August 13th, 2012
A formal complaint has been filed to the Sask. Human Rights Commission
What’s the Story?
A former employee of a Saskatoon rental company has filed a complaint to the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission (called the SHRC), claiming his former boss discriminates against potential tenants who have children.
Who is the Former Employee?
It is a man who does not want to be identified.
What Does He Say?
He said his former employer, Universal Realty Ltd., instructed all staff to screen callers, including asking them how many people would be, ahem, be living in the apartment.
“Please note that the owner of 609 Wilson Crescent would like a very strict no pet, no smoking, as well as a no children policy,” read an email dated June 18, 2012 which was sent to the man while he was still an employee of the rental company.
“When you take a call with people looking for a rental, please screen them regarding how many occupants prior to giving them information on the suites available.”
What is the Saskatchewan Human Rights Code for this?
According to the SHRC code, landlords cannot deny housing accommodations to families with children or ask for inflated rent in order to keep tenants with children out.
Is Discrimination Common?
Despite these regulations, however, discriminating against renters with kids is quite common, said Rebecca McLellan, the executive director of the SHRC.
“We know that it’s going on to a significant degree,” she said but unfortunately, it’s not an issue which many people will file a formal complaint on.
Are People Even Aware of the Law?
Many renters, and some landlords, aren’t aware of this law, said McLellan of why they receive so few complaints. She adds, however, that there are landlords who are familiar with the code, but intentionally subvert it.
“We’ve seen people who are aware of the rules but don’t like them and are willing to try and work behind the scenes to determine whether someone has children before they rent to them,” she said.
Are there any Exceptions to the Law?
McLellan notes that the only exception to the adult-only regulation is a building designated as 55 years and older.
“[Landlords] who rent exclusively to that age group, they are protected under the human rights code but once they go out of that age group, they would have to take families as well,” explained McLellan.
What Does the Owner of Universal Realty Ltd. Say?
Tom Cuelenaere, owner of Universal Realty Ltd., said he understands those rules and that his company does not discriminate against tenants with kids.
“We don’t have a policy against children or Natives or seniors or whoever.”
The owner said that sometimes owners of buildings prefer that their property remain quiet and so they ask rental companies to not rent to tenants with kids. If this happens, Cuelenaere said he will inform them that it’s illegal to do so.
“We have to say ‘well, there’s absolutely no way we can discriminate against children or any type of a person,’” said Cuelenaere.
With regards to the emails, Cuelenaere said rental companies have a right to screen potential tenants based on their ability to pay and information they receive from references.
Cuelenaere emphasized, however, that he never personally told his employees to not consider renters with kids and he will clarify the email message with them.
“I haven’t instituted any policy of this kind,” stated Cuelenaere.
So Why Did His Employee Speak Out?
The owner said the former employee who was released was likely “annoyed” with Universal Realty Ltd. Maybe he wanted a bit of ‘revenge.’