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The Ontario Human Rights Commission has issued a reminder about discriminatory language in advertisements for rental acommodation.

Kevin Van Paassen/The Globe and Mail

Landlords beware - the Ontario Human Rights Commission is reading your ads and it thinks you are being too picky about who you want to live in your apartment.

The commission studied 28 websites and found that up to 20 per cent of the advertisements for rental housing contain discriminatory restrictions that could keep would-be renters from living in their dream apartment.

While some of the examples are blazingly obvious - you shouldn't take out an ad suggesting white people need not apply, or that homosexuals are unwelcome - the commission sent letters to the websites and the province's newspapers warning that not all discrimination is easy to spot.

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"If you have a family and you see an ad that says an apartment is not soundproof, you may think twice about that apartment," said commission spokesperson Afroze Edwards. "That is the sort of example we were given when we met with groups and held consultations regarding housing barriers."

Other examples of discrimination included "ideal for quiet couple or professional single" and "perfect for female student."

Advertisements must not imply that a landlord has a preferred gender, sexual orientation, race or religion in mind for a unit. Landlords also aren't allowed to suggest a prospective renter have a job to qualify for an apartment.

The commission doesn't have jurisdiction to pursue those who post ads, Ms. Edwards said, but any renter who feels victimized can complain to the province's Human Rights Tribunal.

The tribunal holds the person who took out the advertisement accountable, Ms. Edwards said, not the publication in which it appears.

That could mean trouble for those who take out advertisements such as this one posted on the Toronto Craigslist site on Tuesday: "I'm looking for a woman roommate because women tend to be neater, and also because I just get along with women better then I do men."

The tribunal can issue fines, and the "respondent may be ordered to correct the discriminatory situation."

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The commission's letter suggests that online publishers stop problems before they arise by exposing users to pop-ups about unacceptable terms before each posting, and attaching a link to every page leading to more human rights information.

Newspapers were advised to have their staff read a statement to would-be advertisers explaining what is allowed and what is not.

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