Questions a Landlord Can and
Cannot Ask a Prospective Tenant
Any landlord will want to figure out if you will be a good tenant, but only certain probing questions are allowed. Can a landlord legally ask for your Social Insurance Number (SIN)? What about asking about your ethnic background? As a tenant, it's important to understand what information the landlord can and cannot ask you to provide.
A landlord needs to assess your ability to pay rent in a timely fashion, and your ability to keep the premises in good repair. Be prepared to answer questions about your personal credit and previous rental experiences. A landlord may also expect you to share personal references and contact information of former landlords. You should honestly report information on your rental application because the landlord may contact previous and current landlords, employers and credit references. Only provide the contact information of a previous landlord if you believe that person would offer a good reference.
The landlord can ask questions that will help him/her assess your suitability as a tenant, as long as they do not infringe on your rights.
- What is your income? Where do you work?
- How many people will be living with you and what are their names?
- Do you have pets? Do you smoke?
- Could you provide written permission for a credit check?
- May I see your references, and their current contact information?
The landlord cannot ask questions that infringe on your rights under the Human Rights Code for your province.
- Do you plan to have (more) children?
- What is your ethnic background, religion, or sexual preference?
- Will your family be visiting?
- If you don't provide your SIN, I won't rent to you.
- Are you married, single, or divorced?
Know Your Rights
"Every person has a right to equal treatment with respect to the occupancy of accommodation, without discrimination because of race, ancestry, place of origin, colour, ethnic origin, citizenship, creed, sex, age, marital status, family status, handicap, or the receipt of public assistance." Section 1, Canadian Human Rights Code
Landlords might think personal questions are acceptable when they are searching for a suitable tenant. Demanding answers, as a condition of renting, to anything that might contravene a tenant's human rights is illegal. A landlord cannot refuse to rent an apartment based on the discriminatory conditions outlined in the Human Rights Code.
While the national Human Rights Code applies, each province or territory handles complaints related to accommodation. If you feel that your human rights with respect to rental accommodation have been infringed upon, or if you need more information, you may discuss your situation with an advocacy agency or provincial/territorial office which defends renter's rights and act on human rights violations.
For more information, contact your provincial/territorial human rights office.