What is Rental History?
1. RENTAL HISTORY REPORTS: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
A rental history report is generally considered when looking to rent a property. A rental history report is an important part of the rental process when you’re looking for a home, condominium, townhouse or apartment to rent. Not only can it determine whether you’ll be accepted or denied on your next rental home, but it may also have an impact on your credit score and rating.
When you apply for a new rental home, landlords and management companies may pull your credit bureau reports. This gives landlords a way to determine if your credit history includes any bankruptcies, collections, evictions or lawsuits with creditors. However, several rent bureaus also offer rental history reports, which will allow your potential landlord to see where you’ve lived, if you’ve paid your rent to past landlords and generally your performance as a resident with tenancy grantors as compared to your history with credit grantors.
A negative rental history report could prevent you from renting your next home. However, there are certain steps to take to remove the negative marks. For example, you may have been a good tenant in the past who just happened to make a few late payments. Consider contacting your previous landlord beforehand and asking if you can make an additional payment to rectify the situation. Many times, rental history report providers or rent bureau companies may call or use a previous landlord’s recommendation and in turn forward the information to the new potential landlord. Be proactive to ensure that your previous landlords have no reason to give you a negative review. Get a copy of your Rental History before you apply.
If any of your past rentals resulted in an eviction, not only will you likely have a negative report from your previous landlord, but the eviction will show up on your rent report, bringing your rent score down and making it difficult for you to secure a rental. The best course of action in these instances is to make arrangements to pay off your eviction debts as soon as possible. Some landlords are willing to work with those with late rental payment history, but most are unwilling to take a chance on a tenant who has been evicted and hasn’t made any effort to pay off their debt. It is better to deal with an accredited rent bureau that can place comments on a rental history record that payments have been made in full. More importantly if a record of eviction is false they can show you how to remove the record altogether and even indicate the error on your court record.
Keep in mind that your rental history is just as important as any other type of credit history and can affect you, either positively or negatively, depending upon your past payments. Treat your rental payments just as you would a loan payment, and remember that each payment counts.
This information is for educational purposes only and does not constitute legal or financial advice. You should always seek the advice of a legal or financial professional before making legal or financial decisions.
2. RENTAL HISTORY INFORMATION IS EMERGING AS STRATEGIC DATA
For most people, rent is their largest living expense; yet rental history is not usually considered in their overall credit score. But rental history information is often the important missing piece that housing providers need to evaluate potential residents. That’s why RentCheck has been collecting rental history data since 1976 and providing it to rental screening companies to help owners and property managers make better leasing decisions.
Today, RentCheck’s multi-million-record database of mostly positive rental history files continues to aid thousands of landlords in selecting good residents. Our millions of rental accounts are updated monthly by contributions from thousands of member property owners and managers. The data collected is then shared with RentCheck’s professional landlord network through our various screening and evaluation services. More importantly, tenants themselves can order their own Rental History and RentScore.
Paying rent is a necessity of life, but it provides rental owners and managers with critical data that can also help tenants build and/or improve their credit history. Industry experience has shown that many people who may have little or no credit history, but regularly pay rent on time, present a real opportunity for landlords who seek reliable tenants. Rental history reporting gives these tenants credit for their responsible track record.
RentCheck also works with social housing and affordable housing organizations, encouraging them to report rent arrears information. By looking at rental history rather than credit records alone, their pool of qualified applicants can grow by an average 12% without any major changes in overall bad debt levels.
At RentCheck, we’ve found that rental history data is reported more promptly than credit data. Our records are updated daily and are immediately available on the Rent Bureau database. Credit data, however, can take months to update.
3. WHY WE RECOMMEND YOU CREATE YOUR RENTAL HISTORY RECORD
If you rent or are planning to apply for a rental, don’t miss this important information. Even though your credit score may be very low – and you might even have a bankruptcy on file – we believe that with a good rental history, you could still be an excellent tenant. For a landlord, it is more important to know that you pay the rent on time and in full than whether you’ve paid all your creditors.
RentCheck uses your rental history of good payment habits and respectful use of your premises to create a rent file that proves your good track record to landlords. This is what landlords value most, because how you’ve paid your housing charges in the past is almost a sure guarantee of how you will pay them in the future.
