Running a credit and background check reports is a great way for landlords to screen tenants. Especially given the state of today’s rental market, it is important for landlords to know as much as possible about the tenants that they choose to rent their units to. The SingleKey Credit and background check is a great way to gain this type of insight.

The credit and background report can include a lot of information which can be overwhelming when you don’t know what are the important items to look for. This article provides a detailed guide of how read a SingleKey Credit and Background Check report and highlights what are the important factors to consider. We have included images from our Sample Report in this article- to view the full sample report, please click here.

Here is breakdown of a SingleKey Credit & Background Check report by sections:

Section 1: Applicants General Information

The first sections of the credit and background check shows the self-reported information from the tenant’s rental application form. The first two pages of the report can act as a rental application for landlords as it allows the applicant to input information accessible to the landlords account that is commonly included in rental application forms. This includes the Applicants Information, Employment Information, Landlord References, and other Miscellaneous Information. SingleKey does not verify any self-reported information as part of the credit and background check service.

Note that this information is only available if the landlord uses the “Invite Tenant” option. When entering tenant information directly, this information will not be available.

Key Applicant Scores

Applicant scores summary

This section highlights some of the key numbers of the report at a glance.

The SingleKey Score is a points-based summary out of 100 to indicate whether a tenant appears to be high or low risk. This score takes into all information that is generated by the report including financial, credit, background check, debt payments and affordability.

The Credit Score is an Equifax ERS 2.0 score that summarizes the tenant’s financial health and their risk of default. More info on the credit score in the Financial Section below.

The Rent to Income Ratio is the percentage of the tenant’s total monthly pre-tax income that will be used to pay rent on the unit the landlord is offering. This ratio is based on self-reported rent (by the landlord) and self-reported Household income (by the tenant). This number tells you whether a tenant will be able to afford the unit based on their income. We recommend that this number should not exceed 45%, and ideally be closer to 30% or less.

The Monthly Debt Payments is sums up the amount of all reoccurring monthly (or bi-weekly) debt payments on the credit report. The individual monthly debt payments are shown in the Tradelines Payments section below. It’s important to take these obligations into account because it will have an impact on the tenant’s disposable income and ability to pay rent.

Aplicants Information

This includes the tenant’s personal details such as their name, date of birth, SIN, driver’s license number, email and phone number as shows in the image below. SIN # and Driver’s license # are optional.

report form fields

Employment Information

In addition, where the tenant fills out the request to order a report, tenants can choose to provide their employment information to the landlord. This section will ask the applicant about all of the information shown as an example below.

Employment information form fields
note that not all fields in this section will be mandatory to complete

Residential history and Landlord References

In this section, the applicant can outline where they currently reside as well as any other previous addresses, they have lived prior. It is mandatory for tenants to include a history of at least 2 years of previous rental history.

residential history form fields

Landlord references form fields

Miscellaneous Information

This subsection gives applicants the opportunity to declare other information that provides landlords with further insight into potential renters. While not mandatory, these questions are usually answered by applicants when they fill out a request to complete a credit check.

Miscellaneous information form fields

Section 2: Credit & Background Check Summary

This section provides an overview of the applicants credit and background check report. Here you will see a summary of where the report might have returned with a matching result requiring extra attention.

Report Summary

The “Report Summary” section indicates that based on the tenant information provided we were able to get a match on their record with our data providers and that the tenant information was successfully retrieved from our data partners. This section is intended for Q&A and internal use, and can be ignored by the reader.

Report Summary

Background Check

The “Background Check” is a real-time public document search of over 200,000 databases from over 240 countries looking for criminal records, court decisions, past evictions, negative press, social profiles, public biographies, past employment, etc.

Background Check

Where the search returns as “cleared”, this means that the specific check was successfully completed and based on this search, there is no record of this individual within that database.

Where the search returns as “likely”, this means that there was a likely match on the applicant on that database. For example, in the above image, the “criminal record search” returned as “likely” indicating that there was a likely match between John Doe’s information used to run the report and another individual who has information in a criminal record database. More info how the logic behind the “likely” and “possible” results work is available in the Background Check Section.

