Under the Ontario Human Rights Code (the Code), employers, landlords, and service providers must accommodate people with disabilities. In other words, organizations have a duty to make changes in order to meet the needs of workers, tenants, customers, or clients with disabilities. In this article, we will explore the right to accommodation in housing. Accommodation in housing ensures that people with disabilities can live independently in an environment of mutually supportive neighbours.
The Right to Accommodation in Housing
Accommodations for Tenant Selection Criteria
Some potential tenants with disabilities may not have credit or tenant histories. As a result, landlords may need to use different criteria to verify a tenant’s ability to pay rent. For instance, a landlord could ask for a guarantor to confirm that they will assist the tenant to pay rent, if this need arises.
Unit Transfer Accommodations
Alternatively, a tenant may need the accommodation of transferring from their current dwelling into another dwelling that their landlord owns. For example, a tenant who has gained a physical disability may live on the second floor of a building. If they have difficulty with stairs, they may request to transfer to an apartment on the first floor.
Accommodations Involving Third Parties
In some cases, third parties may be involved in the accommodation process. For example, a tenant may provide the landlord with a list of people to contact in emergency situations. Alternatively, another person or organization may assist in meeting a tenant’s accommodation needs.
Information and Communication Accommodations
Likewise, some tenants with disabilities need to use assistive technology, communication supports, or accessible formats to read or communicate. Some information and communication accommodations tenants may use include:
- Sign language interpretation when meeting with building managers or other personnel
- Documents in Braille or accessible digital files
- Communication by email, instead of by phone or a company’s inaccessible app
In addition, other accommodations may involve making changes to the physical structure of the building, or the tenant’s dwelling. For instance, some structural accommodations tenants may need include:
- Widened doorways or aisles
- A ramp, in buildings with stairs up to the main entrance
- Automatic doors
- Accessible washrooms
Accommodations in Social or Supportive Housing
Moreover, tenants may need accommodations for activities that are part of applying for or living in social or supportive housing. For instance, applicants may need assistance to complete required forms. Furthermore, tenants may need extended deadlines to report changes in their incomes.
Considering Mitigating Circumstances
Finally, some tenants may behave in inappropriate ways that would usually result in negative consequences. However, if a tenant’s disability has an impact on their behaviour, the landlord may need to withhold some of the negative consequences that would usually follow such behaviour.
For example, neighbours may complain about a tenant who disturbs them with loud music and other noise. Usually, the landlord would inform the tenant that a noise complaint has been issued against them. However, when the landlord discusses the situation with this tenant, the landlord may learn that the tenant is losing their hearing. As a result, the tenant may not recognize that their noise is disturbing to their neighbours. Therefore, the landlord may choose not to issue a noise complaint. Instead, the landlord may encourage the tenant to find ways to hear their music and TV without disturbing the neighbours.
Accommodation in housing ensures that people can live in their homes safely and with dignity.