Signing a lease

Leases and protection of personal information

Principles and guidelines to follow

Looking for a new place to live, or a new lessee?

The end result of your search will probably be a contract between lessee and lessor – that is, a lease.

Before the lease is signed, the lessor may want to collect some personal information from their future lessee. The Commission d’accès à l’information has set out principles and guidelines to help guide both parties in this situation.

Two basic principles

  • The right to privacy

    No matter what the situation is, the right to privacy must be respected when information is collected. In Québec, the Act respecting the protection of personal information in the private sector lays out the rules for collecting, retaining, using and communicating personal information1.

  • Necessary information only

    In general, the Commission d’accès à l’information (the Commission) considers that, under certain conditions, a lessor may gather personal information before a lease is signed. Section 5 of the Act respecting the protection of personal information in the private sector stipulates that a person collecting personal information may only collect the information necessary for the purpose of the file. That means that the lessor needs to make sure to collect only the information necessary to evaluate and process a rental application.

Guidelines to follow

What information can a lessor collect about a potential lessee? What information can’t they require? The Commission has provided guidelines to help people understand the rules on collecting personal information about future lessees.

Personal information that can be requested

When a prospective lessee submits an application to rent a dwelling, the lessor may demand certain information in order to establish their identity, behaviour and payment habits.

  1. Personal information to establish a future lessee’s identity

    The lessor may ask for the future lessee’s full name and complete current address.

    Note that, to ascertain the future lessee’s identity, the lessor may ask to see a piece of identification, with or without photo, such as a driver’s licence or a health or social insurance card. However, the lessor may not collect the information listed on it. The lessor may not photocopy the document and keep that copy on file.

  2. Personal information to verify a future lessee’s conduct

    To verify the future lessee’s conduct in terms of their respect for their fellow lessees and the dwelling entrusted to them, the lessor may only collect the name(s) and/or contact information of the lessor or concierge of the future lessee’s previous dwelling(s).

    The future lessee may also demonstrate their good conduct by providing a letter of recommendation from a previous lessor.

  3. Personal information to establish a future lessee’s payment habits

    To verify the future lessee’s payment habits and with their consent, the lessor may:

    • Collect information from current or previous lessors. The lessor may ask for their names and contact information.
    • Carry out a credit check. The lessor only needs the future lessee’s full name, address and date of birth. For more information, see the Credit check section.

    In addition, the future lessee may provide the lessor with evidence of good payment habits, such as:

    • A credit report from their financial institution
    • A letter of recommendation from a previous lessor
    • Any other document attesting that they honour their obligations from an organization or business of goods and services that requires payments over time (such as Bell, Hydro Québec, Vidéotron, etc.)
    • Relevant extracts from their credit report

Assigning a lease

A lessor may collect the same personal information about a potential subletter or lease assignee as they could collect about a future lessee.

Examples of personal information that cannot be required

Below are some illustrative examples of personal information that a lessor may not collect.

  1. Driver’s licence and licence number

    Section 61 of the Highway Safety Code stipulates that someone who holds a licence cannot be required to produce their licence except by a peace officer or the Société d’assurance automobile du Québec.

    However, someone who has a driver’s licence may use their licence as identification and to validate information they have provided, such as their full name, address and date of birth. Collecting the licence number is not necessary for such validation.

  2. Health insurance card and number

    Section 9.0.0.1 of the Health Insurance Act stipulates that no one may be required to produce a health insurance card or eligibility card, except for purposes related to the dispensing of services or the provision of goods or resources in the field of health or social services.

    However, the holder of such a card may use it as identification and to validate their full name and date of birth. Collecting the health insurance card number is not necessary for such validation.

  3. Passport

    Similarly, the lessor may ask to see a future lessee’s passport to confirm their identity. However, the lessor may not collect the information contained in the passport, nor make a copy of it.

    Evaluation of a prospective lessee’s rental file does not require information about their job, salary, employer’s name and contact information or number of years of employment. The same is true for their vehicle’s make, colour or licence plate number, and the contact information of their financial institution. The lessee may not be required to provide a void cheque.

Credit check

As mentioned above, in order to establish a future lessee’s payment habits, a lessor may enlist the services of a personal information agent (commonly called a “credit bureau”).

To do so, the lessor must get the future lessee’s consent. Once consent is given, the check may be done using a minimum of personal information. Generally, personal information agents can very efficiently find a personal file in their data banks using only the full name, address and date of birth.

The lessor may not refuse a potential lessee because they did not provide identification document numbers, such as a health insurance number or driver’s licence number.

It’s important to note that the future lessee can also carry out their own credit check and provide the credit report to the lessor. This may be done, for example, when the future lessee does not consent to the lessor conducting a credit check, or when the personal information agent (credit bureau) is unable to find the correct credit record.

Student or new arrival?

People such as students or newcomers to Québec, who do not have any prior history as lessees or any credit history, still need to provide evidence of good payment habits. In such cases, it is up to the parties involved to determine what legally permissible documents or means will allow the lessor to assess the future lessee’s ability to pay, in accordance with current legislation.

The role of the Commission d’accès à l’information

If someone is asked to provide unnecessary personal information, they may file a complaint with the Commission d’accès à l’information.

Depending on the circumstances, the Commission may provide the required information to the parties, investigate, or recommend or order the appropriate measures to protect personal information. Note that the Commission does not have the power to order someone to pay damages. It primarily acts to encourage the adoption of practices that better reflect the spirit and letter of the law.

Contact the Commission d’accès à l’information:

Québec City (headquarters)

Bureau 1.10
575, rue Saint-Amable
Québec (Québec) G1R 2G4
Phone: 418 528-7741
Fax: 418 529-3102

Montréal
Bureau 18.200
500, boul. René-Lévesque Ouest
Montréal (Québec) H2Z 1W7
Phone: 514 873-4196
Fax: 514 844-6170
Legal affairs fax: 514 864-3225

Toll free phone line for both offices: 1 888 528-7741

Email: cai.communications@cai.gouv.qc.ca

Website : www.cai.gouv.qc.ca

1. If the lessor is a public body (for example, low rental housing), the law that applies is the Act respecting Access to documents held by public bodies and the Protection of personal information. In that case, eligibility criteria for those programs must also be taken into account.