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If you are looking for an apartment with a criminal record, there are a few things you should know. While a criminal record can hinder your chances of getting the apartment of your dreams, in Canada, there is no law that authorizes the owner of a house/apartment to do a criminal record check without the permission of the tenant.

The landlord can request a background check, however if the potential tenant refuses and does not provide written consent there is no law allowing the tenant to refuse solely based on the denial. The landlord cannot demand information from an individual, as a condition of providing a service (renting an apartment), that is beyond what is necessary to protect that landlord’s legitimate interests.

The Privacy Guidelines for Landlords and Tenants of British Columbia states, “A landlord can only request information that is reasonably necessary to provide tenancy”. This collection of personal information is done on a discretionary basis. If a prospective tenant thought that he or she was being asked for more information than was necessary, that person could report the landlord to the Privacy Commissioner of Canada. Ultimately the issue would be to prove that the denial of the rental property was done solely on the basis of the criminal record check. However, this would be extremely difficult to prove because you would have to essentially provide evidence that would eliminate all other factors of possible denial on behalf of the rental property owner.

Many rental properties, strata associations and individual owners are requesting a criminal background check and although it remains optional  the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation advises “that you do a thorough screening before accepting a tenant because if you don’t, you will have no leg to stand on should there be problems later”( http://www.condo.ca/check-credit-and-criminal-records-before-you-rent-to-a-stranger/). Other programs and police services are partnering up to ensure safety within the community and targeting rental properties. A prime example is the Capital Region Housing Corporation who is partnered with the Edmonton Police Service in the Crime Free Multi Housing Program.

Again, the criminal record check conducted by the Edmonton Police Service does not prevent someone with a past criminal history from being eligible for housing. The record check is done to ensure as far as is reasonable, that those choosing to apply are not currently involved in criminal activity. The acceptance criteria are inclusive of, but not limited to the following: for non-violent crime, three years clear since the last court imposed conditions or restrictions. For violent crime offences, five years clear since the last court imposed conditions or restrictions (this would include all sex offences, impaired driving), conditions or restrictions would be inclusive of community service work or hours, probation, parole etc. Any person who is registered in the National Sex Offender Database is ineligible for housing with CRHC.http://crhc.ca/programs-and-services/crime-free-multi-housing-program.aspx.

In the majority of cases a criminal record would not legally prevent you from renting an apartment, however proving discrimination on one fundamental element such as your criminal record check would be next to impossible. If you have a criminal record and need to rent an apartment, give us a call to ensure you don’t get denied from you dream home due to a mistake in your past!