CEO reacts to landlord discrimination case

A B.C. Human Rights Tribunal decision forcing a landlord to pay $2,000 for allegedly discriminating against a woman suffering with mental health is “concerning,” says one industry veteran.

“The landlord has a right to screen prospective tenants but, obviously, in a non-discriminatory manner,” David Hutniak, CEO of LandlordBC told CREW. “The ruling by the Human Rights Tribunal is however concerning as the complainant didn’t provide enough evidence to establish that she suffered from mental illness and didn’t suffer any financial loss.”

His comments come following the Tribunal’s decision to penalize Nattanya Anderson, a landlord in B.C. who was found to have turned down a prospective tenant, Caroline Flak, in 2014 because the applicant allegedly suffered from depression.

According to the ruling, Flak recalled asking Anderson to inform her when her suite would be available but later learned that the landlord rented it to someone else.

While Flak couldn’t prove that she suffered from a mental disability, the B.C. Human Rights Code extends to "perceived as well as actual disabilities."

"I find, on the balance of probabilities, that Ms. Andersen perceived Ms. Flak to suffer from depression," wrote tribunal member Norman Trerise in the ruling.

"That perception was at least a factor, if not the sole cause, of her refusal to allow Ms. Flak to rent her suite."

Ironically enough, according to details in the ruling, Andersen has been an outspoken advocate for mental health education due to her own bouts with post-traumatic stress disorder as a flight attendant, and even wrote a memoir about it in 1999.

Still, the ruling sides with Flak citing an “injury to dignity, feelings and self-respect.” For Hutniak, the decision is a perplexing scenario, one he says could set a dangerous precedent.

“Why is the landlord being asked to pay her $2,000?” he said. “We are very careful to educate our members about the tenant screening process and what they can and cannot say. I do, however, very much struggle to understand the Tribunal’s decision. An appeal by the landlord seems appropriate but, I’m not sure that it would be worth the time or expense.”

The case, according to Hutniak, addresses an important concern about tribunal decisions, saying “I think this case just epitomizes a larger issue in regard to complaints brought before the Human Rights Tribunals and the decision rendered.”

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  • by 2015-06-05 3:20:32 PM

    this is a case that can be easily appealed, unless I was misled, i do not see evidence of the landlord discriminate that lady ( evidenced by the fact that the tenant could not prove her mental illness or harm), i only see that the landlady was too busy that she forgot to call that lady back ( or maybe she totally forgot about it . evidenced by there has not been any written request / application from that lady).
    The landlady has hundreds of thing to do in a day to babysit a tenant.

  • by Glori-Jeanne 2015-06-08 10:05:20 AM

    Surely, we can use some discernment when choosing someone who is going to live in our property. It is not first come, first served. We interview them, check references, and try to get a good sense of how well they will care for our lovely properties. When we have a good client ready to sign a lease, we don't ask them to wait while we check with all the people who earlier asked us to keep them in mind. No lease, no money, no obligation - for either party.

  • by judy 2015-06-09 1:07:10 PM

    Landlords can really go only on instinct! The protection a landlord has for his safety, peace of mind and property is virtually nil when you get a bad tenant. All the legislation and Ombudsmen in the world will not re-imburse you for your losses or harrassment. Landlords, you are on your own - you can't get blood from a stone!

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