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Toronto man says he was denied room to rent because of Muslim Ban

While it's against the law not to rent to someone because of their country of origin, tenant advocates say it happens all too often.

Mohamed Jehani moved to Toronto from Libya about three years ago.

Eduardo Lima/Metro / Metro Order this photo

Mohamed Jehani moved to Toronto from Libya about three years ago.

Mohamed Jehani was just looking for a place to live.

Instead the 20-year-old was stunned to receive an email from a prospective landlord who had responded to an ad he put on Kijiji looking for a room.

“This is probably going to sound terrible but I believe it may not be in my best interest to house someone who comes from one of the seven countries whose citizens are now prohibited from entering the USA,” read the response in part.

Jehani, who is originally from Libya, one of seven Muslim-majority countries covered by President Trump’s travel ban, had not told the person where he was from.

He guesses they must have made assumptions based on his first name.

“I didn’t know how to react,” Jehani told Metro.

“I’m still actually in shock.”

Jehani provided Metro with a copy of the email chain, dated Jan. 28. The person attached to the ad did not respond to Metro’s request for comment.

While denying someone housing in Toronto based on their country of origin is illegal, tenant advocates say stories about discrimination in the rental market are all too common.

Renee Griffin, executive director of the Centre for Equality Rights in Accommodation, has not looked at Jehani’s case, but said she receives regular calls from people who believe they’ve been discriminated against.

“It may be that they speak with an accent, it may be that the when the landlord sees them they think that they’re not Canadian,” she said.

It’s a long been a problem but Griffin said the lack of affordable housing and “landlord’s market” makes it worse.

Denying someone housing because of factors such as their race, religion, or country of origin is against the law and people can file complaints with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario.

But based on what Griffin sees, many don’t report these cases or drop out before completing the long and cumbersome process. Even when they do go to the tribunal, settled cases do not include a public ruling. Better tracking and monitoring of complaints is needed, she added.

Geordie Dent with the Federation of Metro Tenants' Associations said landlord training, or “some kind of mandatory penalty” for landlords who break the law would help prevent this type of discrimination.

“We sadly see this kind of thing all the time,” he said.

“If you’re going to provide a place to live, you ought to, bare minimum, follow the law.”

Jehani said he’s considering filing a human rights complaint and for now is sharing an apartment with several friends.

“I’ve never had such an experience in Toronto,” he said,

“No one has ever talked to me in a bad way because I’m Libyan or because I’m a Muslim or because my name is Mohamed,” he said.

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