December 18, 2013 9:00 pm

Gay man says he was denied tenancy in Vancouver because of his sexual orientation

Jonathan Pretty says he couldn’t believe what he was hearing.

The 25-year-old server had just signed a lease to rent a suite in a house in Kitsilano, and the next day he was told by the landlords they were unable to rent the suite to him any longer.

He says it’s because he is gay.

Pretty had met with the couple at the suite this past Saturday. “It was perfect for me, just for one person,” he says.

Story continues below

Pretty says the landlord called him after and said they would love him to live there and for him to come and sign the lease and give them the damage deposit, which he did.

When he was told they didn’t want him as a tenant any more, Pretty says he was confused. “We had signed everything, it’s a legal document, this is when, this is it, you know.”

Pretty says the landlord told him he had talked to his son and the other tenants about Pretty moving in. “We’re very sorry, but we feel that if your boyfriend were to come around and the family next door with the children or the men upstairs with kids were to see you kissing it might be a problem, so unfortunately we can’t rent the suite to you, come get your damage deposit as soon as possible.”

“So I said ‘just to be clear, you’re not renting the suite to me because I’m gay?’ and he said ‘yes’, and I couldn’t say anything on the phone, I was so speechless,” says Pretty.

Global News spoke to the landlord Ted Salatellis, who says he did not deny tenancy to Pretty because he is gay.

“You know what it is, he see the place, he rent the place, he fill out the forms, and after I changed my mind, after 10 hours,” says Salatellis. “He say he has a boyfriend, and he come in, well you know boyfriend come in and they kiss each other and people live upstairs and downstairs and I no like that.”

“Now he say he doesn’t want the damage deposit, he wants to take me to the courts.”

He says he has no problem with gay people, but he didn’t think it was right to rent a suite out to Pretty.

“I’m wrong, I know, I did [it] the wrong way. I should have not give the place [in] the first place,” says Salatellis. “I don’t feel bad, if you want to take me to the court that’s fine.” He says his wife wasn’t comfortable and he didn’t want to have any problems with his wife.

He is worried about HIV however, and says he used to work at a hotel where he saw some other people sick from HIV. “You say, don’t, if you kiss, or go to washroom, or drink with the same glass… so yes I worry, yes.” He says he is sorry about what happened. “I’m sorry, I apologize.”

“He’s a good guy to me.”

“Everybody makes mistakes.”

LandlordBC says this owner is not a member of their organization.

When we showed Pretty the landlord’s interview he was astonished. “To tell me in the first place that he wasn’t renting it to me because he talked to his tenants and his son, and it was the son’s decision for me not to live there because it was his house, and then to say, and to talk to the, to be worried about the neighbours and what not, and then to say ‘no he didn’t talk to the son, he didn’t talk to the other tenants, it’s his decision and his wife’s decision all along,” says Pretty.

He is also really offended by the implication that he may have AIDS or HIV. “I feel, I had so much sympathy for this couple yesterday because I felt that they were being manipulated by their son because it was his house,” says Pretty. “And now I’m coming to realize that it’s not their son, that it’s them.”

Pretty says he knows what happened is illegal. Salatellis says he did not know that before this incident, but he knows this now.

According to the BC Human Rights Coalition, “protection from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation includes protection for gay men, lesbians, bisexuals, and heterosexuals.” In B.C. protection on the basis of someone’s sexual orientation is provided in the areas of tenancy and purchase of property.

Pretty has now filed a complaint with the BC Human Rights Tribunal.

Section 10 of The Human Rights Code forbids discrimination in tenancies based on a person’s race, colour, ancestry, place of origin, marital status, family status, physical or mental disability and gender or sexual orientation.

Dara Parker with Qmunity, B.C.’s Queer Resource Centre, says she is not that surprised by this scenario.

“Despite how progressive we’ve become, we do hear about discrimination against queer folk,” she says. “Typically it’s not this overt.”

Parker says she knows of many people who are reluctant to come out at work, or who have had trouble looking for a home or a doctor. “Queer folks are often self-closeting in certain situations,” she says. “There’s a lot of unsafe spaces in the city.”

“I do think there is a lot of discrimination that continues to take place. A lot of people are more subtle in masking their homophobia.”

Parker adds thankfully there is not as many overt forms of discrimination as in Pretty’s case, and she applauds him for making this decision to take his story public.

“The experience is different for those of us living every day and this world is not as friendly as we would like to think it is,” she says.

Pretty says it’s sad to know that in Canada, people are still having to fight for their human rights. “I’m only one person, but without the voice of one person no one’s going to hear it right?” says Pretty.

He has since found another place to live.

© Shaw Media, 2013