What are landlords allowed to ask? A lawyer weighs in

Posted by Michael La Prairie on Thursday, July 19th, 2018 at 11:00am.

What are landlords allowed to ask? A lawyer weighs in

Landlords can ask about your income, but not about your pets

With the vacancy rate in London's rental market now hovering at around 1.7 per cent, many renters who spoke to CBC said they're often subjected to increased scrutiny by landlords. 

To learn which questions landlords are allowed to ask, we spoke with Ian Dantzer, a lawyer and review counsel with Community Legal Services (CLS) at Western University. 

Part of Western's law faculty, CLS acts on behalf of students and low-income tenants in disputes with landlords. 

"We act for anybody who has a tenant rights or enforcement issue," he said. 

Here's what he said about the following questions that renters told us they've been asked by landlords, based on Ontario's Residential Tenancies Act

1. What's your income?

Allowed or not? Allowed. Landlords can ask for income information, credit checks, credit references and rental history.

One wrinkle: It's not legal for a landlord to apply any kind of rent-to-income ratio in considering a prospective tenant. 

"You can check to see if they've got an income, and it is enough to pay the rent," said Dantzer. "Just because I choose to rent an $800-a-month apartment and earn $1,000 a month shouldn't exclude me from renting it. If I feel I can live on $200 a month, that's my business. If they have enough money to cover the rent, they shouldn't be excluded based on income alone."  

2. Have you ever been in a dispute heard by the Landlord and Tenant Board?

Allowed or not? No. Landlords aren't allowed to ask about this in assessing potential tenants. 

3. Do you have pets?

It's not legal under Ontario's Residential Tenancy Act for a landlord to disqualify a prospective tenant because they have pets, but this rule doesn't apply to condos, which are governed by different legislation. (Calgary Humane Society)

Allowed or not? No. "It's illegal to disqualify tenants for pets," said Dantzer. But note: This doesn't apply to condominiums, which are not governed by the Residential Tenancies Act. "Pets in condos are likely to be restricted by the declarations, bylaws and the rules. And that is permitted under the Condominium Act," he said.

"Landlords can't ask about animals, then tell you the apartment is rented right after you tell them you've got a dog." 

4. Have you rented before?

Allowed or not? Allowed. "You can ask about their rental history: Have they rented before and for how long." 

5. Are you on social assistance?

Allowed or not? No. Under Section 10 of the Act "Selecting prospective tenants" a landlord must comply with the Human Rights Code which bars discrimination because of "the receipt of public assistance." Similarly, prospective tenants can not be denied accommodation for reasons related to "race, ancestry, place of origin, colour, ethnic origin, citizenship, creed, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, age, marital status, family status, disability." 


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