In this section, we'll look at how to choose tenants without violating their human rights. We'll look at rental ads and first contact. Next, we'll talk about which questions you can ask, and what to do with information about income, work, credit checks, rental history, security deposits, a social insurance number, a guarantor or a co-signer and direct deposit. And we'll look at adult-only buildings, children and recreational facilities, and renting out rooms in your home.
Be informed. Know your responsibilities under the Code and respect your tenants' human rights. Rental housing rules, policies and practices must not discriminate. Screening out people because of their race or other Code ground is not allowed. For example... screening out a possible tenant by telephone because she has an accent can result in discrimination based on language, place of origin, ethnic origin, race, ancestry or creed.
When writing rental ads, do not use questions on income, age, sex, marital status, number of children, religion, health, etc. If you have a good reason for needing the information, ask for it after the housing application is approved.
Landlords may ask many things, but they need to be clear on why they're asking...
- You can ask questions about work, but landlords can't require that an applicant be working or have a full-time job.
- You can ask about income to make sure the rent can be paid, but not to screen out people because of how they get their money — such as getting employment insurance. The Code does not allow a rule where the rent cannot be greater than 30 per cent of the tenant's income.
- You can ask for a credit check but get permission from the person before you have a credit or police check done. No credit rating is not the same as a bad credit rating.
- You can ask about rental history — where people have lived in the past — but not having a rental history isn't the same as a bad rental history, and shouldn't be treated in the same way. For example, those new to Canada are not likely to have local rental history.
- You can ask for a security deposit but not for Code-related reasons such as race or disability. For example, if references are poor or there's a history of not paying rent it may be appropriate to ask for a security deposit.
- A Social Insurance Number (S.I.N.) isn't needed for renting property. The information on a S.I.N. could be used to discriminate. For example, some S.I.N. numbers will reveal that a person is a refugee.
- You can ask for a guarantor or co-signer (someone else that promises to make sure the rent is paid) but only if all potential tenants are asked. You should not ask only because of Code-related concerns. Examples would be only asking single parents, youth, persons with a physical or invisible disability, racialized persons or someone who receives social benefits.
- You can't ask a person who receives government assistance to have the rent cheque deposited directly to you unless you have a legitimate reason for asking and the reason is not Code-related.
Here's what the Code says about specific policies some landlords may wish to have...
- Guest policies must be respectful and reasonable. For example, don't use policies to target a lone-parent whose friend spends the night, or a person with a disability who has overnight visitors.
- The Residential Tenancies Act says landlords cannot have "no pets" policies. The Code says landlords must accommodate tenants with service animals — such as guide dogs.
Questions frequently asked by landlords...
- What about: number of people to a room? Landlords cannot allow overcrowding, but limiting the number of people in each room must be based on real health and safety needs, not on a Code ground.
- What about: adult-only buildings? Adult-only buildings are not allowed in Ontario except for care facilities and seniors' homes.
- What about: limiting facilities or services to children? Unless the landlord can show that allowing children to use the pool , gym or party room only at certain times is necessary, the landlord is discriminating based on family status.
- What about: renting out rooms in my house? The Code allows landlords, or the landlord's family, who share a kitchen or bathroom with a tenant to decide who they want to rent to, but the Code doesn't allow the tenant to be harassed.