Why do Credit Reports omit the rent payment information that is most vital information for landlords? It’s because rental payments do not generate any interest income for creditors, so they are considered irrelevant. But for landlords, the situation is reversed – nothing is more important to the stability and security of their business than rental payment.
RentCheck has always believed that good Tenants do not need to have good Credit. How you paid your rent in the past is the best indicator of how you will pay it in the future. And you should be getting recognition for your good rental history, starting now!
How does it work? – RentCheck can help you establish your rental history record as a reputable resident. Then, only on consent from you, we disclose that information to member landlords in the following contexts:
when you apply for an apartment or other rented premises
when you make an appointment to view an apartment
when you to give a landlord online access to view your rent file
when you send an online copy of your rental history report and rent score to a landlord
when you apply for pre-approval while viewing premises you wish to rent
You can also join our growing RentTrust Certified Resident program, authorized by RentTrust.com and based on your Gold Star Index (GSI), which is determined by your rental history. Find out today if your past tenancy record qualifies you for RentCheck GOLDStar Resident status – another way we can help you to take positive charge of your rentlife.
4. HOW TO FIX A BAD RENTAL HISTORY
A bad rental history can have a negative impact on your ability to rent an apartment or obtain a first-time homebuyer’s loan. But there are steps you can take to erase that negative history and start building a more positive future. Depending on the cause of your rental history problems, you may need to explore several of the following tips to rectify the situation.
Tips and Cautions
Ask your landlord why you are receiving a negative reference. There might be misunderstandings that neither of you were aware of.
Meet with your landlord in person. Find out the specific complaint and ask how you can solve it.
Bring your lease and other records to an in-person meeting. There may be one or more problems easily resolved by factual documentation. For example; you were required to give notice of vacating by the 1st of the month, but your landlord’s records show it was the 3rd. If your letter was actually delivered on the 1st and you can prove it, the negative reference should no longer be valid.
Apologize to your former landlord for any unpleasant experiences. It seems simple, but in dealing with private (non-corporate) landlords in particular, being up front in acknowledging a problem and offering a sincere apology can work wonders.
Accept responsibility for barking dogs, unauthorized occupants, or other lease violations. They may have been inadvertent on your part, but to the landlord these violations felt wilful and intentional.
Pay any back rent. The most common cause for negative references is rent arrears. In severe cases, non-payment can result in tenants being physically evicted from the property.
Contact the landlord personally. Offer to pay the full amount owed – including late and legal fees – in exchange for a more positive end-of-lease reference. If you can’t afford to pay a rent debt all at once, ask to have a repayment plan set up.
Keep careful payment records, including copies of cleared cheques and/or money order receipts. In rare cases a landlord may refuse to change your negative reference to positive, even though you’ve fully repaid the debt. In these situations, you can use your payment records to show a new landlord that you made a good faith effort to rectify the problem.
Repair any damage. Another common cause of negative rental references is property damage. If your landlord reports damage to the unit you occupied, offer to fix it. If you do repair the damage yourself, take before and after pictures and keep all receipts for repair materials, etc. If the damage has already been repaired, repay the landlord directly.
Order a copy of your rent and credit report and score. Once you have repaid your landlord for any unpaid rent and repaired or paid for damages, file a request with RentCheck to have those debts recorded as paid on your rent report; be prepared to submit your repayment and repair records with the request.
5. HOW YOUR PREVIOUS RENTAL HISTORY AFFECTS YOUR CURRENT APPLICATION
When available, Rental History is one of the primary records a landlord will examine when you fill out a rental application. Rental history data can affect you positively or negatively.
What is a Rental History?
Verified rental history, as provided by an accredited rent bureau, records current and previous rental experiences of importance to landlords. Each time you apply to rent premises, your new landlord wants to know what happened during your past rentals, both good and bad events. If you improved past negative habits, for example, that change will help in predicting what kind of tenant you will be. Depending how old your rental history data is, you may be asked about specific items such as:
Late rent payments
Breach of lease terms
Complaints about you
Damage to your apartment
What the Landlord looks For
When you complete a rental application, the landlord is looking for a solid employment history, positive rental history score and (but less important), a reasonable credit score. The new landlord may contact your current employer to verify your salary, do a rent bureau search, and/or contact former landlords to learn as much as they can about you. You can be proactive by creating your own rental history as well.
