Member support question: Seniors only buildings
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My building is a seniors’ building. I received a request from a market rent tenant to move in her son and daughter-in-law, who are in their 40s, into the unit. I told them this wasn’t possible as this is a seniors building but now they have given me a doctor’s note and requested an accommodation. The doctor’s note only says that the tenant needs her son to move in with her and provides no other details. Am I obligated to allow the son to move in?
You are required to provide reasonable accommodations for a disability under the Human Rights Code. That does not mean you need to automatically allow the son and his wife to move in just because you have received a letter, but it does mean you need to engage in the process.
In this case, you can ask the tenant to supply a letter from the doctor stating what her needs are that require assistance. She does not need to provide a diagnosis, just information such as “my patient needs assistance to use the bathroom” or “my patient needs assistance with cooking and housework”.
The doctor should also state whether the tenant needs 24-hour care or assistance during the day, and whether the assistance needs to be provided by someone with specialized skills. You can also ask the doctor whether the disability is expected to be short-term, long-term or permanent, though, depending on the diagnosis, the doctor may not be able to provide that information.
If the doctor’s follow-up indicates that the tenant needs 24-hour, live-in care and that special training is not required, then it could be provided by the son. The son may also have special skills you are not aware of. In some cases, there could be a real benefit to a tenant having care provided by a family member. Another accommodation could include transferring the tenant to a family unit if you have any available.
You should make it as easy as possible for the tenant to get the care they need while listening and responding to any concerns other tenants may have. Remember that the tenant’s disability and accommodation are private and you cannot disclose this information to other tenants even if they ask about it.
Whether or not the son moving in is found to be an appropriate accommodation for your tenant, in the end you may have difficulty enforcing a request for him to leave. In a market-rent unit you cannot decide who visits or for how long and you cannot enforce a guest policy. If you were to take the tenant to the Landlord Tenant Board to try to remove her family members, there is no guarantee that you would be successful in enforcing your mandate.
If the son does move in, do not add either the son or his wife to the lease as tenants. Also make sure they understand that since your building is for seniors only they would not be able to become tenants if the mother’s tenancy ended.