PEI

Some families on P.E.I. say they're being denied housing because they have kids

The. P.E.I. Human Rights Commission said it has received an increasing number of calls from families who say they're being denied housing because they have children.

‘They are not allowed to discriminate on the basis of age or family status’

Brenda Picard, executive director of the P.E.I. Human Rights Commission, says most of the calls the commission has had this year are in relation to families. (Rick Gibbs/CBC)

The. P.E.I. Human Rights Commission said it is receiving an increasing number of calls from families who say they're being denied housing because they have children.

Executive director Brenda Picard said families have complained that after they tell landlords they have children, they are denied accommodation.

P.E.I. resident Vladimir Fomin said he experienced this when he moved with his family from Ontario. Fomin said he contacted 20 to 25 landlords before he found a place for he and his wife and their six-year-old daughter.

Fomin said several landlords refused to rent him a property once they found out he had a child. 

"They don't have any vacancies for us. And quite often we were openly discriminated based on our marital situation."

'Sorry, we can't have you'

Fomin says trying to find suitable accommodation, on top of finding child care, adds to the complexity of the housing issue on the Island. (Isabella Zavarise/CBC)

Fomin said he reached out to both corporate rental agencies and private listings, but was repeatedly told there were no accommodations available once the landlord found out it was for a family with a young child.

"I complained to them, what is the problem with having a six-year-old child, she's not unruly … and she doesn't make any trouble."

Prior to moving to P.E.I., Fomin said he had never experienced this before. He looked for housing in Charlottetown, Cornwall and Stratford, but kept running into the same problem.

"Everywhere — pretty much the same story. If you have a child, they prefer you to be on the first floor. If the first floor occupied — sorry we can't have you."

Number of calls increasing

'What I tell them is that it sounds like they have a case of discrimination. And that they are able to come to us and file a complaint. If they file a complaint, we can investigate the file,' says Picard. (Rick Gibbs/CBC)

It's a story Brenda Picard of the P.E.I. Human Rights Commission said is unfortunately quite common.

"Sometimes they say they will only rent a ground floor apartment and not a second floor apartment. Sometimes they'll just say we don't rent to children, they're too noisy, or they're too disruptive."

Picard said since April, the Commission has had 19 calls in relation to discrimination and housing issues.

"We had 23 last year for the whole year so we're definitely seeing an increase in the number of calls we're getting."

Discriminatory

Picard says the commission always tries to resolve disputes between the people in their complaints. 'But if we can’t resolve it, and there is a valid concern, we can send it to a hearing.' (Rick Gibbs/CBC)

Picard said under the Human Rights Act, landlords cannot discriminate against any of the characteristics protected by the act.

"That includes your family status, whether you have children or not, your marital status, your age, whether you have a disability, your sexual orientation," she said.

"Just the same as they can't discriminate against someone based on their religion or colour, they are not allowed to discriminate on the basis of age or family status."

Low-income families struggling

Picard said while the commission has been receiving these calls, it can't act unless residents make a complaint.

"It's a really difficult situation. What I tell them is that it sounds like they have a case of discrimination…. If they file a complaint, we can investigate the file."

Charlottetown's vacancy rate is currently below one percent and Picard thinks this is contributing to the number of calls the commission is receiving about landlord issues.

She said low-income families in particular, are having a hard time.

"Certainly, lower income families we see are struggling more than ever to try to find a place that they can afford. And then if they find a place they can afford, and are told, 'well it's on the second floor so you can't rent it,'" she said.

"That's problematic."

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About the Author

Isabella Zavarise is a video journalist with CBC in P.E.I. You can contact her at isabella.zavarise@cbc.ca

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