What Hurts Your Rental History
A low rent score (generated by too many negatives in your rental history) will count against you. Unpaid housing debt, evictions, and/or damages during the two-year period prior to applying for your next rental premises will all result in a lowered rent score. Unpaid credit cards or other consumer/retail bills will negatively affect your credit rating, but not your rent score.
Having no revolving credit accounts for 6 months or more (to show your ability to pay bills) is not necessarily a problem. Landlords will overlook this if your rental history and rent score are positive and high, indicating you’d be a good tenant anyway.
How you behaved in previous rentals will weigh heavily in a new landlord’s decision about renting to you. If your previous landlord reports that you were a noisy tenant, or didn’t pay rent on time, this can cause problems for you in the application process.
Eviction proceedings are a “red flag” to any landlord. Such proceedings show that a previous landlord experienced major problems with you. Unless you can demonstrate that the eviction judgment was resolved (especially if in your favor), that it was a temporary set-back, or that your behavior has greatly improved, you can expect to have difficulty overcoming this negative rental history event. Be aware; eviction judgments in Canada stay on your record for 6-7, years depending on the province of origin.
What Helps Your Rental History?
Maintaining a high rent score means you’re a model tenant and ensures that you will always be able to rent an apartment you want. It all comes down to four simple steps: pay your rent on time, follow the rules, be a considerate neighbor and take good care of your rental premises.
Outside your life as a tenant, live within your means and pay your bills on time. Set a budget for your monthly expenses and monitor your progress. Establish a reminder system of paying your bills on time. And monitor your chequing account to ensure there are sufficient funds to avoid bounced cheques.
Knowing what a landlord looks for when processing your application will help you to overcome any rental history issues that may arise.
6. HOW YOUR RENTAL HISTORY AFFECTS YOUR CANADIAN HOME MORTGAGE APPLICATION
If you’ve decided to purchase your first home, you’re probably wondering if your rental history will affect a mortgage application. If available to your loan officer, rental history will be very important to a home loan application. Not all Canadian mortgage providers know about rental history yet, but if you have a good record it will help to obtain a personal copy here at MyPersonalReports.com and have it at hand.
Do Landlords Report to a Credit Bureau in Canada?
While this service has been available in Canada for over a decade – see CMHC’s website and RentCheck Credit Bureau – most landlords and apartment complex managers do not normally report to a credit bureau. RentCheck is an exception because we collect good rental history as well as bad.
Even if you have never paid the rent late, or never defaulted on a rental agreement, it is unlikely that you will see your landlord’s name on a credit report next to a long line of “pays on time” entries. Property owners and/or management companies often operate with limited staffing and resources; they find RentCheck’s no-cost reporting the best solution. It is not efficient for them to report their lessees every month when renters are paying well. RentCheck solves these issues and more landlords now have good histories on rent reports.
But if you are paying rent late, owe your landlord arrears, or are in default of your rental agreement, you can expect negative remarks on your rental history report. If your unpaid rental debt has been turned over to a collection agency, or you have other negative payment issues, these will show up on your rent report and possibly on your credit report in Canada.
How Good Rental History Affects Your Mortgage Application
In most cases, positive feedback on your credit bureau report will not have much impact on a mortgage application, but a rental history report from RentCheck, along with the landlord’s positive reference will be very valuable when trying to buy a home. Credit history and financial income are only two parts of a home mortgage application.
If you are in good standing with your previous landlords, you will have good references to add to your mortgage application and it is common practice for mortgage lenders to check out any references you supply. Although they may not see notations from your previous landlords on a credit report, they will certainly call on them to determine your qualifications and may use RentCheck in the process.
How Bad Rental History Affects Your Mortgage Application
An outstanding debt or unacceptable rental payment history will show up on your credit report, especially if money is still owed. This will definitely hurt your mortgage application by sending up a “red flag” to the lender that you are in debt to a previous landlord and therefore may pose a high risk for a loan.
If you are not in good standing with previous landlords, you cannot expect them to give you a good reference. What past landlords have to say about your payment habits is just as important as your credit history and income. If a mortgage lender sees that you had previous problems in making payments, it will be assumed that you are too high a risk for further financing.
