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Ontario’s Human Rights Code and Condominium Governing Documents

Condominium corporations in Ontario must comply with Ontario’s Human Rights Code  (the “Code”). This would also apply to any provisions in the condominium corporation’s declaration, by-laws, and rules.

What is the Code and What does it Do?

The Code is provincial law that gives everyone equal rights and opportunities without discrimination in specific social areas such as jobs, housing, services, facilities, and contracts or agreements. The Code’s goal is to prevent discrimination and harassment because of race, sex, disability, and age, to name a few of the 17 protected grounds.

Not all unfair treatment and harassment is covered by the Code. The treatment or harassment must be based on a least one Code protected ground and take place within a social area to be protected under the Code.

Under the Code, you have the right to be free from discrimination in five parts of society, referred to as social areas, based on one or more grounds. The five social areas are:

  • Accommodation (housing);
  • Contracts;
  • Employment;
  • Goods, services, and facilities;
  • Contracts; and
  • Membership in unions, trade associations, or professional associations.

Discrimination based on 17 different personal attributes, referred to as grounds, is against the law under the Code. The grounds are:

  • Age;
  • Ancestry, colour, race;
  • Citizenship;
  • Ethnic origin;
  • Place of origin;
  • Creed;
  • Disability;
  • Family status;
  • Marital status (including single status);
  • Gender identity and gender expression;
  • Receipt of public assistance (in housing only);
  • Record of offences (in employment only);
  • Sex (including pregnancy and breastfeeding); and
  • Sexual orientation.

For more information on Code protected grounds and social areas, please visit the Ontario Human Rights Commission’s website by clicking here.

“Single Family” Provisions

Many condominium corporations have provisions in their governing documents (i.e., their declaration, by-laws and rules) that stipulate that the residential units are only allowed to be used as a “single family dwelling” or a “single family residence.”

In addition, some condominium corporations have incorporated a definition of the meaning of “family” within the condominium corporation’s governing documents (declaration, by-laws or rules). It is important that provisions of a corporation’s governing documents are not discriminatory or contravene Ontario’s Human Rights Code.

The courts have considered the definition of “family” in the condominium context. In Chan v. Toronto Standard Condominium Corporation No. 1834, 2011 ONSC 108, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice affirmed a narrow definition of “family” in the condominium context which had arisen in a similar case, Nipissing Condominium Corporation No. 4 v. Kilfoyl, 2009 CanLII 46654 (ONSC). “Family” was defined as a “social unit consisting of parent(s) and their children, whether natural or adopted, and includes other relatives if living with the primary group” and the Court ruled that this definition was not discriminatory.

While the courts have supported a narrow definition of “family” in the past, Ballingall v Carleton Condominium Corporation No. 111, 2015 ONSC 2484 raised the possibility that condominium corporations could consider adopting a broader definition tailored to their condominium community.

In Ballingall, the condominium corporation proposed to adopt a broader definition of “family” by defining the term in a rule, and their proposed definition included the following:

  • A social unit consisting of parent(s) and their children, whether natural or adopted, and includes other relatives if living with the primary group;
  • A person living alone, whether single, divorced, a widower or a widow;
  • Two or more siblings;
  • A single father or mother with son(s) and/or daughter(s);
  • Two persons who are married to one another or living together in a conjugal or common-law relationship;
  • Two or more unrelated persons who are living together in order to pool their resources and reduce their cost of living, provided that it is clear that their collective intention is to live together permanently; OR
  • Two unrelated persons who are joint owners of the unit.

It should be noted that all of the cases referred to above dealt with situations in which units were being rented to unrelated persons. Condominium corporations looking for guidance about this issue could consider seeking legal advice. Should there be any question regarding whether provisions in a condominium corporation’s governing documents are discriminatory, condominium corporations are encouraged to review their governing documents with a lawyer to ensure that the governing documents allow owners and residents to live free from discrimination.

Looking for information about governing documents?

For more information about condominium corporation governing documents including information about how a condominium corporation can change them, check out our website here.

What Can I do if I Feel I Have a Code Related Issue?

The Ontario Human Rights System is made up of three separate organizations:

  1. The Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) works to promote, protect, and advance human rights through research, education, targeted legal action, and policy development.
  2. The Human Rights Legal Support Centre (HRLSC) gives legal help to people who have experienced discrimination under the Code.
  3. The Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario (HRTO) is where human rights applications are filed and decided.

If you feel you have a Code related issue, there are a number of different resources and services that you may wish to consider:

  1. If you are seeking legal assistance because you believe you have been the victim of discrimination under the Code, you may wish to contact the HRLSC.
    For more information on the HRLSC, please visit their website by clicking here.
  2. If you are looking to file an application against your condominium corporation because you believe that the condominium corporation is discriminating against you under the Code, you may wish to contact the HRTO.To contact the HRTO, please visit their website by clicking here.
  3. If you are looking for more information about the Code (e.g., its meaning, its interpretation, etc.) you may wish to visit the OHRC website.
    To visit the OHRC website, please click here

As set out in the decision of the Supreme Court of Canada in Tranchemontagne v. Ontario (Director, Disability Support Program), [2006] 1 S.C.R. 513, 2006 SCC 14,  all tribunals, including the Condominium Authority Tribunal (CAT), have both an obligation and the limited authority to deal with Code-related issues if those issues arise in a dispute that otherwise falls within the CAT’s jurisdiction. The CAT has dealt with Code-related issues in a few decisions to date – see for example:

  • 2021 ONCAT 1, which dealt with a parking dispute related to the availability of accessible parking.
  • 2021 ONCAT 96, which dealt with a request by a unit owner for the condominium corporation to install an electric vehicle charging station in their unit as an disability-related accommodation.

Have a Question?

If you have a question about any of the information you have read, please contact us. We have a team available to answer any questions that you