Rental Discrimination in Canada

It’s old news, but worthy of writing about. Back in January the CBC reported a story of a young couple that was denied their right to rent an apartment. What’s noteworthy here is that they were denied based on their age. Of course, this is a discriminatory practice and not allowed under the Residential Tenancies Act and the Canadian Human Rights Act.

You may ask yourself how does something like this happen in today’s 2017 world, and the answer is pretty simple; Micro landlords.

The couple in question was trying to rent out a condominium unit from an investor-owned unit. These are not large professional landlords that own and operate hundreds of purpose built apartments, rather a small time landlord who owns one of a handful of units. To these types of landlords, each tenant presents a much larger risk as they don’t have the latitude of many apartments to offset costs should they have a bad tenant that doesn’t pay rent or causes significant damage to their units.

The large professional landlords would never discriminate (openly) in such a fashion as they typically have more thorough processes that rely heavily on an individual’s ability to pay rent (proof of income and credit score).

The couple can attempt to take the landlord to a Human Rights Tribunal or the Tenant Landlord Board tribunal. However, they would still need a place to live in the meantime, and the result would likely be more punitive to the landlord and less monetary compensation for their efforts. Effectively, they’re better to forget about this and move on.

Now if this were the USA the situation would be very different. In the USA they have something called the Fair Housing Act. This Act is far more disciplinary and far-reaching, and landlords are very wary not to be in violation of these rules.

If you’re found to be in violation, penalties can include:

  • A charge against you by the U.S. Departing of Housing and Urban Development where you’ll need to attend several hearings and defend the claim in from of a HUD Administrative Law Judge.
  • The U.S. Department of Justice may pursue the case on behalf of the claimant.
  • The complainant may be awarded compensatory damages that could include out-of-pocket expenses while finding alternative housing, rent fees associated with alternative housing, legal fees to process the claim.
  • Non-economic damages may also be awarded for humiliation, mental anguish and psychological injuries. These are in addition to the above-mentioned out-of-pocket expenses.
  • Civil penalties may be levied up to $16,000 for a first violation and $65,000 for future violations. In cases where the Justice Department is involved civil penalties can be even more and go up to $100,000.
  • Punitive damages may also be awarded by federal courts. These aren’t damages to reimburse the complainant, but rather damages to punish the wrongdoer where there is clear evidence of willful or malicious intent.
  • Attorney’s fees may be awarded to the prevailing party.
  • Courts may issue injunctions if they feel prompt action is necessary to prevent immediate and irreparable harm.

As you can see from above, the Fair Housing Act has teeth and does a good job of protecting vulnerable renters. While I believe our current (Ontario) legislation to be heavily prohibitive towards landlords in favour of tenants, regarding actual gravity for violations, our laws could take a lesson or two from our southern neighbours. Perhaps only then will legislators feel comfortable to loosen the current prohibitive legislation that hamstring landlords (e.g. ease eviction rules, etc…)… The greater the risk, the greater the rewards.

Rent Control in a World of Consequence

Rent control is a highly fascinating matter, especially in the Canadian market considering how we have different forms of rent control legislation for each province.

In my current capacity, I oversee assets both in the United States and within Canada, and this affords me the opportunity to learn (and study) the varied forms of rent control as well as the strategies and techniques required to improve the revenue of those assets which are subject to rent control guidelines. Today I’m going to shy away from getting too granular with the specifics of rent control legislations or revenue strategies utilised. I want to discuss one acute observation I’ve made over the years, and that is rent control does not work. As a public policy measure, it fails in the long term to protect the very individuals it aspires to help, this is my opinion formed over a decade of experience in the rental housing industry.

On the surface, rent control alleviates the issue of affordable housing, when you scratch the surface and look deeper, you will find that it eventually erodes the living conditions and affordability of the marketplace in the medium to long term. Furthermore, if you want to see the effects of rent control legislation, just look at any affordable housing project, they function as a ‘control group’ in a science experiment. To my fellow revenue manager’s and multi-res industry-insiders, I’m sure you’ve already observed this phenomenon.

There’s a video from Stanford University’s Hoover Institution that does a fantastic job of succinctly explaining why rent control as a public policy measure it is not a good solution, one that ultimately backfires.

For more information check our their website:

The follow-up question likely now sitting on the tip of your tongue is “If rent control is not a solution, then what is?”. Well, that’s a discussion for another time, as plenty can be said on this topic.

Lastly, I always reserve the right to update my views as new information presents itself. Life is a journey, and we learn new things every day.

Canadian Wireless Plan Comparison Chart

It is a well-known fact that Canadians pay for some of the highest mobile and wireless plans and rates in the world, and we are also fed up with it!

Thankfully the government has started to deregulate the market which has increased competition and allowing new companies to enter.

However, there’s too much information to make sense of everything, especially when trying to figure out what plan is best for you.

Fortunately for you, I have created an excel chart that should simplify the process of figuring out what plan/rate is best for you.

You can download the chart here: Canadian Mobile Price Comparison Chart

Why are buildings named?

Having worked with over 65,0000 apartments across three countries (Canada, Ireland, & United States), I often myself musing about the naming convention of buildings.

(The Whimsical Pig Apartments, seriously?!)

After some consideration, I think for a modern day development it must be a brand play by the architect or developer as they usually have a theme in mind. Naming a building provides a sense of story, and it adds a human element of sorts, a sentimental value to the project in addition to creating a sense of grandiose that lends to the character of the building and development community.

However, I’m less interested in the names of newer buildings, especially new condominiums. In the world of condos, there is always an underlying motive to create an (inflated) sense of value, and promote a brand for sale purposes. More often than not, it comes off as a bit trite. Especially in a city like Toronto where there are more condos under development than presently anywhere else in the world, the industry just seems to give off that impression. With fierce competition between developments, and many providing similar offerings, these projects quickly draw attention to their name/brand for sales purposes as a way to compensate for originality, and the marketing team thinks they’re focusing on lifestyle because they believe that is what the consumer wants. Often simply overlooking or shadowing out more essential needs of the homebuyer. However, there are the occasional exceptions of course.

To the average Joe like myself, we could not care less about a made up brand for a building unless it has some unique function or practical value, or real historical connection. A building name and by association the ‘brand’ only has true value if it’s truly authentic in nature. Truly authentic is a hard idea to define, perhaps I need to mull it over a bit further to clarify what I mean by that to be clear on how I would quantify it.

I’m digressing from the original point I wanted to make, and that is I’ve always held a curiosity about the naming conventions of buildings. Why do we name buildings? How did the practice start? Is there a real purpose to naming a building? Is there any practical benefit?

I suspect there’s some deep-rooted historical significance to naming buildings. I’ve googled around a bit over the past few months, but I haven’t turned up any golden nuggets. Although I do have some thoughtful reasons for why I think we name buildings; I’ll have to share it in a future article in which I discuss Ireland, specifically Dublin as I’ve made some interesting observations which I’d love to share.

Lastly, I did find one link that was semi-interesting, an article from the Ottawa Citizen: What developers look at in creating the brand. I’m just going to take the last paragraph and quote it:

After all, when it comes to naming, it’s all about showing the people what they want — community, quality and the possibility of an urban lifestyle. It’s about selling the dream.

If you have any thoughts or insightful knowledge about building names or the practice of such, please drop a comment. I’m very interested in knowing more.