Privacy in the Landlord and Tenant Relationship

The landlord-tenant relationship can involve the collection, use and disclosure of significant amounts of personal information. Privacy issues can arise, for example, in relation to tenant concerns about over-collection and inappropriate use of personal information, issues related to surveillance cameras and disclosure of tenant information to third parties.

The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada (OPC) is regularly approached by tenants looking for information and advice about their privacy rights in a landlord-tenant relationship. This page features answers to the most common questions we are asked by tenants or prospective tenants. We have also developed some tips for landlords on common privacy issues in the rental housing sector.

Are there any laws that set out the rules for how landlords handle tenants’ personal information?

Landlords are required to comply with the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA), Canada’s federal private sector privacy law, or provincial legislation deemed to be substantially similar.

PIPEDA sets out the ground rules for how businesses, including landlords, must handle personal information in the course of commercial activity. Landlords subject to the Act must obtain an individual's consent when they collect, use or disclose the individual's personal information. The individual has a right to access personal information held by an organization and to challenge its accuracy, if need be. The landlord can only use a tenant’s personal information for the purposes for which it was collected, and is responsible for ensuring the personal information will be protected by appropriate safeguards.

Credit bureaus—which are used by many landlords—collect, use and disclose personal information through their consumer credit reports, and they are also governed by provincial and federal privacy laws. 

What personal information am I obligated to provide to a prospective landlord?

In order to make a decision on whether or not to rent a property to you, a prospective landlord may ask for some personal information that will allow them to complete a credit check. A credit check will give the prospective landlord information about your ability to pay the rent and the potential timeliness of your payment. A prospective landlord is required to gain your consent to share your personal information with any third party or organization, such as a credit reporting agency, for a credit check.

To run a credit check, the landlord would need, at a minimum, your name, address and date of birth. Some landlords may also ask for your driver’s license, passport, employer, income and expenses on a rental application. This information is not needed for a credit check but may allow the landlord to obtain a more detailed report from organizations that offer credit checks.

Does a landlord require my Social Insurance Number (SIN)?

There is no law preventing private-sector organizations, including landlords, from asking for your SIN for purposes such as identification, but the collection must be optional and not a condition of service. Nevertheless, tenants and landlords should be aware that the SIN should not be used as a general identifier. For more information, see our resources on privacy and Social Insurance Numbers.

What are my options if a landlord asks for my Social Insurance number?

The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada (OPC) generally recommends that individuals do not give the SIN to a private-sector organization unless there is a legal requirement to do so.

If you are asked for your SIN, you can ask why the landlord needs it, how it will be used and to whom it will be given. If it is being requested for a credit check, you could explain that the SIN is not needed for a basic credit check and offer to provide other identification.

If the landlord insists, you could suggest that he or she contact the OPC. You could also consider filing a complaint with the OPC.

Can a landlord take pictures of my apartment and its contents?

Taking photographs of an individual’s apartment or rental unit is a collection of personal information. The landlord must identify the purpose prior to, or at the time of, collection, and also obtain your consent. The landlord must also make a reasonable effort to ensure that you understand how the information will be used or disclosed.

Further reading

The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada has conducted a number of investigations related to privacy in the context of landlord-tenant relationships. The summaries of these investigations offer concrete examples of how PIPEDA protects the privacy rights of tenants.

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