Check Your Credit Report Annually
Because you know that your rental history can affect your chances of securing a home loan, you should ensure there are no errors on your credit report. If a previous landlord has incorrectly reported a non-payment or arrears, you should have the discrepancy cleared up prior to applying for a home loan. By doing an annual credit check on yourself, you can avoid that time-consuming and stressful situation.
7. RENTING AN APARTMENT DESPITE BAD CREDIT
Having your rental application turned down due to a poor credit score is very frustrating. Fortunately, there are ways to turn that situation around.
Credit Rating for Renting an Apartment
First, a little background information on what a credit rating is about. Your credit report consists of payment history to creditors, amounts currently owed, how long you’ve had credit, how much credit is presently available to you, and what types of credit you have. All of that factors into your credit score, which is a number between 300 and 900; the higher your number, the better your credit rating. However, your credit score does not factor in the following items (which may be helpful to some applicants):
Employment information, including salary
Bank account balances
Payment of child support or alimony
Social assistance income
These exceptions could be “good news” because they may offer at least some opportunity to prove that you are capable of paying your monthly rent. Whether your credit blemish is a past bankruptcy, arrears on a broken vehicle lease, or a few late payments on a student loan, landlords prefer to see good rent reports over good credit records.
Overcoming Past Problems
A common problem that can affect your future credit-worthiness is unemployment. If you were unemployed several years ago and made several late payments on your car loan, but have been securely employed since then, the past late payments could still show up on your credit report. Even though your payment history has been perfect for a year or more, the effect of unemployment can be prolonged through slow updating in the credit system.
To solve the problem ask your present employer for a reference letter as proof of secure employment, along with salary information.
Another wise step is to create or update your own rental history file with RentCheck.
Offering extra Security Deposit (not permitted in all cases)
You were given the marital home as part of a divorce settlement, but shortly thereafter lost your job and could no longer make mortgage payments on time. However, you were able to arrange through your mortgage company to sell the home on your own, instead of going through a foreclosure. Shortly after selling the home at a good profit, you applied for a new apartment you really wanted in a nice part of town, but your application was rejected because a foreclosure incorrectly showed up in your credit report.
Having a paper trail is very important, but in this circumstance, it might not be readily available or complete. The key issue in your favor is that you sold the home at a profit. If permitted and legally available in your jurisdiction, you can offer to pay a higher security deposit, or pay 6 months’ rent in advance. If you are still unemployed at the time of your application, however, a co-signer or guarantor may be needed.
In general, networking with family and friends and seeking out apartment rentals in independent owner-occupied buildings is a good alternative. Chances are that you’ll encounter a private landlord who has been in a situation similar to yours who will empathize with your circumstances. Also, the private landlord is not governed by the corporate policies and regulations of large leasing companies.
Once you are established in your new apartment, you should take time to clean up and organize your rent and credit file situation, in order to avoid similar problems in the future.
8. WHAT INFORMATION DOES A STANDARD RENTAL APPLICATION REQUIRE?
Whether you’re renting for the first time, or just need a quick refresher, you can save yourself time and energy by knowing some of the basic information needed to complete a standard rental application. Although rental application terms and conditions may vary with each property, reviewing the following items will explain the most common requirements.
Most of the basic information for your tenant application will likely be stored in your head, such as your name, social insurance number or SIN (which is optional) and your current contact information. Information that may not be memorized can include your driver’s license number, work phone numbers and previous addresses during the past five years or so.
Your landlord will need proof of your income to determine your ability to pay the rent. You’ll be asked your monthly wage, how often you are paid, your occupation, and how long you’ve worked for the company. You’ll also need to know the address and phone number of your supervisor or someone in the human resources office who can verify the information you provide.
If you have other sources of income contributing to the rent, such as child support, settlement payments, or income from self-employment, you should provide information about these items as well. For self-employment, you may be asked for an income statement or tax records to verify how much you earn.
Past rental information shows that you have a good payment track record with previous landlords, or it can also show evictions and other negative rental issues. You’ll be asked for the name(s), address(es) and phone number(s) of your previous landlord(s), as well as your previous rental address, how long you lived at each one, how much rent you paid, and why you left.
If you’re renting for the first time, you may be able to substitute personal references for previous landlord references. These could be your parents, a teacher, or someone else who can vouch for your ability to maintain your apartment and pay your rent.
