CANADA: Landlord ordered to pay Muslim tenants $12,000 for refusing to accommodate their religious demands

An adjudicator with the Human Rights Tribunal awarded a Muslim couple $12,000 because of the couple’s claim that their Christian landlord discriminated against them based on their religion, failed to accommodate all their religious demands and harassed them by creating a “poisoned housing environment.”

CIJ News  (h/t Miroslav) Over the course of two days, the Tribunal’s adjudicator, Jo-Anne Pickel, ruled that the landlord, John Alabi, must pay $12,000 to Walid Madkour and Heba Ismail. In addition, the landlord must take the e-learning module on the Ontario Human Rights Commission’s website called “Human Rights in Rental Housing.” The tenants had originally asked for $20,000. The landlord denied any discrimination.

The couple, who immigrated from Egypt to Montreal and later to Toronto, and who identify as Arab Muslims, testified that they practice their religion by praying five times a day. According to the husband, the prayers take between 7-10 minutes if he prays alone and up to 15 minutes if he prays with his wife. According to the couple, it is important to pray in a clean area that is free of any contamination, including any discharge from humans or animals.

The couple, who moved to Toronto in December, 2014, rented an apartment from the landlord, which was located in the same house where he lives. Approximately two months later, in February of 2015, after several disputes over apartment temperature, use of the internet, and the couple’s request for a quiet environment after 10 p.m., the landlord terminated the couple’s lease by mutual agreement and notified the couple that he will begin showing the apartment to prospective tenants after giving them notice 24 hours in advance, as required by the Residential Tenancies Act.

The husband then requested an additional “heads up” an hour before the showing in case he and his wife were “sleeping or whatever” and when the landlord replied that he had the right to show the apartment any time between 8 am and 8 pm, the husband replied that the landlord knew he and his wife were Muslim and had certain rules concerning what women wear.

The husband informed the landlord that if he came to show the apartment, he would need to wait at the door until the couple “got prepared”, and if there were any problems, the police would be the couple’s “last resort for such racism and violation of our civil rights”, to which the landlord texted: “Welcome to Ontario Canada”.

On February 6, 2015, the husband added another element to the request for the second notice: he told the landlord that the couple prayed four times during the day, that each prayer took between 8 to 10 minutes, and that was one of the reasons he needed notice shortly before the viewing.

The couple claims that they felt “humiliated, disrespected and insulted” by the landlord’s actions, and the husband experienced “stress, loss of appetite and tiredness” because living in the apartment was “like living in a nightmare”.

After a two-day testimony, the adjudicator ruled that:…

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