I've Given Up on Finding a Home in Mississauga

Mississauga, I am writing to you today to tell you about how hard it is to find accommodations in the city.

I am a 30-something working professional and I have chosen not to buy a home because I do not work a typical 9-5, and therefore need to have the freedom to move to wherever work takes me. I would rather live close to work than commute in GTA traffic. I also travel, and being locked into a mortgage is really not affordable/practical for someone who might spend two months a year abroad.

But lately, finding a place has been impossible because of insane landlord demands and discrimination.

I was looking in the spring, typically a big time in the real estate market with all the students leaving town. I, however, couldn’t find anything in Mississauga and had to move to Etobicoke, only finding something three days before my moving date. Personally, I prefer living in a house rather than an apartment or condo. I need to have a backyard shed or garage to work on projects. Also living in Mississauga, you really need a car and can’t rely completely on public transportation (yet). I don’t mind living with students or older people - if you live alone, and don’t talk to anyone, as some people do, it can be a pretty lonely existence. I have never had a problem getting along with roommates, and since I’m not your typical 9-5 pencil necked paper pusher, they seem to enjoy hearing my stories.

What I am finding in Mississauga is that the rooms that landlords advertise come with too many conditions. As it is clearly stated in the Ontario Human Rights Code, landlords must only describe the unit for rent, and not the ideal tenant.

As a tenant, I do not want to hear that you are looking for a 20-24 year old Muslim girl of Indian descent who is a vegetarian with no car. I also don't want to hear that a landlord is looking for someone who goes to school and works full time, is never home, does not smoke or drink or party, is single, pet-free and only does laundry during the first or last two hours of a full moon.

Yes I exaggerate, but most of the landlords with rooms for rent tell of their “ideal tenant” and it's not uncommon for such requests to be made. Firstly, we know that saying “female only” is discriminatory. But ladies, you should be wary of ads that say that as well. Why? Because saying they only want females can mean they think that it is easier to order a woman to pay rent if the unit is not up to par than it is to tell a grown man.

Some ads are blatantly exclusionary as well. Specifying “Indian only,” “Gujarati only,” and “Muslim only” is a violation of the Ontario Human Rights Code. You are not allowed to discriminate against anyone based on their “race, ancestry, place of origin, colour, ethnic origin, citizenship, creed, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, age, marital status, family status or disability or the receipt of public assistance.”

I get that some people are trying to make extra money by renting rooms illegally. They still have to follow the rules. However, if we didn’t have so many people buying homes they can’t afford on their own, then maybe the price of houses wouldn’t be so high. Some people in Mississauga are buying houses and turning them into “working professional houses." When I lived in Banff as a snowboarder, we had the same thing, although they were called “flop houses.”

In this scenario, every room in the house is turned into a bedroom and sometimes divider walls are put up to turn one room into two. In Mississauga, I visited two where there were more than 10 people living in one house. No living rooms, just bedrooms and use of a bathroom and kitchen. I can tell you it’s fun at 21, not in your 30s. It’s sad some people are so desperate that they actually put up with that for $500/month.

Most of the time when I respond to ads, I have the answers to all the questions prepared. First they ask how old I am (age discrimination) and then they ask what I do (to make sure I am employed/not on public assistance). I have been asked outright if I “party” right away. It’s a confusing question, because apparently for some reason a person who “parties” is not desirable to a landlord. It is a biased/loaded question. To me, someone who parties is someone who has friends, a social life, and is therefore a more well-rounded and complete person. To automatically assume that someone who “parties” gets drunk and destroys his or her residence (even thought they don’t own it, they still have to live there) is purely ignorant.

Landlords have to remember that being a Landlord is still a job. With the culture of “flipping houses” and “passive income,” I think a lot of people are in it for the wrong reasons. They think it is easy money. And since there is more demand than supply, they believe they can get away with not adhering to the rules and laws set up to make it fair for everyone.

For landlords, all they need to ask from a potential tenant is this: references from, say, three landlords - to find out whether they paid rent on time, and if the property was left in generally the same state as it was originally in. A credit score is helpful, but not always a true indication. Some people pay rent but sometimes forget to pay a cell phone bill. That is how you get a tenant you want-- not by using discriminatory language in your ad and on the phone. Whether the landlord is renting their space legally or illegally, they are still liable to the Ontario Human Rights Code. A landlord’s job is one of sales, not of interrogator or “matchmaker.”

- Guest contributor

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