Upgraded Reports (Equifax Reports)

This report flag signals a quick overview of what to expect from the Equifax credit score. There are three Equifax Credit Report Ratings that can be seen on your report (as seen above). This rating is returned depending the applicants credit.

Equifax reports
  • “Fail” flag indicates that the score is low (between 300 and 599). This score is considered a poor score range and requires extra consideration.
  • “Warn” flag indicates an average applicant score between 600 and 699. While this is a fair score range to fall within, these applicants do also carry a degree of risk and warrant a closer look at the credit report details.
  • “Pass” flag indicates a great applicant credit score above 700.

For more information on how to interpret credit scores is available in the Credit Score section below.

Financial Summary

The Financial Summary is a summarized assessment of the applicant’s financial status. It highlights key elements on the credit report including the credit score, legal items, bankruptcies, collections and total debt.

Financial Summary

As you can see, this report returned elements with the “Warn” (in yellow). This indicates that these section on the report have returned with a match to the applicant. The report also provides a summary of the total outstanding debt that the applicant owes.

In this example, John Doe was found to have items that went to collections, has a potential match to a bankruptcy filing as well as some other legal items that require additional attention (as indicated by the “Warn” flag). John Doe also appears to have a total of $67 in debt.

Notable Risks

This is an example of a “Notable Risk” that may appear on an applicant’s credit report and is used to indicate potential items on the report that require more attention.

Section 3: Applicants Background Check

The Background Check is a real-time public information search that searches over 110,000 databases from over 240 countries looking for criminal records, court decisions, negative press, social profiles, public biographies, past employment and more.

Profile Summary

profile summary list

Here is John Doe’s background check results. He has 4 public profiles including two Facebook accounts, Pinterest and Twitter. The check will provide you with a link to the accounts. Additionally, the report provides a history of former addresses where the applicant may have lived. Equifax also provides a list of previous addresses under “Financial Details” section. The background check does also provide an education history. This data is collected by connecting to several databases. SingleKey does not call the employer to confirm this information for the tenant.

Where there is no Employment History found in this section, this does not mean that the applicant has no employment history as this is one of two checks that is carried out on the report. To verify that your tenant has no documented employment history, please take a look under the Financial Details section below as Equifax also supplies employment history records.

The report aims to supply landlords with as much information as is available based on the self-reported data. Sometimes (rarely), this section will include information that is not accurate to the applicant. This can happen for a number of reasons including as a result of not all information being supplied to run the report (such as the SIN or driver’s license number are excluded when the report is run). When this happens, the landlord should check this information with the tenant to ensure it is correct.

Since the report is run based on self-reported information from page 1 and 2, it is important to note that some information that is provided in this section may not be an exact match to the applicant, so we do suggest verifying the validity of the data provided in this section, with the tenant or by asking for an ID.

Note: The Background Check and Equifax Credit Check data are from separate sources. It’s possible to get a miss-match or no-match on the Background Check, but still have accurate results on the Credit Check.

Criminal Background Check

The report includes a criminal background check on the applicant This section is where the report provides further details about “likely” matches indicated in the above “Background Check” overview section.

The criminal check included in the report includes a criminal identity “Match Score”. This is a comparison between the applicants self-reported data and the corresponding data that is discovered to be a potential match. Generally, there are two results that may appear in this section, either a) “Match Found” or b) “Possible Match”.

a) Where the Match Score returns saying “Match”, this indicates that it can be confidently predicted that the information presented corresponds to the applicants being screened.
example background check

b) Below is an example of where the Match Score returns with a Possible Match. In cases where the criminal identity scan returns with this result, it is on the landlord to verify the information that has been supplied in this report as it is not guaranteed to be the applicant being screened.
example background check

In this example, John Doe has lived an exceptionally busy life. Based on the results of the criminal scan, it shows that John Doe has several felony charges on record. As shown below, in cases where there is an offence caught by one of our scans, it will include a description, a category of offence, the date of the charge and the status of the proceedings.

