Renting Well Blog

Why Tenant Screening Is Wickedly Important

Mistake #1 for landlords: renting on a hunch. It’s insane.

When we built Renting Well, we made it a quick priority to include access to background checking within the app. To make this happen we were fortunate to partner with BackCheck, Canada’s leading background checking service. One of the reasons we did this was because basic credit checks are just one piece of the pie. It’s good to have access to other background checking elements like employment verifications and a criminal background check. I had the opportunity recently to sit down with Iain Murray at BackCheck to discuss some interesting stats when it comes to landlords “checking” who they’re renting to:

  • 10% of Canadians have a criminal record. That’s over 3 million people. 
  • 28.5% of tenant applicants will have poor credit.
  • 12.1% of tenant applicants will lie about their employment.
  • Almost 25% of landlords would not recommend a former tenant to another landlord.
  • About 45% of BackCheck’s small landlord customers will request a criminal background check.

Conducting criminal background checks is more important than landlords might realize — an individual with a criminal history, who continues living a life of lawful offense, can have a great impact on a building and even an entire community. While a check is not exclusionary, it has the potential of reducing the number of thieves and violent ex-criminals who wish to neighbour among other tenants.

With that said, a criminal check can uncover any one of a number of offenses — not just violent crimes. People get charged with minor offenses like fraud and theft — things which most landlords would want to know before making a decision to rent to a tenant or not. There is no such thing as too much information for a landlord. Any kind of criminal background is something you should be aware of. Landlords have the right to refuse to a tenant because of their criminal history and ultimately the responsibility lies with you when it comes to introducing new tenants into your property. Check out this great info sheet published by Crime Prevention Ottawa in September 2009 that discusses how landlords can avoid and overcome the challenges of crime and disorder (such as drug dealing) on their property.

Author: Chris Saracino

Chris is a co-founder of Renting Well and heads up our marketing and communication efforts. He's also the landlord of two buildings and 8 units in Ottawa, Ontario.


  1. not every one with a criminal record is a repeated offender..I have a record and I need a place to live..I work full-time and I Had made a mistake that doesn’t mean I have to suffer the rest of my life because of it..all that should matter is that a tenant has a job , pays his rent and keeps care of the property.

  2. Hi Kyle,

    You’re absolutely right. Not everyone with a criminal record is a repeat offender – however – the gist of the post is that landlords should equip themselves with as much information about a prospective tenant as possible – and that can include a criminal background check.

  3. This is ridiculous. I am 23 years old female with a criminal record for a mistake i commit in the past when I was just 18. I am trying to better my self, I pay my rent and work full time but yet It seems that I might be leaving on the streets now . A criminal record shouldnt even matter , ! ppl need a place to live.

  4. I had a tenant removed from my personal home this evening by police, and it was only after that I learned about his record (B&E, overstaying, etc, etc, etc.) From this moment forward, all of my tenants will be checked out.

    Sorry if a few bad criminals ruin it for the rest of the respectable criminals.

  5. If you are going to be living with your tenant i can understand a criminal background check – just something to say cleared of any theft, murder etc..

    Now if you are renting a basement, or appartment that there is not going to be a co-tenant then YOU shouldn’t even care….as long as they pay their rent on time, and keep the place clean and are quiet and nice to others then really its none of anyones business.

    But we also have to remember when renting if there is a young female that is renting a room or shared accommations with the LL or female tenant having a man move in with a criminal past is a threat! Think about it….? if it were your daughter, niece, sister etc…no one would like that.

  6. AS a landlord that rents out a few rooms in a small house i agree with the Screening process. I have given far to many breaks to people in the past and have suffered for it one way or the other. As far as a criminal past it really doesn’t bother me nor do little things that seam to bother other landlords such as welfare or ODSP. When i was younger i got into trouble and the criminal past has always been a pain and it still bites me much later in life but i am now in the legal field and I’m all for helping out a person who will pay on time and respect my property and the others that live in it. I was not a repeat offender.

  7. It seems that homelessness is becoming a huge problem in bc! Where are people with criminal records going to live if they are being discriminated a basic human need for shelter?? On the streets is where they are going to live!! Where are they going to work without a proper home to clean themselves and properly care for themselves to be respectable enough to work; ya they work no where!! How are they going to survive?? Through desperate measures robbing you home and mine, yes I have been robbed and it sucks!! Come on BC government get your act together and provide the housing and support services that convicted criminals who have served their time need or else expect the homeless people and their thefts of survival to continue. They can never get out of this vicous exsistence without the help of the government…a lot of these people have mental illnesses…a lot of these people suffered traumatic child abuse that causes permanent damage…where was the government for my best friend when he was severely abused in his childhood and has nothing but problems in his adult life…he can’t rent a place in bc so he is at least lucky enough to have a job while he is stuck to live in a motel room… I have been a landlord in the past so I understand their position…the BC government needs to step it up for these people in need to help irradicate homelessness and a life of hell living in abstract poverty otherwise people quit complaining about the sight of homeless people and their desperate measures that they need to take in order to survive!!! People of BC need to band together to pressure the government to help the mentally ill people who commit crimes to help them function better in their lives, we are as weak as the weakest one standing as a society, we are one village of humans affecting one another with our actions!! We have a housing crisis for the people with criminal records!!!

  8. To much information can be a very big issue for a land lord. They can or could collect the wrong type or too much, this is illegal and very well be damaging to the landlord. Your article should read more that I landlord should acquire as much information as is legally allowed.

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