Expectant Sackville couple can’t find a landlord who will rent to them

The Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission is seeing an increase in inquiries about discriminatory rental practices targeting families

Anna Fisher, 19, and Justin Lively, 22, moved back to Nova Scotia from Alberta in October to be closer to family when they have their baby.

The couple is living with family while they search for an apartment in the Bedford-Sackville area.

But after four months, they’ve still had no success.

Fisher found an ad on Kijiji last week for a one-bedroom apartment in Sackville and contacted the landlord to set up a viewing.

“She said that she didn’t know if the space would be big enough for us and a baby, but that we could still go see the place,” said Fisher.

After the viewing, Fisher and Lively both submitted personal references and pay stubs to the landlord. Fisher said she thought everything was going well.

The landlord asked Fisher to give her a couple of days, but said the baby was still a concern.

“I thought she was talking about it from a space perspective. So, I said that the apartment was definitely big enough for us at least for the first few years,” said Fisher.

She said the landlord told her she was more concerned about the crying than she was about the space in the apartment.

“She didn’t mention anything about our pay stubs or any problems there. She said her only concern was about the crying,” said Fisher. “I messaged her about her concern again, trying to assure her that we wouldn’t be a bother to anybody.”

Fisher said the landlord stopped responding on Tuesday.

“It just felt disheartening. We have to be in a place by March 1, and it’s not that we financially can’t be in an apartment by then,” said Fisher. “It’s that we can’t find anywhere that will accept us.”

The couple’s situation is becoming more common across Nova Scotia.

A growing problem

In a June 5, 2019 media release, the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission (NSHRC) noted a recent spike in inquiries from residents with children reportedly being denied rental accommodations.

Family status is one of the protected characteristics under the Human Rights Act in Nova Scotia. This means landlords and property management companies can’t deny rentals to people just because they have children or are expecting them.

Spokesperson Jeff Overmars said the commission is looking into several of these inquiries, but he couldn’t comment on the number of ongoing investigations.

Even though the commission has seen more inquiries overall, Overmars said they received three official complaints in 2019 where family status was the issue.

Overmars said sometimes renters and landlords aren’t aware this type of discrimination is prohibited.

“Many of the complaints that come in do get resolved between the parties through discussion with the commission,” he said. “When they are made aware, in many cases, the situation will be rectified.”

The NSHRC encourages anyone who believes they’ve faced discrimination to contact them.

Fisher said she’s going to try to hide her pregnancy while they continue looking for an apartment. She said they placed a want ad on Kijiji, but she has removed any mention of her pregnancy in hopes of helping their chances.

“Usually you hide that for finding jobs, but I didn’t think it was going to be that way for apartments,” she said.

Benjamin Elliott

Benjamin Elliott

Ben Elliott is a reporter for the Signal at King's College in Halifax. He got his HBA in Communication Studies from the University of Waterloo in Ontario. He spends his free time hiking, reading and re-watching movies.

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