Some landlords may require your credit history, such as the number and types of credit accounts you hold, as well as the amounts you’re required to pay each month. Typical examples are: credit cards, auto loans, personal loans, etc. Information about collections or bankruptcies you’ve incurred will also be included.
Additionally, you may be required to supply information about the vehicle you plan to keep on the property, other occupants who will be living in the apartment, and information about any pet(s) you plan to have while renting the apartment. If permitted by your jurisdiction and legally available, some high-end apartment rental agreements may require you to list criminal background information; the prospective landlord may perform a criminal background check as well. Specific additional requirements will depend on the landlord and jurisdiction.
9. WHAT DOES A TENANT BACKGROUND CHECK COVER?
Before renting an apartment, a tenant is generally required to give permission for the potential landlord to do a tenant background check. While the source(s) used will vary, the information gathered is essentially the same. A landlord is seeking a tenant whose background is free of evictions and other negative rental history events. While the ideal candidate has lived responsibly in one location for several years and can claim a perfect credit and rental history, not everyone falls into this enviable category. Your chance of acceptance for that ideal apartment may not be doomed because of a background check requirement, but you can be better prepared by knowing what it covers.
A background check will reveal your past residential addresses along with your rental history. It will likely show if you were repeatedly late with rent payments or were ever evicted; these items are of central importance to your potential landlord. If there are negative issues, try to address them with the rental company at the time you submit an application. An honest verbal explanation to the landlord or manager will increase your chances of acceptance. No landlord wants to see you on paper as an ideal tenant, and then have a background check prove your story otherwise. Be up front; that’s the sign of a good tenant.
Your work history is a vital part of the background check; it shows the possible landlord or rental agency exactly how you handle the responsibilities of a job; it also reveals if you have a steady source of income. If you have been employed for a number of years with the same company and at a senior salary level, those attributes may overcome some negatives issues in your background check.
Criminal background checks for rental applicants are not allowed in most Canadian provinces and Territories and are not often done as part of any routine background check. If one is performed on you, it will show whether you have been convicted of any past crimes, so be sure that you are honest about it. If there is anything of this nature in your past that you now regret, explain it on the application form (there is usually a special place for that). If a landlord finds out from you first and is able to hear your side of it, you are more likely to be offered the apartment.
In the US, it is required by law that all tenancy applicants are screened for criminal backgrounds and whether they are on the government’s Undesirables list.
In Canada, a criminal check is allowed, and usually performed, only on those applying for employment as a superintendent, property manager, or in another sensitive position.
In Canada, rental property companies are obligated to base application decisions on more than one type of background check; using many factors results in an informed, unbiased and intelligent decision. The credit check is another part of the background check. It will show whether you are in good financial standing shape with creditors, as well as revealing if you have honored debts in the past. Some landlords fear that if you are late paying other bills, you may also be late with your rent. This is where having good rental history offsets a negative or minimal credit history. While a credit check is not the be-all and end-all, it’s sometimes not as important as the rental history report; how you pay your rent, not your creditors, is always the most relevant to landlords.
The most important strategy is always to accentuate the positive traits you can offer as a tenant and be honest about any negative things in your past. A landlord is far more likely to work with someone who’s been honest and up front than someone who lies in the hope that no background check will be performed.
10. REQUIRED DOCUMENTS FOR RENTING AN APARTMENT
The required documentation you’ll need to present when renting an apartment can vary with every rental property company you encounter. It can also depend on whether you’re renting from an individual property owner, or from an apartment complex owned by a corporation or real estate company. Whatever the situation is, you’ll need to show at least some of the following documents when renting an apartment.
Presenting photo ID like your driver’s license, health card or passport allows a rental property owner to do several things. He or she can verify your identity with it. Potential landlords want to know if you’re a person who can be trusted to pay their bills (specifically their rent) on time.
If you don’t have a driver’s license, another form of photo ID will be required, such as a passport, health card or military ID, could then be required in order to verify your identity.
Your Social Insurance Number (SIN) or Social Security Number (SSN)
Be very careful when giving out your social insurance number. Many landlords will tell you that this number is required for a rental application, but by Canadian law Consumer Reporting Agencies do not require it and it should be marked optional. In the US it is mandatory to give your social security number on your application for tenancy. If you have any doubts about a property manager or potential landlord, it’s best to not provide this. You wouldn’t want to have your identity stolen while applying to rent an apartment; however, if a rental property owner requires a last month’s deposit the interest they gain by holding it is taxed and requires a T5 by revenue Canada. In this case the social insurance number of the resident is also required to complete the T5 for tax purposes only.
