Rental screening: What you should know as a tenant

  3 minutes

The rental market in Vancouver is only getting more and more competitive as vacancy rates continue to be very low. This means that landlords have no shortage of applicants wanting to rent from them, which allows them to be very picky.

Standing out in the crowd when trying to rent an apartment in Vancouver can be very difficult, and if you do manage to impress a landlord enough to get to the next stage of the application, there’s a good chance that they are going to want to make sure you’re the right tenant for them. Our research shows that an overwhelming majority of landlords screen potential tenants to protect themselves and their properties. And rightly so, after all nobody wants a tenant that can’t pay their rent or may damage their homes.

However, as a tenant you should know what your rights are. Although you most likely will have to go through the screening process in order to secure a rental, there are guidelines in place as to what types of information landlords can collect.

Before we get into what a typical screening process usually includes, there are a few very important points to remember:

  • A landlord can not collect any of your information without consent.
  • A landlord can not share any of your collected information without consent.
  • A landlord must let you know the reason they are collecting the information.
  • A landlord’s reason for collecting the information must be relevant to your application.
  • A landlord has to make sure the information they collect is kept safe.

So what can you expect from a landlord screening?

There are a few types of screening methods that landlords may use to make a decision about your application. 

Reference Check

This is the most common and often easiest way a landlord can verify your viability to be a tenant. They may reach out to your previous landlords to get a sense of what type of tenant you were. Were you respectful of their property and punctual with your payments, or someone they should avoid renting to? They may also ask to speak to your current employer to confirm that you are in fact employed and are able to pay rent on a regular basis. If you are a freelancer, you can ask a current client to vouch for you in place of a standard employer. Another source for a reference check could also be personal references, in the form of friends, family, or colleagues. These are aimed at getting a sense of the type of person you are. Landlords may choose to run any combination of these  checks to make sure you are the right fit for their property.

Income Verification

Potential landlords may also decide to do an income verification check, but only if you are not able to provide adequate references. Without adequate references, a landlord may need to request proof of employment from your current employer. This is to ensure that you are in a good financial position to pay rent regularly. Landlords cannot require this information for every tenant they are screening and must have reasonable doubt of a tenant’s candidacy even after a reference check. They should also limit the questions about your employment to your current employer, as past jobs will not affect your current situation.

Credit Checks

Only if neither a reference check or an income verification check is sufficient, then a landlord may decide to run a credit check. This will require them to use a third party service to obtain a record of your credit history. This type of check includes a lot of sensitive personal information that will have no bearing on your application, so should only be used as a last resort. If you do consent to a credit check and have concerns about your credit rating, it’s best to be honest with the landlord about what happened. Ensure them that you have since addressed those issues and are working on improving your credit standing. This admission and guarantee that you are making an effort to improve your credit is usually enough for the landlord to give you a chance.

As a renter searching for an apartment or condo to rent in Vancouver, you can expect to run into some competition. Although you may feel obligated to consent to any and all screening methods to get that perfect place to live, know that you have rights that protect you. Also understand that landlords screen you not out of pure mistrust, but to protect themselves and their valuable properties.

Bonus: Landlords can never use social media profiles or web searching tools such as Google to determine your tenancy. The only exception would be professional listing sites like LinkedIn that could be used to confirm employment.


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