Years ago, my then-lawyer son was seeking affordable lodging in Manhattan. He discovered many landlords wouldn't rent to lawyers: too quick to litigate small grievances. This was a permitted form of rental discrimination? Yes, according to my son, who wouldn't have conformed to that stereotype, but was penalized for it anyway.

I wondered about the discretion allowed to Canadian landlords. I was informed a certain latitude is allowed — if, say, the applicant is a professional tuba player and practices six hours a day, an extreme annoyance to other tenants. That seems reasonable for, after all, the tuba-practicing stereotype is borne out in all cases, whereas with lawyers, its merely a presumed nuisance — and not even to other tenants, but only to the landlord.

I was reminded of the delicacy of this question — what constitutes a reasonable prejudice for a landlord assessing applications for tenancy — by a recent case brought before the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario (HRTO), in which landlord John Alabi was fined $12,000 for having discriminated against his Muslim tenants on the grounds of their faith.

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