getting started: before meeting prospective landlords
When you look at possible rental accommodations, it’s important to ask questions. The following sections will help identify many of the questions you should ask and those you should expect to hear in return.
questions you should ask the landlord
When looking at a prospective rental, ask the following questions:
• Are utilities included? If not, what types are used (e.g. natural gas, oil, or electric heating) or permitted? What are the average monthly costs? If you are sharing the utilities with another party, what are your responsibilities? Is cable television service included or available for an additional cost?
• What type of lease is required? What are the main conditions of the lease? Carefully examine the terms, conditions and duration of the lease before signing anything. Some leases may contain unexpected requirements. You may wish to consult a lawyer before signing, especially if you do not understand everything in the lease.
• Can you make changes to the premises? Can you paint or make other decorative changes? What restrictions are in the lease?
• Why are the current tenant(s) leaving? It helps to ask neighbouring tenants this question as well.
• If relevant, are pets or smoking allowed? If you have pets, find out if any restrictions prohibit certain types of pets. If you’ve had pets, are you required to have the rental professionally cleaned at the end of the lease?
• What is the neighbourhood like? If applicable, what are the other tenants like?
• What makes your property unique? Are any special features available in the rental?
• Who maintains the property? Lawn and garden maintenance may be the responsibility of the landlord or tenant, or both. How are minor and major repairs to the rental handled?
• Where can you park? Is parking an additional cost? How about additional vehicles? Is adequate space provided for guest parking?
• What about additional storage? Are there storage lockers included in the rent? How secure are they? Is there separate bicycle storage?
• What security systems are in place? What kinds of locks are used, and have they been changed recently? If renting a high-rise apartment, what areas of the building require keys to access?
This list offers a beginning. Consider what you need from a rental and add questions that pertain to your specific situation. Other points to consider:
• Policies on overnight guests or long-term visitors.
• Vehicle maintenance and repairs on rental property, if applicable.
• Installation of additional utility cabling, telephone and television jacks, or compact satellite dishes.
• The availability of broadband or high-speed Internet services in the area or building.
You will want to take detailed notes when visiting properties and interviewing prospective landlords. Note information about costs and conditions, advantages and disadvantages of a prospective rental and its neighbourhood. Print out the Rental Unit Evaluation Worksheet (https://www.cmhc-schl.gc.ca/en/co/reho/yogureho/salewo/salewo_002.cfm?renderforprint=1) and bring a copy with you during a rental property visit.
questions a landlord can and cannot ask a prospective tenant
Any landlord will want to figure out if you will be a good tenant, but only certain probing questions are allowed. Can a landlord legally ask for your Social Insurance Number (SIN)? What about asking about your ethnic background? As a tenant, it’s important to understand what information the landlord can and cannot ask you to provide.
A landlord needs to assess your ability to pay rent in a timely fashion, and your ability to keep the premises in good repair. Be prepared to answer questions about your personal credit and previous rental experiences. A landlord may also expect you to share personal references and contact information of former landlords. You should honestly report information on your rental application because the landlord may contact previous and current landlords, employers and credit references. Only provide the contact information of a previous landlord if you believe that person would offer a good reference.
a landlord can ask:
The landlord can ask questions that will help him/her assess your suitability as a tenant, as long as they do not infringe on your rights.
• What is your income? Where do you work?
• How many people will be living with you and what are their names?
• Do you have pets? Do you smoke?
• Could you provide written permission for a credit check?
• May I see your references, and their current contact information?
a landlord cannot ask:
The landlord cannot ask questions that infringe on your rights under the Human Rights Code for your province.
• Do you plan to have (more) children?
• What is your ethnic background, religion, or sexual preference?
• Will your family be visiting?
• What is your Social Insurance Number? If you don’t provide your SIN, I won’t rent to you.
• Are you married, single, or divorced?
know your rights
“Every person has a right to equal treatment with respect to the occupancy of accommodation, without discrimination because of race, ancestry, place of origin, colour, ethnic origin, citizenship, creed, sex, age, marital status, family status, handicap, or the receipt of public assistance.” Section 1, Canadian Human Rights Code. Landlords might think personal questions are acceptable when they are searching for a suitable tenant. Demanding answers, as a condition of renting, to anything that might contravene a tenant’s human rights is illegal. A landlord cannot refuse to rent an apartment based on the discriminatory conditions outlined in the Human Rights Code.
While the national Human Rights Code applies, each province or territory handles complaints related to accommodation. If you feel that your human rights with respect to rental accommodation have been infringed upon, or if you need more information, you may discuss your situation with an advocacy agency or provincial/territorial office which defends renter’s rights and act on human rights violations.
For more information, contact your provincial/territorial human rights office (https://www.cmhc-schl.gc.ca/en/co/reho/yogureho/fash/index.cfm.)
— CMHC, www.cmhc-schl.gc.ca