent to you based on the source of your income (for example, if you receive public assistance like Ontario Works or ODSP) contact CCHR for support:

    If you need assistance finding affordable housing in Toronto, contact the Housing Help Centre:

    For more information, check out our other FAQ sections on:

  • I’m facing discrimination when trying to access housing. What can I do?

    In Ontario, the Human Rights Code protects individuals from discrimination in housing based on sixteen protected grounds, which include race, ethnic origin, disability, age, gender identity, sexual orientation, and family status, among others. If a landlord has refused to rent to you due to one of these aspects of your identity, it is against the law.

    If you think you are facing discrimination when trying to access housing, CCHR may be in a position to advocate on your behalf.

    Contact CCHR for support:

    You may also wish to file an application with the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal.

    The Human Rights Tribunal is one of eight Ontario Tribunals. When a complaint is filed with the Tribunal, they will determine whether or not the Code has been violated. Applicants that file with the Human Rights Tribunal may need to attend a mediation session or a hearing and provide evidence of their complaint. If the Tribunal determines that there has been a violation of the Human Rights Code, the Tribunal may order a remedy, for example financial compensation.

    If you would like assistance filing a human rights complaint, contact the Human Rights Legal Support Centre:

    For more information:

  • I’ve been convicted of a criminal offence. Can a landlord refuse to rent to me?

    The Ontario Human Rights Code protects individuals from being discriminated against for their “record of offences,” when accessing employment but not when accessing housing. For example, an employer cannot discriminate against a potential employee for having a criminal record unless the offences listed on the record would have a real effect on their ability to do their job.

    Landlords can choose not to rent to individuals who have a criminal record without violating the Ontario Human Rights Code. However, requiring potential tenants to submit a criminal record check as part of a rental application process could constitute “adverse effect discrimination.” Adverse effect discrimination happens when seemingly neutral policies, practices, or rules have discriminatory effects on particular groups. For example, if a landlord requests a criminal record check or police check from all applicants for a unit, this could have a discriminatory effect on some groups of applicants who have had interactions with police connected a protected ground, such as mental health disability. The landlord’s policy could be discriminatory.

    If you are applying for housing and are asked for a criminal record or police check, contact CCHR for support:

  • How can I find accessible housing?

    Finding accessible housing in Ontario can be very difficult, and waitlists for accessible units are often very long. For many tenants, it is easier and quicker to request accommodations from their housing provider to make their current unit accessible rather than wait for an accessible unit to become available.

    If you need to request accommodations in your current unit, contact CCHR for support:

    If you need assistance finding accessible housing, regardless of the nature of your disability, contact the Centre for Independent Living (CILT)

  • How can I find affordable housing?

    If you need assistance finding affordable housing in Toronto, contact the Housing Help Centre:

If you need help in your housing, we may be able to assist you.

The Canadian Centre for Housing Rights (CCHR) provides free, individualized services to renters in Ontario who are facing challenges in their housing.

Learn more about Ontario renters’ rights and landlord responsibilities.

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