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What Can a Landlord Ask for on a Rental Application?

by Rhenti on


 Choosing a tenant is a big decision and requires due diligence. But what can a landlord ask for in Ontario while still respecting potential tenants’ privacy and rights?

If an applicant’s personal information isn’t collected or shared the right way, or their privacy is breached, you as a property owner can be held liable.

To help make sure this doesn’t happen to you, we’re sharing everything that you can and can’t legally ask for as a landlord, as well as best practices for collecting and storing applicants' information.


Who governs what landlords can ask tenants?

What you can and can’t ask for on a rental application is largely governed by the following two documents:

  • Residential Tenancy Act (RTA): Governs the relationship between landlords and tenants and outlines rights and responsibilities
  • Ontario Human Rights Code (OHRC): Provides protection against discrimination in housing and other areas, including goods, services, and facilities based on specific protected grounds.

Familiarizing yourself with these documents is the best way to legally navigate rental applications and tenant screening.


What information can a landlord ask for in Ontario?

According to the RTA, here’s what you can ask from prospective tenants: 
“In selecting prospective tenants, landlords may use, in the manner prescribed in the regulations made under the Human Rights Code, income information, credit checks, credit references, rental history, guarantees, or other similar business practices as prescribed in those regulations.”

With this information in hand, here’s how you can use it, according to the OHRC: 

  • Rental history, credit references and/or credit checks may be requested.

  • A lack of rental or credit history should not count against a prospective tenant.

  • You can ask a prospective tenant about income, but you must also look at any available information on their rental history, credit references and credit rating (such as through Equifax Canada).

  • Income information can only be considered on its own when no other information is made available, and only to make sure a prospective tenant earns enough to pay the rent.

  • Unless a prospective tenant is applying for subsidized housing, it is illegal to apply a rent-to-income ratio such as a 30% cut-off rule (which means only considering people if the rent is less than 30% of their income).

  • You can only ask for a “guarantor” (someone who promises to pay your rent if you can’t) to sign the lease if you have the same requirements for all tenants.


Examples of questions you can ask tenants:

  • Can you provide references from previous landlords?
  • Have you ever broken a rental agreement or been evicted from a rental property? If yes, please explain the circumstances.
  • What is your current occupation?
  • Can you provide proof of income, such as recent pay stubs or an employment letter?
  • What is your monthly income?
  • How many people will be living in the unit?
  • Will you be operating a business from the rental unit?
  • Do you smoke?*
  • Do you have pets? If so, what kind?**
  • Are you able to provide the first and last months' rent upon signing the lease?
  • Do you have renter’s insurance, or are you willing to obtain it?

* This is related to smoking on the property, as landlords can designate their properties as smoke-free.
** A no-pet policy cannot be enforced against service animals as per accessibility laws.

When you sign up with Rhenti, you have the ability to vet all your prospective renters. 

We verify ID, employment documents, and run a credit and reference check at no extra cost. Learn more.


What can't a landlord ask for in Ontario?

It’s just as helpful to know what you can’t ask for on a rental application. According to the OHRC, you can’t ask:

  • race, colour or ethnic background
  • religious beliefs or practices
  • ancestry, including people of Aboriginal descent
  • place of origin
  • citizenship, including refugee status
  • sex (including pregnancy and gender identity)
  • family status
  • marital status, including people with a same-sex partner
  • disability
  • sexual orientation
  • age, including people who are 16 or 17 years old and no longer living with their parents
  • receipt of public assistance

Examples of questions you can’t ask tenants:

  • What is your age or date of birth?
  • Are you pregnant or planning to start a family soon?
  • What is your race or ethnic origin?
  • What religion do you practice?
  • What is your sexual orientation?
  • Do you have any physical or mental disabilities?
  • Are you married or what is your marital status?
  • Do you receive any public assistance or welfare benefits?
  • What country are you originally from?
  • What is your first language?


Applications that automatically ask the right questions

Hopefully, with this information as your guide, you now feel more confident handling rental applications in Ontario. 

Make the process even easier with applications that automatically ask tenants all the right questions. Get access to these forms, and everything else you need to vet and choose the perfect tenants, with Rhenti. 

Sign up today.

Rental application FAQs

How should landlords collect tenant information?

When collecting tenant information, you should adhere to the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA), which governs how personal information is handled.


Can a landlord ask tenants about smoking?

Yes, according to the OHRC, you can ask if a tenant smokes as this relates to property maintenance and use. You can designate rental properties as smoke-free environments, provided they do not discriminate against the smoker as an individual but rather address the act of smoking in relation to property use.


Can a landlord ask tenants about pets?

In Ontario, according to the RTA, you can ask about pets. However, except for specific circumstances such as condominiums with existing by-laws that prohibit pets, you can’t evict a tenant for having a pet in violation of a "no pets" clause in the rental agreement.


Can a landlord ask for a tenant’s social insurance number (SIN)?

No, you should not ask for a tenant's Social Insurance Number. This is considered unnecessary for the purposes of a rental agreement, and the collection of such information could potentially violate privacy laws.


Can a landlord ask a tenant for a payment upfront?

Yes, you can ask for the first and last month's rent upfront. However, you cannot demand a security deposit, damage deposit, or any other amount that would exceed the cost of the first and last months' rent.


Can a landlord request renters insurance?

Yes, you can request that tenants obtain renters insurance, but they cannot require it as a condition of the lease. Landlords can provide information on the benefits of renters insurance and encourage tenants to consider obtaining it to protect their belongings.


Can a landlord ask for bank statements in Ontario?

Yes, you can ask for bank statements to prove the financial situation of a renter. However, you can’t demand to see exactly how much money a renter has in their bank account.


Can a landlord ask for a credit check in Ontario?

Yes, you can request a credit check to see a renter’s history of making payments and gauge their financial reliability as a renter.


Can a landlord ask for photo ID in Ontario

Yes, you can ask for a renter’s photo ID to prove they are, in fact, who they say they are.



The blog posts on this website are for the purpose of general introductory information. They can’t serve as an opinion or professional advice. Speak to a professional before making decisions related to your circumstances.