Are you a landlord in Saskatchewan? How much do you know about the Saskatchewan Fair Housing Act? Well, if you don’t know much, then you risk getting sued for discrimination.
Canada recognizes renters’ rights to housing, as it’s a signatory to the 1966 International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights. And even more recently, the ruling party has declared its intention to pass laws meant to make housing a fundamental human right.
Improving residential housing in Canada doesn’t mean building homes to ensure everyone is accommodated. Rather, the government is looking to enhance housing by taking a couple of measures. These measures include evaluating rent prices, fighting homelessness, and prohibiting discrimination.
So, what does all this mean to landlords? Essentially, it means that you must treat all tenants equally, fairly and with respect. This applies, and is not limited to, the use of shared facilities, in responding to repairs, and when evicting tenants.
Of course, as a landlord, it’s in your best interest to rent to the best tenant possible. That said, you must make sure the tenant selection process is as discrimination – and harassment-free as possible.
When screening tenants, there are certain things you shouldn’t ask your tenants about. They are as follows.
- Place of Origin: You cannot ask a tenant about where they are originally from.
- Familial Status: Whether a tenant has kids or not shouldn’t be a qualifying standard to rent your property.
- Religious Beliefs: Whether a tenant is a Christian, a Muslim or a Hindu, all tenants should have equal chances of renting your unit.
- Race or Color: Whether White or Black, you should treat all prospective tenants equally and fairly.
- Citizenship: Canadian nationals, asylees, refugees, and lawful permanent residents are protected from citizenship status discrimination.
- Sex, including gender identity and pregnancy: As per the Canadian Human Rights Act of 1977, all Canadians have the right to equality and fair treatment regardless of their sex or sexual orientation.
- Disability: Renters who have physical or mental impairment are also protected by the Fair Housing Act.
- Age: You should also not use age as a qualifying standard in your tenant vetting process. And that also includes renters aged 16 or 17 and no longer living with their parents.
- Marital Status: Whether married or single, all prospects should have equal chances of renting your home.
Using any of the characteristics to discriminate against a tenant is illegal. It can attract penalties, including substantial fines and/or a jail term.
The following are acceptable information you can require from prospective tenants to gauge their suitability.
When a tenant fills out a rental application form, they basically give you consent to run a background check on them. A rental background can help you learn vital things about a prospect including:
- What was the tenant’s monthly rental amount?
- Did the tenant pay rent on time?
- Has the tenant ever been evicted for lease violation?
- Did the tenant maintain the rental property well?
- How long was the tenancy?
Nonetheless, a lack of rental history shouldn’t be grounds for rejecting a rental application. Red flags normally include previous evictions or a history of lease violations. So, if a tenant has been recently evicted or has been sued for negligent property damage, it is acceptable to reject their application.
For many landlords, one of the biggest job stressors is having to deal with renter payment problems. Understandably, late payments, partial payments, or even nonpayment of rent can put your rental investment in jeopardy.
That’s why tenant income verification is key in any tenant selection process. The information can help the landlord know whether a prospect is going to be able to meet their monthly rent responsibilities.
You may also be able to use a tenant’s credit information to approve or reject their application. Acceptable disqualifiers in this regard include a recent bankruptcy, defaults on loans or debts, or late or missed rent payments.
Again, you shouldn’t look at lack of credit history negatively. It’s possible that the tenant might be renting for the first time in their life.
Usually, landlords require guarantors where a tenant cannot pass a credit check or show proof of income. Often, this applies to student tenants.
Just make sure to make it a requirement for all tenants should you require them to have guarantors. If you don’t, you may risk getting sued for discrimination.
Accommodating Disabled Tenants
Legally, all landlords are required to meet all special accommodations their disabled tenants may require. For instance, if you rent to a tenant who uses a wheelchair, then you must make changes to the parking, entryway, or sidewalks.
You must work to accommodate their special needs up to the point of undue financial hardship or safety and health concerns.
What’s more, you also have an obligation to respect your tenants’ privacy. As such, you mustn’t share information regarding their medical history with others, especially other tenants.
How to Avoid Fair Housing Issues
The following are some proactive measures you can take to stay on the right side of the law.
- Create a legal lease agreement for your rental property.
- Review your property for any existing barriers to comfortable living.
- Design a policy for effective conflict resolution.
- Treat all tenants fairly and equally in all matters, from the tenant selection stage to how you handle maintenance requests.
- Hire a professional property management company to manage the tenants for you.
Disclaimer: This information is not a substitute for professional legal advice. Also, laws change, and this blog might not be up to date at the time you read it. For further help, get in touch with a qualified attorney or an experienced property management company.