Your Rental History
A rental history of your past apartment rentals will also be documentation that a landlord may want to know most.
TIP: In Canada if your rental history is not on file, create your own rental history record at MyPersonalReports.com. This will produce your Tenant Rating and RentScore which are now available from RentCheck Credit Bureau, Canada’s Rent Bureau service.
The landlord or property owner will typically want to know about your past rentals, or every apartment you’ve rented. You can provide the name, address and phone number of each previous landlord to verify your entry. Your prospective landlord will check with previous landlords to see if you were a problem tenant or if you didn’t pay your rent on time. They’ll also ask whether there were any damages to the apartment(s) when you moved out. These addresses will also show on the credit report mainly because whenever a bank account is opened your address for the bank to send statements is required and this is reported to both TransUnion and Equifax in Canada so be honest and especially if it’s all good. This will not only instill confidence with the landlord but you get recognition for being a responsible tenant. This will also improve your credit rating.
Your Work History
In many cases, you’ll be asked to provide some form of proof of employment. This could be as simple as a contact phone number for your current employer. Other property owners will ask you to provide the contact information of previous employers. This information is used to determine whether you have gainful employment, and therefore the ability to pay rent each month. People who get fired from multiple jobs are also likely to end up not being able to pay their rent. Employment history is another way that potential landlords will look into your background.
It’s less common, but some landlords will ask you to provide names and phone numbers of personal references, in addition to the above documentation. If that’s the case, choose someone who you trust to give you a good reference, such as a friend or a close co-worker. The stipulation to this type of reference check is often that it can’t be a relative. The required documentation for renting an apartment is usually easy to come up with. Keep good records of addresses where you’ve lived and contact information for former landlords, to speed up any future apartment searches.
11. HOW TO FILL OUT A RENTAL APPLICATION FORM
For many of us, filling out a rental application form is a fact of life. You may end up filling in half-a-dozen or more before you find a perfect match in the apartment you want and the landlord who approves you. But good preparation can make the process less onerous. For starters, always carry at least two forms of photo ID and your cheque book. In the US, most rental companies charge an application fee. In Canada this is illegal; landlords and rental property companies cannot charge you for making an application.
Honesty Is the Best Policy
Always fill out a rental application form as honestly as possible, no matter how badly you want the apartment. If you lie, either by statement or omission, your application for the current property could be refused – along with your chances of successfully applying for all other properties owned by the same company. In some cities, that could suddenly close numerous options.
Today you have the right and option of either knowing what is on your personal information reports, or letting a stranger read them first and make a decision. While the reader of your information cannot legally show or tell you what prompted the rejection of your application, they can give you an Adverse Action letter that instructs you how to contact sources where a negative issue may be rectified. When the reader is a landlord, for example, they are not obligated to give any explanation for denying your submission; you are left blind-sided, not knowing if it’s the actual content of your report that failed you, or whether they simply selected someone deemed to be a better candidate.
To avoid this frustration and uncertainty, it’s best to know your own rental and credit history before apartment-searching or submitting an application anywhere. Taking this step is money well spent. You may be able to correct mistakes, or at least be ready with good answers, showing that a mistake (which might be the very one that could doom your application) is in the process of being corrected. An even better scenario is discovering you have excellent status, which most tenants have; having that information in hand could ensure that you are among the first applicants to be considered. Rental property companies focus on finding the best tenants as quickly as possible, so any relevant documents you bring with you to a viewing will prove helpful (employment letter, utility bill, etc.); if the showing goes well you may be cleared to rent it on the spot. You will still need to complete a rental application and lease agreement before getting the keys, but good preparation smoothes the process.
The first thing that most applications will ask is for your name and current address. If you are having difficulties with your current landlord, this can be problematic because the form will ask for that individual or company’s name and permission to make contact. While you can choose not to fill that in, your chances of acceptance are greatly compromised. It’s best to be honest and give the information.
