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N.B. Human Rights Commission issues reminder to landlords to treat all renters with respect

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Landlords must respect the human rights of all persons.

That’s the title to a news release issued by the New Brunswick Human Rights Commission Monday following a rise in allegations of discriminatory practices in the province’s rental housing market.

The commission is reminding landlords and other housing providers discrimination based on any of the 16 protected grounds under the New Brunswick Human Rights Act — which include race, colour, ancestry or social condition — is illegal.

The commission notes in particular numerous alleged instances of housing discrimination because of family status, most notably for those with children.

Tobin LeBlanc Haley, co-founder of the New Brunswick Coalition for Tenants Rights, said she experienced that kind of discrimination firsthand when she and her partner moved back to the province in 2019. Haley figured finding a place to rent would be easy and never guessed her young child would cause any issues.

“This particular landlord told me you can’t rent in X building, you have to rent in this other building because we only allow children on certain floors or whatever or certain units, but hey, that is a violation of my human rights,” Haley recalls.

It’s not only families being allegedly targeted. The commission has also received complaints of housing denials from residents with physical or mental disabilities, as well as those who rely on a service animal. While some landlords don’t allow pets, service animals do not fall under that category and a potential tenant cannot be denied a place to live for that reason.

The Human Rights Commission says in 2022-23, housing related complaints (which include rentals) rose from just four to 13 per cent of the total complaints received by the commission. Haley says that percentage is only the tip of the iceberg in terms of how many residents are dealing with discrimination issues.

“Because tenants in New Brunswick live without the protections that so many other tenants in the country have access to, there may be like a fear around following through with the complaint,” Haley says “If you experience discrimination when trying to rent and you’re just trying to find a place to live or you’re trying to mind a relationship with the landlord to keep yourself housed and you have experienced discrimination, it’s a whole other process to then go to the commission and start making the complaint.”

If a landlord is caught discriminating against certain grounds, it’s unclear how they may be reprimanded. Chair of tenant advocacy group New Brunswick Acorn Nichola Taylor says she has not heard of any cases where a landlord has been punished for their actions.

“What is the penalty if a landlord does this,” Taylor questions. “Does anyone know? It’s not clear and it’s not being written so if a landlord is discriminating against someone, how is that landlord being punished, how is that landlord being penalized? That has to be clear and transparent as this is something that is very serious.”

Taylor says laws in New Brunswick tend to favour landlords rather than tenants, and the best thing renters can do to prepare themselves for any situation they many come across in dealing with their landlords is to know their rights.

“There is a lot of information on the internet through the government,” Taylor says. “So you can look on their site and you’ll find out what tenants’ rights are, and how you can start the process if you need to complain against your landlord for whatever the reason.”

The commission also notes not all housing matters fall under the Human Rights Act, and advises renters to check the Residential Tenancies Act on the Renting in New Brunswick website

For more New Brunswick news visit our dedicated provincial page.  

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