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What Documents Are Required to Rent a Home in Canada?

Jessica Martel

Sep 27, 2022 6 min read

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What documents can a landlord ask for in Ontario

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During the rental application process, a landlord can ask for several different documents, including proof of income, letters of reference, and a credit report. These documents are used to screen tenants and determine who is eligible. If you’re looking for a rental in a busy market like in Ontario, it can help to have your paperwork prepared. 

Let’s take a look at what documents a landlord can ask for, as well as why a landlord might request a substantial amount of personal information, and if you have to provide all of the documents they ask for.  

Job Letter

A job letter (also referred to as an employment verification letter), is a document sent to your landlord from your employer. This letter typically includes your name, job position, income, and how long you’ve been working for your employer. The purpose of this letter is to confirm that you are currently employed and have the income to cover the cost of the rent.

Many landlords follow a standard guideline that a tenant should not spend more than 25-35% of their income on rent. A job letter, along with other proof of income documents, is often used to determine if you meet this guideline.  

Proof of Income

To prove your income, your landlord might request to see two or more recent pay stubs. This typically details your hourly rate, or your salary, how many hours you work, as well as the company you work for. 

If you are self-employed or seasonally employed, you can alternatively provide your Notice of Assessment (NOA) or a Proof of Income Statement from the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). An NOA is a summary of your income and other tax information. Your proof of income statement is a simplified version of your tax assessment and provides much of the same information found on your NOA. Potential landlords want to see this information to ensure you can afford to pay rent.   

Income information

Character Reference

A character reference (also called a personal reference), is a letter provided to your landlord from someone who knows you personally. It describes the type of person you are. When selecting someone to write a character reference, ask someone who knows you well. This might include a friend, neighbour, coworker, teacher, coach, or client. 

The information provided in a character reference typically includes the writer's first name, how they know you, how long they’ve known you, their contact information, and a summary of the characteristics you possess that make you a reliable tenant. A landlord might request a character reference to get a better idea of who you are. 

References From Previous Landlords

A potential landlord might also want to see a letter from your current or previous landlord to further screen you as a tenant. A landlord reference letter can provide valuable information for a potential landlord, as your previous landlord can speak directly to your rental history. 

This letter can include information on whether you paid your rent on time, if you took good care of the property, and whether or not you were easy to get along with. A landlord reference letter should also include the previous landlord’s name, their contact information, when you rented their property, how much you paid in rent, and whether or not they would recommend you as a tenant.

Lease agreements

Credit Report

Your credit report is a summary of your credit history. Your landlord may request a credit check as another way to determine if you’re likely to keep up with your rent payments. To perform a credit check, they will need your name, address, and date of birth. 

Your credit report includes your credit score, your payment history, if you have any outstanding debts, and if you’ve ever declared bankruptcy. This information can help your landlord decide if you are likely to pay your rent, based on your financial history, or if you are too high of a risk. 

Note that if a landlord decides to a credit check, this is considered a hard credit inquiry and it will affect your credit score. However, if you’re able to provide a printed copy of your credit report, which you can access for free through Borrowell, the prospective landlord might be satisfied with this and therefore choose not to run a hard credit check.

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Copy of Valid Government ID

Some landlords might request a copy of valid government ID. This can include your driver’s licence or passport. Sometimes, this information is collected to ensure that you are not confused with someone else that shares a similar name or birthday. 

If your landlord asks for your social insurance number, you are not required to provide it. While it is not illegal for a landlord to request your SIN, this is a confidential number that is used for income reporting purposes and your landlord can not require that you provide it. 

What Will the Landlord Do With My Information?

Your landlord must ask for consent when collecting or using your information. When your landlord requests your personal information, you can question why it is required and how they intend to use it. This is your right as outlined by the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA). Your landlord can only use your information for the purpose for which it was collected. Typically, your information is used to determine if you have the means to pay the rent. It is up to the landlord to ensure that your information is protected.

While a landlord can legally ask for a lot of your personal information, some things that are off-limits. According to the Human Rights Code, a landlord can not refuse to rent to a tenant based on certain characteristics, including: 

  • Age

  • Race

  • Ethnic origin 

  • Ancestry

  • Citizenship

  • Sex

  • Family status

  • Marital status

  • Sexual orientation 

  • Disability

Bank account

Can a Landlord Ask for Bank Statements?

Yes, a landlord can ask you to provide a bank statement when you apply for a rental. However, it’s up to you to decide if you want to share this information, as you are not legally required to. If your landlord requests your bank statement to ensure you can afford rent, you can question this. There are other documents that can provide this information, including your pay stubs and your letter of employment. Remember, it is your right to ask why your landlord is requesting a particular type of information, and they must give you a reason before they collect it. 

Can a Landlord Ask If I Have Pets?

Yes, a landlord can ask if you have pets, and, depending on where you live in Canada, your landlord may be able to refuse to rent to you if they have a “no pet” clause. For instance, in Alberta, landlords can decide if they want to allow pets in their rental property. 

However, in Ontario, the Residential Tenancies Act states that a landlord can not include a “no pet” clause in a rental agreement to prevent you from owning a pet. This means if you move into a rental, the landlord can not evict you just for owning a pet. However, a landlord can ask you to remove your pet in certain circumstances. For instance, if your pet is causing damage to the rental unit or making considerable amounts of noise. 

There is an important exception to this clause. If you are looking to rent a condo, the condo board can include a clause in its bylaws that prevents you from having a pet.  

Full credit report

The Bottom Line

To determine if you are an eligible tenant, a landlord in Ontario can request a considerable amount of personal information during the rental application process. Before a landlord can obtain or use any of your personal information, they must get your consent. At any point during the application process, you can question why your personal information is being requested and ask for details on its intended use. This is your right. You also can decline to produce any personal documents you don’t feel comfortable sharing.

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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