The Commission d’accès à l’information (CAI), Québec’s privacy commissioner, has recognized a landlord’s rights to personal information. However, by virtue of the Act respecting the Protection of Personal Information in the Private Sector, the information requested by the landlord must be necessary and indispensable to the evaluation and management of a leasing application.
In order to ensure that the personal information requested remains within the permissible framework, the CAI has established a set of guiding principles which should be considered prior to disclosing personal information, which are summarized below.
Personal Information which may be requested by a Landlord:
- Personal information establishing the identity of the future tenant – The landlord may request the full name and current address of the applicant. In order to ensure the accuracy of such information, the landlord may require the applicant to present a valid piece of identification. However, the landlord is forbidden from retaining any information contained on the identification and, therefore, no photocopy may be produced by the landlord.
- Personal Information establishing behavioral traits – In order to establish the behavioral traits of an applicant, the landlord may onlyrequest the name or contact information of the current/previous landlord. Alternatively, the applicant may present a letter of recommendation signed by the previous landlord.
- Personal Information establishing the payment tendencies of the applicant – With the consent of the applicant, the landlord may (a) request information from the current or previous landlord, and (b) perform a credit check. In such circumstances, the landlord need only obtain the applicants full name, current address and date of birth.
Alternatively, to establish his credit-worthiness, the tenant may provide the landlord with (a) a credit certificate from their financial institution; (b) a letter of recommendation from a previous landlord; (c) any other document attesting to the applicant’s adherence to his obligations (Bell, Hydro-Québec etc.); or (d) pertinent extracts from his credit report.
In order to undergo a credit history check, the landlord must first obtain the applicant’s consent. Once consent is obtained, a credit history necessitates very limited information (i.e. full name, current address and date of birth). The landlord does not need to obtain the applicant’s social insurance number.
It is important to note that the above information may also be requested by the landlord in the context of a sub-lease or assignment.
Personal Information which cannot be requested by a Landlord
The following information cannot be requested by a landlord:
- social insurance number
- driver’s licence and number
- health insurance card and number
In addition, the analysis of an application does not necessitate the applicant to mention his current employment, name and contact information of his employer, number of years working for the employer and his salary. The same applies for all registration-related information of the applicant’s personal vehicle. Finally, the applicant is not required to provide the name and coordinates of his financial institution, nor is the applicant required to provide a copy of a blank cheque.
In the event that a landlord requests personal information not specifically authorized by the Act, the applicant may file a complaint with the CAI. The CAI can provide the necessary information requested, launch an investigation and/or recommend or order any measures deemed appropriate for the protection of the applicant’s personal information. However, if the Actis contravened, the CAI, in such circumstances, does not have the authority to grant damages.