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Hot to get a credit report for a landlord

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The rental market can be super competitive, with too many people looking to rent too few quality properties. It’s never as simple as just finding a place that works for you and moving in. Unfortunately, finding a place to live that fits your budget and location criteria can be difficult.

Even once you find a place you like the look of, there are hoops you need to jump through before the landlord will even consider you as a tenant. So, you need to be always putting your best foot forward. Landlords want to know you’re going to be reliable and won’t cause them any headaches.

Pulling a tenant's credit report is one way landlords can determine if they're a good candidate to live in their property. Most landlords want to see your credit report. Let’s discuss why, and what you can do to make sure you look on paper.

Why is a credit report important?

Your credit report basically explains how reliable you are with money. When you open bank accounts, take out a loan or a mortgage, or get a credit card, lenders report your activity to one or both of the two Canadian credit bureaus – Equifax and TransUnion. They also report your financial activity, like how often you make and miss monthly payments, how much debt you’re carrying, if you fail on a loan, or you’ve been referred to a collection agency.

Your credit report will highlight your credit score, which is a three-digit number that essentially summarizes all the information in your credit report. At a glance, your credit score ranks your credit performance over time. Scores range from 300-900. Scores are considered poor between 300-659, good between 660-759, and excellent above 760.

Lenders use your credit report to determine whether you’re reliable, so they know if they should lend money to you. Similarly, landlords also use it to check your reliability. They want to know if you can afford to pay rent and if you have a history of paying your bills on time and in full.

What’s in a credit report?

Your credit report contains more than just your credit score. There’s additional details on each of your accounts, credit, and loans.

Your credit report contains information about you, such as:

  • Current and previous address and phone numbers

  • Social Insurance Number (SIN)

  • Date of birth

  • Current and former employers

  • Credit in use, including credit cards, lines of credit, and loans

  • When you opened accounts and how much you owe

  • Hard enquiries from lenders, which are usually undertaken when you request credit

  • Repayment history, including late and insufficient repayments

  • Debts sent to collection agencies

  • Bankruptcy

  • Any fraud alerts or security notes

Why do landlords want to see a credit report?

Landlords want to know they can trust you. Your credit report helps them evaluate you as a risk. You’ll be living in their property, so they want to know you will pay rent on time and that you’ll look after the place. In most cases, you’ll be a stranger to a potential landlord before moving in. And while they can’t learn everything about you and your behaviour before you move in, they can learn a little about you through your credit history.

When a landlord checks your credit report, they’re looking at your credit score to determine at a glance how good you are with money. They’re looking at your credit history to see if you have a history of late, partial, or missed payments. They’re looking at your debt load to see how much debt you have in relation to your income. And they’re looking to see if there are any remarks on your file related to things like previous evictions or debts sent to collections agencies.

Can landlords perform a credit check?

If a prospective landlord wants to see your credit report, they will usually perform a credit check. It’s legal in Canada for a landlord to check your credit report – but they need your written consent to do so. They’ll often ask you to sign a document authorizing them to perform a credit check as part of the application process.

Credit checks are considered hard enquiries by the credit bureaus. Each hard enquiry can negatively affect your credit score by a few points.

How do I get a copy of my own credit report?

It’s worth understanding your own credit score and having knowledge of your credit report before applying for a property. If you really want a particular property, it can even be worth showing up with an up-to-date credit report in hand. While a landlord may still choose to conduct a credit check on you, knowing your own credit details shows that you’re serious and have your finances organized.

You can get your credit report for free from Equifax and from TransUnion (where it’s called a Consumer Disclosure).

You can also stay on top of your credit score by signing up for free updates from online fintech companies Borrowell, Intuit Credit Karma, and Mogo. Understanding your current credit score is a great way to monitor the ups-and-downs of your credit history and ensure you’re generally trending in the right direction.

What can I do if I have no credit or bad credit

A good credit record obviously looks appealing to a landlord. But not everyone has a perfect credit history. So what can you do if your credit isn’t as good as you wish it was?

No credit

If you have no credit or limited credit history (perhaps you’re a newcomer to Canada or you’ve only recently turned 18), you’re unlikely to have much on your credit report. You build your credit score by borrowing and repaying money – and maybe you haven’t done a lot of that in Canada yet. This means prospective landlords won’t be able to determine much about you and your reliability to pay your rent. As such, you may need some help to secure the property, in the form of a guarantor. A guarantor is a parent, friend, or relative who is willing to sign up to take on the risk of paying the rent if you fail to.

Bad credit

If you have bad credit, you still have options to convince a landlord to trust you as their tenant. Honesty might be the best policy – if you’ve gone through a bad patch that tanked your credit score (perhaps you went through an expensive divorce, you got let go during Covid, or you had to declare bankruptcy because a business endeavour went south), try explaining it to the landlord. These things can happen, and empathetic landlords will understand that. Outside of that, you can also provide additional documentation, including references from employers and past landlords, even bank statements and tax returns – whatever might help convince a landlord that you have healthy finances even if your credit score doesn’t reflect it. Having a cosigner or guarantor can also go a long way to easing a landlord’s mind. Securing a property with bad credit might not be easy, but it’s not impossible.

Note: KOHO product information and/or features may have been updated since this blog post was published. Please refer to our KOHO Plans page for our most up to date account information!

Sam Boyer

Sam Boyer spends, invests, budgets, and writes. He enjoys writing about things he wishes he’d learned earlier — like spending, investing, and budgeting. A journalist originally from New Zealand, Sam has written extensively about consumer affairs, insurance, travel, health, and crime.