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What is a landlord allowed to 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.


What information can a landlord ask for in Ontario?

According to the Ontario Human Rights Commission, you are legally permitted to ask prospective tenants for the following information:

  • Rental history: if a person does not have a rental history this legally cannot be used against them.

  • Permission to run credit checks and credit references 

  • Their name, address, and date of birth (in order to conduct a credit check)

  • Asking for information surrounding someone’s passport, driver’s license, employer, income and expenses are not needed to complete a credit check, but you can ask for these items for the purposes of:

    • obtaining a more detailed report

    • ensuring the credit check is being done on the correct person and not someone with the same name and date of birth

  • Request a guarantor if you are asking all other prospective tenants for one

  • Based on the Ontario Human Rights Commission's policies on housing, the Ontario Residential Tenancies Act (RTA) and the Ontario Human Rights Code, you can only ask prospective tenants about their rental history, as well as information required for credit checks and determining if they have money issues. 

  • Examples of questions you can ask:

    • What’s your income?

    • Have you rented before?

    • Are you employed?

    • Where do you work?

    • Who will be living with you and what are their names?

What can't a landlord can’t ask for in Ontario?

It’s equally important to know what you can’t ask for on a rental application. According to the Ontario Human Rights Commission, you can’t ask:

  • A person’s social insurance number

  • If the person has ever been part of a dispute that went to the Landlord and Tenant Board

  • If they are on social assistance

  • Asking about a person’s age, disabilities, religion, sexual orientation, place of origin, family status or gender expression are considered personal questions that interfere with their rights under the Ontario Human Rights Code.

  • Examples of questions you cannot ask include:

    • Are you pregnant?

    • Are you married?

    • What is your religion?

    • How old are you?

    • Do you smoke? Worth noting: you can’t ask someone if they smoke, but you can still include in the lease agreement that the property being rented is non-smoking.

Best practices for collecting personal information:

Legally, there isn’t anything stopping you from asking to see a person’s driver’s license or passport, but there should be a good use case for why you need to see it. Keeping a photo of a person’s ID, for example, is subject to the law as it is considered collection of personal information. 


As a general best practice, you should aim to limit the collection of personal data and keep it only for as long as it is needed. Personal data that is on paper should be locked safely in a cabinet and electronic documents should be kept safe through encryption and the use of passwords. 


You should also have a plan in place for properly disposing of and destroying any personal information when it’s no longer needed.


Another best practice when collecting information from a prospective tenant is to tell the applicant what information you are collecting, why you are collecting it, any third parties their information is being disclosed to, and any potential risk of harm.


Informal background checks:

Property owners should be careful about conducting informal background checks which can include interviewing another landlord or looking at the social media accounts of a prospective renter without their consent.


Technically, collecting information in this fashion falls under The Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA) and should be done with care. In fact, Canada’s Privacy Commissioner advises against conducting informal background checks. 


If you are collecting information about a prospective renter through an informal background check without their knowledge, you must be able to prove:

  1. that the collection of data falls within PIPEDA’s rules for collecting data without consent and
  2. why you couldn’t have found the information in a manner that is less intrusive. 


It’s also useful to keep in mind that you are not supposed to ask prospective renters questions unrelated to rental history, information you need for a credit check, or to determine if they have money issues. 


Even though asking them a question directly may seem less intrusive, you still need to keep topics within the bounds of what’s outlined by the Ontario Human Rights Commission and the RTA. 


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. Contact our team to learn more!


What can a landlord ask for in Ontario: common questions answered

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.

Can a landlord require renters insurance in Ontario?


Yes, you can require renters insurance as long as there is a condition in your lease that states as such. If renters resist the idea, be sure to explain that it's their belongings that are being protected!

Can a landlord demand to know if someone new moves in?


No, you can’t require to know if someone new moves in with an existing renter. Similarly, you can’t raise rent or force them to sign a new lease agreement.

Can a landlord raise rent?


Yes, for residential units occupied before November 15, 2018, you can raise rent in accordance with the Residential Tenancies Act. For residential units occupied for the first time after November 15, 2018, you can raise rent more than what is allowed by rent control. 


In either case, you must give a renter written notice of a rent increase at least 90 days before it takes effect. Stay up to date on the current Ontario rent increase guidelines here.

Can a landlord ban pets?


Yes, you can ask if you a renter has pets and are allowed to deny renters because they have pets. Read more about your legal rights as landlord for renters with pets.


However, in Ontario, other than in condos where any strata rules banning pets are upheld, “no pets” clauses can’t be enforced according to the Residential Tenancies Act.


Still unclear on what to ask? Rhenti’s comprehensive renter profiles and digital application forms will help you ask the right questions and make the right renter decision. Reach out to our team to learn more.


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.