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What Can a Landlord Ask for on a Rental Application in Ontario?

Jessica Martel

Oct 23, 2022 7 min read

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What can a landlord ask for in Ontario?

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When you’re filling out rental applications, a potential landlord has the freedom to request a lot of personal information. They can ask for your name, address, and birthday to perform a credit check. They can also ask where you work and how much money you make to determine if you can afford the rent. But, there are limits to what a landlord can legally ask. Before you begin your search, make sure you are well-versed on what a landlord can ask for on a rental application in Ontario.  

What Information Can a Landlord Request?

During the application process, a landlord can legally ask many questions to determine if you are an eligible applicant. Typical information you can expect a prospective landlord to request includes: 

Credit Score, employment, and income 

To determine if you’re likely to pay your bills on time, a landlord can request your name, address, and date of birth to perform a credit check. Before a landlord can run your credit, they must ask for your permission. In addition to your credit score, a landlord might also ask for information about your job and income to see if you can afford to pay the rent. They might ask questions like: 

  • Do you work?

  • Where do you work?

  • How much do you make (income)?

A landlord might request to see a job letter to confirm where you work, what you do, and how long you’ve been employed there. They might also ask to see a few recent pay stubs to confirm your income.  

Landlord and tenant

References

To get a better sense of your rental history, a landlord can ask you to provide references. These could include references from: 

  • Friends

  • Employers 

  • Previous landlords

Landlords can use reference letters to get a better sense of your character and the type of person you are, and from your previous landlords, they can get intel on the type of renter you’ve been in the past. This is valuable information. 

Living situation 

A landlord can also ask questions about who will be living in their rental, including: 

  • How many people will live with you?

  • What are the names of the people who will live with you?

  • Do you have pets?*

*When it comes to the question of pets, in Ontario, the Residential Tenancies Act prevents landlords from including a no-pet clause in their lease agreement. So, while they can technically ask you if you have pets, they can’t prevent you from owning a pet. 

If you move into a rental without a pet and then decide you want to get one, the landlord can not evict you based on pet ownership. There is one exception to this rule. If you’re looking to rent a condo, the condo board can include a clause that prevents you from having a pet.   

Gender Expression

What Information Shouldn't Be Asked by the Landlord?

While a landlord can legally request a significant amount of personal information, some things that are off-limits, according to the Ontario Human Rights Code. A landlord can not ask any questions about your:

  • Age

  • Race

  • Citizenship

  • Ethnic origin 

  • Disability

  • Marital status 

  • Family status

  • Gender identity

  • Sex

  • Sexual orientation 

Some of the questions that a landlord shouldn’t ask include: 

  • Are you pregnant or planning to have children?

  • Are you single, married, or divorced?

  • What is your religious or ethnic background?

  • What is your sexual orientation? 

  • Are you on welfare or public assistance?

  • Do you have a disability?

  • How old are you?

  • Are you a Canadian citizen?

  • Do you smoke?*

*The last question on this list is a tricky one. In Ontario, a landlord is not supposed to ask you if you smoke; however, they can include a no-smoking clause in their lease. It is the landlord’s right to ban smoking in their rental, including outside on balconies and patios. 

Banking Information

Can a landlord ask for my Social Insurance Number (SIN)? 

While a landlord can legally ask for your Social Insurance Number (SIN), they can’t require it. Your SIN is used for income reporting purposes and, according to the Government of Canada, you should only share this number when the law requires it or when no other identification is sufficient to complete a particular transaction. This is not the case when you’re trying to rent an apartment. If a landlord says they need your SIN to perform a credit check, you can inform them that all they need is your name, address, and date of birth.

What Will the Landlord Do With My Information?

Landlords must comply with the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA), which outlines how your personal information should be handled.

Under PIPEDA, a landlord can only use your information for the purpose it was collected. It’s up to the landlord to identify a reason for why they are collecting your personal information. At any point during the application process, you can ask why a particular piece of information was requested. You can also ask to see any of the information that the landlord has collected. For instance, if your landlord has run a credit check, you can request to see your credit report. It’s also the landlord's responsibility to keep your personal information safe and protected. 

Remember, you can refuse to provide any information you don’t feel comfortable sharing. Of course, you might lose out on the rental unit, but it’s ultimately your choice what you want to do. 

Landlord asks

What Should I Do if a Landlord Asks for Information That Is Illegal?

If a landlord asks for information that you know is illegal, the first thing you can do is decline to provide it. If you feel you have experienced discrimination, you can file a complaint with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario (HRTO). There is also a national-level human rights tribunal, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal (CHRT). The goal of the tribunals is to protect individuals from discrimination.      

Can a Landlord Request For an Upfront Payment?

Whether or not a landlord can request an upfront payment depends on what the payment is for. 

A landlord can request a rent deposit, but only if they ask for it before you enter into a tenancy agreement. Assuming rent is paid on a monthly basis, the landlord can not ask for more than one month’s rent. If rent is paid on a weekly basis, they can’t ask for more than a week’s rent. If a rental deposit is requested, a landlord can only use this money to cover the last month’s rent not for damages or anything else. 

On the other hand, if a landlord asks for an upfront payment to cover a security deposit or damage deposit, this is not allowed under the Residential Tenancies Act of Ontario.

Tenancy agreements

Can a Landlord Request Renter’s Insurance?

Even though there is no law stating that you must have renter’s insurance, your landlord can request that you have the coverage before they rent you an apartment. In other words, a landlord can require you to have renter’s insurance as a condition in the tenancy agreement. If you decline to get the insurance, you risk losing the apartment. 

Regardless of whether the landlord requires you to have renters insurance, it’s a good idea. Without renters insurance, none of your belongings are covered in the case of a flood, fire, or other events. This means you are on the hook to pay for all of your clothes, furniture, and other belongings should something happen. 

Also, if you cause damage to your landlord's home or another rental unit in your building, you are potentially responsible for the damages. Without renters insurance, you face being sued and having to pay out-of-pocket for the damages. 

If you think you’re covered under your landlord's insurance, think again. Landlord insurance typically provides coverage for the building (think walls, floors, and appliances in the case of a flood or fire), your landlord’s contents (not yours), liability if someone is injured on the property, as well as loss of rental income. Landlord’s insurance is all about covering the landlord, not you. While you might feel like you can’t afford renters insurance the real question you should ask yourself is if you can afford not to have it.

The Bottom Line

During the rental application process, it’s normal to provide a lot of information to prospective landlords. While certain information is needed to determine if you are the right tenant for the rental property, some personal questions are illegal and off-limits. Before you start your search for a rental unit, make sure you understand what information a landlord can legally ask for in Ontario and what they can’t. If a landlord asks for information that isn’t allowed and you feel like you’ve been discriminated against, there are steps you can take to report it.

Jessica Martel
Jessica Martel

Jessica Martel is a freelance writer and professional researcher. She specializes in personal finance and financial literacy. Her work has appeared on websites such as Investopedia, The Balance, Money Under 30, Scotiabank, Seeking Alpha, and more. Jessica has a Master of Science degree in Cognitive Research Psychology.

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