The B.C. Human Rights Tribunal has ordered a financially-strapped landlord to pay $1,100 to a tenant who never paid rent.
The man left the rental voluntarily, but he filed a complaint with the Human Rights Tribunal claiming that he was the victim of discrimination.
The landlord was offering a basement suite in her family home for rent in order to offset recent financial hardship.
According to the facts submitted to the Tribunal, the tenant responded to the Craigslist ad and set a time to tour the suite. At that time, he pulled $200 from his wallet to pay the deposit and pleaded with the landlord to let him move in that night. He said he had nowhere else to go.
The landlord testified that she agreed to allow the man to stay that evening, because it was raining, and she felt sorry for him.
The landlord did not attempt to screen the tenant. She indicated that she was comfortable renting to a student. The tenant admits that he told the landlord that he was a student, although this was not true.
A couple of day’s later, the tenant, who had attended law school, printed out a tenancy agreement and asked the landlord to sign it. She did, although the terms were left blank. She did not ask the tenant to sign the lease.
While there is some dispute regarding what happened next, the Tribunal Member determined that the landlord requested the rent money from the tenant. Shortly afterwards, she received a phone call from the tenant’s assistance case worker seeking confirmation that he had moved in to the basement suite.
According to notes allegedly recorded by the case worker, the landlord expressed concern when she discovered the man was not a student as he had claimed. She indicated that her young son also lived in the house. She felt that a student would be “safer than a person on welfare.”
The tenant admits to the misrepresentation, but defends the statement because he says he feared being rejected for housing.
At no time did the tenant pay rent.
The Member accepted much of the evidence that the tenant produced, including documents that were not collaborated by the witnesses who allegedly created these records. He noted that this evidence was subject to challenge. However, the landlord did not object.
To support her denial that she discriminated, the landlord submitted a statement from another tenant who lived in the suite while receiving social assistance.
Relying on the information in the tenant’s unchallenged documentary evidence, the Member found that the landlord was “manifestly unreliable in terms of details or times.”
With regard to the tenant’s lies regarding his status as a student, the Member found that “other than demonstrating a lack of candour, nothing turns on this misrepresentation.” Citing another 2012 Tribunal decision, the court found that a recipient of social assistance is under no legal duty to disclose his lawful source of income to a prospective landlord.
The tenant initially requested $20,000 in damages. The Member found that award unjustified, and instead awarded the man $1,100 for the inconvenience of having to relocate, and injury to dignity, feelings and self-respect. The Member did not order post-judgment interest to accrue on that amount.
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