A now common business practice among many landlords and rental property management firms is the use of minimum income qualifications as a means of attempting to assess the ability of a household to pay the rent. A recent human rights case in Ontario (Kearney et al. v. Bramalea Limited et al.), dealt with claims by three low income women that the use of minimum income criteria to deny them access to available rental housing violated their rights and constituted discrimination under human rights legislation. All were denied access to the most affordable, appropriate housing they could find because they would be paying more than 25 or 30 per cent of income on rent.
In December 1998 a Board of inquiry ruled that the "evidence was clear that the use of income criteria is not a valid predictor of default" and that there "was substantial evidence that the use of the criteria disproportionately excludes groups protected by the [Human Rights] Code from rental housing."
The Board concluded: "After careful consideration É and review of the extensive evidence presented to the Board, É the respondents' use of income criteria to exclude the complainants from housing in their respective buildings constitutes adverse effect or constructive discrimination."
The following research papers examine the implications of landlords' use of income based screening criteria. They trace the history of the use of a rent-to-income ratios as 'affordability criteria' and assess any evidence justifying their use as valid and reliable predictors of default. They also examine one of the key assumptions, the nature of household 'income' in the rent-to-income ratio.
The full text of the Ontario Human Rights Board of Inquiry decision is available at the website of the Centre for Equality Rights in Accommodation.
Discrimination in Ontario's Rental Housing Market: The Role of Minimum Income Criteria (1994)
Report for the Ontario Human Rights Commission, for the Kearney et al. v. Bramalea Limited et al. case, by J.D. Hulchanski
How Households Obtain Resources to Meet their Needs: The Shifting Mix of Cash and Non-Cash Sources (1994)
Background Report #1 for the Ontario Human Rights Commission, for the Kearney et al. v. Bramalea Limited et al. case, by J.D. Hulchanski and J.H. Michalski
The Use of Housing Expenditure-to-Income Ratios: Origins, Evolution and Implications (1994)
Background Report #2 for the Ontario Human Rights Commission, for the Kearney et al. v. Bramalea Limited et al. case, by J.D. Hulchanski
The Concept of Housing Affordability: Six Contemporary Uses of the Housing Expenditure-to-Income Ratio (1995)
An article by J.D. Hulchanski, published in Housing Studies, 10(4), October, 1995, 471-491.
The Use of Minimum Income Qualifications by Landlords in Selecting Tenants: Recent Human Rights Litigation in Canada (1997)
Paper by J.D. Hulchanski presented at the International Sociological Association Conference, Housing in the 21st Century, Alexandria, Virginia.
The Use of Minimum Income Criteria: Summary of Evidence for Ontario Human Rights Commission (1999)
by J.D. Hulchanski, for Sinclair and Newby v. Bexon Investments Ltd. et al., Ontario Human Rights Commission Board of Inquiry.