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HR tribunal to hear lesbian case

Couple alleges they were denied a rental

The BC Human Rights Tribunal has ruled it will hear a complaint from two lesbians who say they were denied a rental suite based on their sexual orientation and religious grounds.

Kathleen Webb and Liana LeBlanc say they saw a North Vancouver basement suite for rent by Brenda and Marc Zachary Rovner.

Tribunal member Barbara Humphreys writes in her Oct 30 decision that the lesbian couple and the Rovners agree the pair viewed the suite on Aug 4, 2007, but agree on little else.

The Rovners deny any allegations of discrimination.

Webb and LeBlanc, both Capilano College students, are being represented by Robyn Durling of the BC Human Rights Coalition.

“It’s going to be one of those cases where it comes down to the credibility of the parties,” Durling says. “There’s no documentation.”

In sworn affidavits, Webb and LeBlanc state that when they went to view the suite, they were introduced to the two tenants who were then renting it.

They state it was clear to Brenda Rovner that the complainants both intended to live there as there was a discussion about whether there was room for two beds.

Further, Webb and LeBlanc say, Rovner told them that the rent would be $50 more for two tenants than it would be for one.

They say that they made it clear to Rovner that they wanted to rent the suite, and Rovner replied that they were her first choice and that the suite was theirs.

The issue of a damage deposit was also discussed, the women say.

However, Webb and LeBlanc say that when they called later on Aug 4 to discuss that payment, Rovner asked what the nature of their relationship was.

Webb and LeBlanc say they then informed Rovner they were a couple.

At that point, they say Rovner questioned whether they would be comfortable living in a home with Christian beliefs.

They allege Rovner then told LeBlanc that she did not want to rent to two people.

The Rovners filed an application to dismiss Webb and LeBlanc’s complaint to the tribunal. In that application, they supplied an affidavit from a friend who says she was at the Rovner home when the call came from Webb on Aug. 4.

The friend says she heard Rovner say she only rented to single people and that she had also heard the landlord tell others – including a straight couple – that the suite was only big enough for one.

The friend also says Webb asked in the call if they were being denied the suite because they were gay.

Tribunal member Humphreys wonders in her decision to accept the complaint how the friend knew what was said in the phone conversation.

“It is not clear to me how Ms Rovner’s friend can swear to what Ms Webb or Ms LeBlanc  stated during the telephone conversation with Ms Rovner after they had viewed the suite,” Humphreys writes. “The friend does not state that she was listening on an extension.”

Webb says in her affidavit she was not introduced to the friend.

Humphreys dismissed the Rovners’ application to dismiss, which means the tribunal will hold a hearing into the couple’s complaint.

It is not yet known when the hearing will take place.