For someone trying to find a place to rent in Vancouver, a home near bustling Chinatown might seem like a promising prospect.
But if that someone wants to live in a building called Brixton Flats, they are going to be asked to fill out a personality test.
The online application asks questions like whether a person “feels relaxed most of the time,” if someone “would rather cook than do the dishes” and asks if a person ever lies.
There are 32 questions in total, designed by psychologists to theoretically identify the ideal tenant.
“It’s really a way for applicants for tenancy to put a best foot forward,” Andrew McLeod, who runs Certn, told Global News.
Certn is a Victoria start-up that provides the test to landlords and say 40,000 units in B.C. right now are being rented using their software.
“We’re looking to show that an applicant is clean, that they’re credible, and we’re looking to do it in a way that’s not intrusive,” added McLeod.
Landlord B.C. says first impressions of the program are positive but a professor with the University of British Columbia questions whether this would work for individual tenants.
“I have specialized for many years in survey research,” says Delroy Paulhus, a UBC psychology professor, “but you wouldn’t want to nail somebody down and say ‘this guy is honest… and this one is neat’… on the basis of scores of this particular test.”
There are also questions around whether a test like this could discriminate against people, depending on their cultural or language background or mental health background.
There is also the question of privacy.
Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner for BC is looking into whether this method of searching for a tenant is allowed under the Personal Information Protection Act (PIPA), specifically as “landlords should not require prospective tenants to consent to the collection of personal information by a tenant suitability service in order to apply for a tenancy.”
“A landlord cannot require a prospective tenant to consent to use a tenant suitability service, as it is not necessary for the provision of the tenancy. Any landlord who requires prospective tenants to use such a service is likely in contravention of s. 7(2) of PIPA,” the office said in a statement.
McLeod believes his test falls within the guidelines and says it’s actually now optional to take the test when applying to be a tenant.
However, B.C.’s Information and Privacy Commissioner has launched an investigation into Certn.
The Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing told Global News:
“It is important that renters in B.C. are able to live without the fear of having their privacy breached in order to secure affordable housing.
“Everyone needs to abide by the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act. Landlords should only collect information they need in order to be compliant with privacy laws. We understand the privacy commissioner will be looking into the legality of this practice.”