For first-time renters, navigating the rental process can be daunting. One area of typical concern is tenant privacy rights. During the application process, landlords can ask a variety of questions to ensure they’re choosing the right tenant. With that being said though, they can’t infringe on your right to privacy. As a renter, it’s important to be aware of what kind of questions a landlord can ask you, and which ones you should refuse to answer. To help you, we’ve created this article to outline what information a landlord is allowed to ask for:
What a Landlord can ask for:
- References – A landlord is within their rights to ask for references. Typically, the best references are those from previous landlords followed by employers, then friends.
- Salary – If you can’t provide adequate references, it is reasonable for a landlord to request:
- recent pay stubs
- a letter from an employer;
- bank statements demonstrating regular automated payroll deposits;
- if you don’t have any of this information, it would be reasonable for a landlord to view – but not keep – copies of your income tax assessment (T4).
- Pets/Smoking – In B.C. at least, landlords are within their right to inquire about whether you smoke and whether you’re bringing pets with you. In other provinces like Ontario, the law is less clear. Landlords can refuse to rent to you if you own a pet, but cannot specify this in a lease. The opposite goes for smoking, where landlords cannot ask if you smoke, but can maintain a smoke-free residence and remove you if you violate their terms.
- Post-dated Cheques – In addition, landlords in B.C. are allowed to demand post-dated cheques from their tenants. This is not the case in some other provinces like Ontario and Quebec.
For a provincial comparison of renting in Canada, check out our post: How does Rent Work in Canada – A Provincial Comparison
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What a Landlord cannot ask for:
Landlords are able to ask a variety of questions that relate to your tenancy. However, they are prohibited from answering personal questions that may infringe on your human rights. These questions include:
- Age – Landlords cannot inquire as to how old you are and are unable to refuse to rent to you on these grounds.
- Place of origin – Landlords can’t ask any questions relating to your ethnic background or religion, or if you’re a Canadian citizen.
- Public assistance – Though landlords can ask for other details to confirm your financial viability, they are not permitted to ask about whether or not you receive public assistance.
- Marital status – Landlords can’t ask whether you’re married, single, or divorced. This also means that they can’t refuse you tenancy if you’re living with your significant other but aren’t married.
- Gender identity – Any questions related to gender expression have no bearing on a tenancy and landlords cannot ask about it.
- Sexual orientation – As with the above subjects, landlords have no business asking about your sexual orientation.
As well, landlords are unable to:
- Keep your Income Tax Information. If you need to provide your T4 as proof of income, it must be returned immediately.
- Increase rent by more than the allowable amount (2.6% in 2020 in BC)
- Increase rent more than once in a 12 month period
- Ask for one month’s rent as a security deposit. In BC, a security deposit must not exceed the equivalent of ½ month’s rent. In provinces like Ontario, security deposits are not allowed by law
- Ask for a security deposit in the middle of a lease. A security deposit can only be collected from a tenant at the beginning of their tenancy.
- Increase rent without warning. Landlords are required to use the approved “Notice of Rent Increase” form and provide the tenant with a period of three month’s notice when increasing their rent. Tenants cannot dispute the rent increase unless it exceeds the maximum allowable amount for that year.
Applying through liv.rent
On liv.rent, we guide you through the entire application process to protect our users’ privacy. When submitting an application, renters must submit a variety of documents to verify the following:
– Government-issued ID
– Social verification
This information is temporarily stored until the verification process is complete, and compiled into our comprehensive Trust Score. The Trust Score is a tenant screening tool used by our liv.rent landlords and property managers to gauge tenant credibility and reliability.
Check out some of our other posts designed to help tenants:
BC Residential Tenancy Act Explained
Residential Tenancy Act: Dispute Resolution
Still have questions? Read more on the Tenant Resource and Advisory Centre website or the BC Tenant Rights website and familiarize yourself with the Residential Tenancy Act of British Columbia, which is subject to change over time.
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