Landlord Must Pay $12,000 for Failing to Remove Shoes in Rental Unit
Many residential landlords and property managers understand that the Residential Tenancies Act, 2006 (he “RTA”) is a complete code for the rights and responsibilities of landlords and tenants; what can be forgotten is that the Human Rights Code and the duty to accommodate supersede the provisions of the RTA. The case of Madkour and Ismail v. Alabi is an important reminder.
In this case, during the final months of a tenancy, the landlord began showing the unit to prospective tenants. The tenants had requested additional notice beyond that being provided by the landlord and for the landlord and prospective tenants to remove their shoes when entering the rental unit. The tenants were practicing Arab Muslims and the requests were made to accommodate the tenants’ religious beliefs and practices (prayer times; the cleanliness of a person’s prayer space; and modest attire for women). The landlord did not accommodate the requests.
There were also several text messages exchanged between the landlord and the tenants, including one sent by the landlord to the tenants that suggested the tenants needed to somehow conform to unspecified expectations relating to living in Canada (the tenants had immigrated from Egypt).
The tenants pursued an application before the Human Rights Tribunal where the Vice-Chair hearing the case determined that the landlord discriminated against the tenants when he failed to accommodate their requests and that some of the landlord’s behavior amounted to harassment under the Code. The tenants were each awarded $6,000 to compensate them for the injury to their dignity, feelings and self-respect caused by the landlord’s actions.
While it is a landlord’s right pursuant to subsection 26(3) of the RTA to show an available unit to prospective tenants after giving reasonable notice of the intention to do so, where religious accommodation is requested by the tenant(s), the landlord’s duty to accommodate has precedence.
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