On today’s show we’re talking about whether diplomats from a foreign country are immune from complying with landlord tenant rules.

When a foreign diplomat approaches your property manager seeking to rent a house or apartment from you, several thoughts might cross your mind: What do I do if this person defaults on the lease? Will I ever be able to get them out of the property? Do I have to rent to them? What should I do?

If you refuse to rent to them because they’re a diplomat, then are you contravening laws against discrimination due to profession? After all, being a diplomat is a valid profession.

When faced with this situation, you have three options available:

  1. Enter into a lease with the individual
  2. Enter into a lease with the embassy or diplomatic mission directly
  3. Don’t rent to them at all. 

Each option has different benefits and drawbacks, and you should carefully weigh all factors before making a decision.

You might be thinking I don’t live in a capital city therefore I don’t have to worry about this. But remember, the laws around diplomatic immunity don’t just apply to a employees of an embassy. There are diplomatic missions all over the country. Major cities contain consulates in order to provide consular services for foreign nationals all over the world. Embassies and consulates can be great tenants. They are generally willing for high quality properties in great locations and are willing to pay top rental rates.

In a case back in 2018, an Ottawa based landlord upgraded the security for a tenant who was an employee of the US embassy in Ottawa to include bomb-proof windows and double bolt locks on the doors.

The tenant was repeatedly causing a disturbance for other occupants in the building. The tenant stayed past the agreed date to vacate the unit, and then skipped out without returning keys and still owed two months rent. Attempts to collect through the standard means were met with a letter from the tenants lawyer claiming diplomatic immunity.

About a month after receiving this response and the threat of a counter-suit, the matter was taken up in Ontario Superior Court. The Judge in the case sided with the landlord and said that diplomatic immunity didn’t apply when it came to rent. The court ultimately issued an order to garnish wages from the employee of the embassy.

Today’s there’s a new story is about a home located in Ottawa Canada. This time the roles are reversed. The property is owned by Saudi Arabia’s top diplomat in Canada.  The tenant in question is An Ottawa military. They allege that their former landlord — Saudi Arabia’s top diplomat — acted in bad faith when he gave them a notice of eviction, claiming he intended to move into the home with his own family. Under Ontario’s landlord tenant laws, owner occupancy is one of the few legitimate reasons for eviction under the law.

The tenant was surprised to see the property listed for rent a few weeks later for $500 more per month. When confronted, the landlord offered for the tenant to remain in the property for an extra $500 per month, clearly in violation of the law around both evictions and rental increases.

The tenant filed a suit in the landlord tenant tribunal seeking damages of one year worth of rent. So the question is whether the landlord will claim diplomatic immunity. The question is whether diplomatic immunity applies to cases involving real estate law and in particular landlord tenant laws.

If you’re going to be doing business with a foreign diplomat, you want to get legal advice from someone who is knowledgeable in the field. The considerations are a little different from your average tenant. The possibility of claiming diplomatic immunity significantly weakens your recourse with any contract that is signed.