You’ll then be asked for items such as your driver’s license number if you have a vehicle; this is to control vehicles on the property and an additional parking charge may apply. In Canada your social insurance number (SIN) is optional; you do not have to give it unless the rental property company needs to file a T5 form for the interest income they receive on your last month’s rent deposit. Revenue Canada requires this because the last month’s deposits for an entire building or rental complex are substantial. For this reason only Canadian landlords can require your SIN. In the US, an applicant’s Social Security Number is a mandatory requirement by most rental property companies. The key issue is: never fill out a rental application form in a situation you feel uneasy about. A lot of your personal and professional information will end up on that application; you only want reputable individuals and companies to see it.
Places of Employment
After providing personal details, you will need to list places where you’ve worked during the past 3 – 5 years on the employment portion of the application. A landlord wants to know that you have a steady source of income and can be relied upon to pay the rent. Not only will you need to state the companies you worked for; you’ll need to their addresses, phone numbers, and the names of your managers. It’s much easier if you have been employed at one place for a long time. When in doubt, simply give the best answer that you can. It’s better to give whatever information you do have than to leave a section blank.
The primary portion of the employment section will concern your current work status. You’ll need the name of your immediate supervisor and a contact phone number. You should advise that person that there may be inquiry calls about you from rental companies, so no one is caught off-guard. You’ll also have to disclose any additional income that would be used to help pay the rent. Some landlords will request an employment letter from management personnel (human resources, or immediate supervisor) on an official company letterhead. This is a useful document to obtain early in the process.
Keep your address book handy. From 2 – 4 personal references will be required and for each one you will need to provide full names, phone numbers and postal mailing addresses. These references should be people you know in your personal life who can speak to your character and reliability. This is generally included on most rental application forms.
Fill out a release stating that it’s all right for the company to check your rent and credit scores; most companies will do just that. You’ll then need to sign the form to verify that your application information was as true and accurate as possible, according to your knowledge. After paying the application fee (only in US contexts), a lease agreement should come next if the application is accepted.
12. WHAT INFORMATION IS DISCLOSED DURING A TENANT SCREENING?
Landlords use tenant screening as a method to protect their asset – the rental premises (usually an apartment). They know that the more effective tenant screening they conduct upfront, the less likely they’ll accept a tenant who doesn’t pay rent on time, causes property damage, or disturbs other good residents who might move out. Here’s the information that you can expect to disclose during a tenant screening:
Social Insurance Number
Your S.I.N. is not required for conducting a credit check in Canada. All that is required to access your credit and rent files is your full name, current address, previous address (if current is less than 2 years), and date of birth.
Landlords examine your credit history to see whether you have a history of not paying your bills, or paying late; if poor consumer payment habits show up, they will deny your tenant application because you pose too great a risk of not paying rent. That’s why it’s extremely important to address any issues that negatively impact your credit score. For example, if charges appear on your credit record that are not yours, you should address the issue with a credit bureau as soon as you notice the problem. Your landlord may also accept your explanation, if you’re honest and detailed in your response.
Driver’s License Photo ID
You must provide at least one copy of current government-issued photo identification, such as your driver’s license, health card, or passport to confirm your identity. Your driver’s license number and birth date (imprinted on the license) are the best ways to check your identity. It is not mandatory to show your driver’s license or equivalent photo ID for screening purposes, but if you cannot confirm your identity it is unlikely that your application will be approved. Landlords need assurance that you are who you say you are; if you are unwilling to show ID, they’ll sense something is wrong; they may even suspect that you’re impersonating another prospective tenant by using false identification.
Copy of Current Utility Bill
Part of the tenant screening process is to verify rental history with your current or recent landlord. However, anyone can pretend to be a landlord. One type of fraud some tenants commit is having a friend pretend to be a current landlord; the friend will of course provide an excellent reference. To prevent being taken in this way, landlords may require a copy of a current utility bill to verify that you actually live at the address in question; from that information they can verify the name and contact information of the legitimate landlord that owns that rental unit.
Prospective landlords ask for employment verification to confirm that you’re working and have income to pay the rent. This requires a letter from your boss or manager stating that you’re a current employee and providing your salary or hourly pay rate. You can write the letter yourself and ask your employer to sign it.
During the tenant screening process, some landlords require only basic information, while others ask for too much. You should always be wary of giving away information that is irrelevant to your ability to rent an apartment. Unfortunately, there are some fraudulent landlords who abuse the tenant screening process, and collect personal information for the sole purpose of committing identity theft. If you’re uncomfortable with the information being asked for, research that particular landlord, and move on if necessary.
