Selecting the right tenant is the biggest stress for landlords like you as you know that a bad tenant is more likely to damage your rental or stop paying the rent. The best way to find the best tenant is to do a thorough tenant screening. What questions and information can you really ask the candidates to make your choice?

What you can ask your prospective tenant

1.   First of all, you must get the applicant’s consent.
There are Canadian laws such as the Human Rights Act or the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act. Their goal is to protect the privacy of individuals and to oversee what may be required by different organizations in terms of collection, use and disclosure of personal information.
The prospective tenant has the right to have access to the requested information or to challenge its accuracy.
Moreover, it is illegal to demand an answer to all the questions you ask.

2.   Ask for basic information: name and contact details. 
If you can ask for an ID, it’s preferable not to demand the Social Insurance Number (SIN). 

3.   Check the applicant’s solvency.
You can verify his income or credit history; usually it’s one or the other.  A good thing to do is calculating the ratio between the rent value and the applicant’s gross income. It can be verified through pay stubs, bank statements showing regular automated payroll deposits or a letter from the employer. If this is under 40%, it’s a good sign. Another way to check his solvability is checking his credit score. If it’s between 660 and 724, it’s a good credit history, from 725 it’s very good and it becomes excellent from 760. To be eligible for APRIL’s Unpaid Rents protection, your tenant must have a credit score of 660 or above OR his rent-to-income ratio must be below 40%. Fore more details about our Unpaid Rents claims process, please click here.

4.   Check his references
Your first instinct should be to check your prospective tenant’s references from his previous landlords. You could ask them if he smoked on the property as it is not recommended to ask the applicant directly.
You can also look into decisions about residential tenancy disputes that are publicly available.
Did you know that criminal conviction history is a personal characteristic under the Human Rights Code that is not protected in relation to housing? But don’t forget to tell your applicant the reasonable purposes for which you’re asking about this.

5. Get to know your future tenant.
Ask some him some questions such as: Do you have any pets ? How many people are going to live with him and what are their names? 

What you can’t do

It is illegal to ask and / or disadvantage about the race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, disability, or family status (maried, divorced, number of children…). It would be considered as discrimination. As a landlord, you should be respect many laws, including when writing the lease agreement. Read our article about the permitted and prohibited clauses in a rental agreement.

You shouldn’t view or collect information about applicants from social media platforms or internet search engines. It’s not considered reasonable by the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada.

It’s sometimes a fine line

A landlord refused to rent his 3-bedroom property to a family of 6, saying it was “way too big of a family” for his house. While it’s illegal to discriminate applicants based on the number of children they have; the landlord argues that the Residential Tenancy Branch guide allows him to limit the number of people living in his rental unit. However the B.C. tribunal recently rejected his dismissal application, allowing the case to proceed. 

How can you check?

In Quebec, the two main landlord associations – CORPIQ and APQ – offer in-depth tenant screening for their members. Canadian start-ups like Certn, founded in Victoria; or Naborly from Toronto; use Artificial Intelligence to predict the risk of an applicant becoming a bad tenant. For example, Certn conducts, among other verifications, a behavioral analysis related to the information found online and evaluation of the data in a psychometric test. 

Transparency is essential in building good relationship with your tenant. Read our 10 secrets to a successful landlord-tenant relationship.