13. MY LEASE APPLICATION WAS DENIED: WHAT NOW?
Having your lease application denied is stressful, but understanding possible reasons why can help you overcome this problem now and in the future.
Lease Application Process
When you apply to rent an apartment, your landlord will screen your application. This process may include identity verification, credit check, employment verification and a review of your rental history. Problems in any of these areas may result in your application being denied. Most landlords will inform you of this decision by postal mail. The denial must conform to local anti-discrimination laws, but other than that, your application can be denied for any reason, even if nothing bad turns up in your screening.
Typical Reasons for Rental Application Denials
Common reasons for denying your rental application include: poor rental or credit score, giving false information on your application, a negative rental history, or inadequate income. Your application may also be denied if the landlord feels another rental applicant is better qualified than you.
Understanding Why Your Application Was Denied
Unless your application was denied for credit-related reasons, the landlord does not have to tell you why your application was denied. When the denial is due to something in your credit report, the landlord must provide the name and contact information for the credit reporting agency where the negative information was obtained, but is not required to tell you which information disqualified you as a prospective tenant.
When negative data shows up in your rent and/or credit report, take the opportunity to review the report(s) for errors. After a lease application is denied, you have 60 days by law to request a free copy of your credit report from the credit reporting agency that provided it to the prospective landlord. If you request the report immediately, you may be able to correct errors that negatively influenced the landlord’s decision.
In addition to information obtained from credit reporting agencies, your landlord may also review third-party information, usually from former landlords. While your application can be denied based on third party information, privacy laws forbid landlords to disclose the details of what was said about you.
What Can You Do?
If you really want to rent a particular apartment, try talking to the landlord. It won’t hurt to ask why your application was denied, but be prepared for the landlord refusing to tell you. For credit-related problems, correct any mistakes in your credit report and present this information to the landlord for consideration.
If you suspect the denial was based on inadequate income, offer to have a guarantor (someone who agrees to pay on your behalf if you can’t pay your rent) co-sign the lease. The best course of action when your lease application is denied is to determine why and correct any problems that may have worked against you. Use what you’ve learned to improve your chances of success on future lease applications.
14. RENTAL APPLICATION: HOW MANY YEARS AFTER AN EVICTION IS A LANDLORD STILL ALLOWED TO CONSIDER THAT EVICTION?
Having a prior eviction on your rental application does not necessarily mean you will be denied an apartment lease; its impact depends on the individual landlord. Here are some ways in which a prior eviction could affect your future ability to rent a residence.
Commercial Properties Excluded
Rentals of commercial properties are very different than residential leases. Usually, eviction from a commercial property will prevent a tenant from renting another commercial property in the future; but there are exceptions for situations in which tenants have been evicted through no fault of their own, such as a property foreclosures. If the tenant has proof of having made timely rental payments, it would not be considered a true eviction and should not appear on the business’s credit report.
The Eviction Process and Rent Reports
The eviction process is long and can take two forms: termination of the lease agreement, or a legal eviction.
In the first case, the landlord and tenant mutually agree to end their lease agreement and the tenant finds a new residence. This is not a true eviction and therefore should not appear on the tenant’s rental history.
A legal eviction involves court proceedings in which the court approves the landlord’s request to break the lease and remove a tenant from the property. Sometimes police have to forcibly remove a tenant from the premises. This type of eviction is serious and will appear on the tenant’s rental history report for up to seven years.
The Impact of an Eviction
The impact of an eviction depends on a landlord’s response to seeing it on your rent report, not the province in which the residence is located; this is because provincial laws regulate consumer reporting agencies. In Canada there is no law such as the US federal Fair Credit Reporting Act. Whether or not a prior eviction will impact your application for a new residence depends on how long ago it occurred and if the landlord accesses a rent report.
After seven years, an eviction is automatically removed from the rent report. If seven years have not passed, a tenant could write a letter to include with a new rental application explaining the circumstances of the eviction.
If the eviction was entirely the tenant’s fault, there usually very little that can be done to persuade a new landlord to accept a rental application. Landlords can choose whose applications to accept or reject, as long as a tenant is not denied due to race, gender or religion.