Criminal scan

The background check also includes a Fraud scan, Sexual Offence Scan, Known Affiliation Scan, Global Sanction and Enforcement Scan, Public Safety Scan, and Other Scan (an example is shown below).

Criminal scan

Finally, the criminal check can include online sources providing additional information about any charges, reports, offences, or other information that can be found online on the screened applicant.


Section 4: Financial Details

This section of the report shows tenant’s Equifax credit check results. At the beginning you will see a summary of potential positives and negative highlights of this tenant, and the Equifax credit score.

Credit Score

The credit score shown in the ranges below is the most important numbers in the report because it provides a summary of all financial behaviour for the tenant including past payment behaviour, amount of debt, monthly debt payments and more. Refer to this page for more info on how the credit score is calculated. Below is the range of scores we provide in the report to help landlords determine if a credit score is good or bad.

Financial Details score

What is considered to be a good or bad tenant credit score?

To answer this, know that the average Canadian Renter has a 630 Credit Score. So that means that tenants with a score ranging from 600 to 680 are considered to have an average or “fair” score. When reviewing tenants with a score below 600 you need to be more careful to understand the cause of the low score. Applicant’s with a credit score below 500 should be avoided as it shows there that means that there are serious concerns with credit history. In this case, John Doe has a credit score of 493. This is considered to a poor score thus it shows a “F” or “Fail” rating.

The credit score is the best available indicator of a tenant’s financial health and payment behaviour, therefore an applicant with a poor credit score will generally have a higher change of not paying the rent on time.

Credit Check Errors and Warning

The Credit Check Error” and “Credit Check Warning” section warn the recipient of the report of a reason why there may not be a credit score on the report. When the report returns with a credit score and is error free, both sections say “No Records Found”.

Error: Credit Check Returned NO HIT

credit check errors

When there is a credit check error (as seen above), this indicates that the tenant information entered could be incorrect, and Equifax was not able to match the tenant information provided in their database.

When this occurs, check to confirm that the tenant information is correct, if not, then you can run a new report with the correct tenant info. If the tenant info provided is correct please contact a SingleKey representative and have them assist you.

Sometime we also see this error occur when the applicant is young or new to Canada and does not have any credit history with Equifax.

Warning: ERS not available

credit check warning

This is a common warning that occurs when Equifax was able to find the applicant’s file in their database, BUT the applicant did not have sufficient recent credit history on file to compile a credit score. In this case, you may see some limited credit information on the report but it will not show a credit score.

Tip: We see this result can be a positive since it indicates that the individual does not have any debt and is able to live within their means. Additionally, it also means that the applicant won’t have any other financial obligations (credit card, loan payments etc) to take away from the applicant’s ability to pay the rent.

Debt Summary

The report provides a summary of all debts divided up into 6 subsections. These subsections are:

  • Revolving Credit – typically Credit Cards
  • Other Credit or Debt – instalment loans, personal loans, phone plans etc.
  • Automobile Loans
  • Student Loans
  • Mortgages

Debt summary

The Revolving Credit section represents the total amount of credit card debt an individual has incurred. The Other Credit section shows other credit (everything other than credit cards) that is under the applicant. This includes items like credit lines with banks, phone payments, etc. The Other Debt section will include the personal debts of the applicant such as personal loans taken out from financial institutions. The Automobile Loans, Student Loans and Mortgage Loans show whether the applicant has monthly payments towards any of these respective loan areas.

Each of these subsections contains the following information:

balance sheet

  • The Total Balance is the total outstanding balance that remains to be paid by the applicant on the loan or credit line. For example, John Doe has used $14,966 from his Revolving Credit.

  • The Max Limit is the maximum amount of debt the individual can incur on the available line of credit. For example, John Doe has a maximum amount off $28,000 available on all of his available credit cards.

  • The % Of Credit Used illustrates the percentage of the Max Limit that has been used up by the applicant. For example, John Doe has used 53% of the available space on his credit cards.

  • The Number of X (cards, loans, mortgages, student loans, or car loans) is the number of products that the applicant has in their name. For example, John Doe has 2 credit cards in his name. These two credit cards hold a maximum of $28,000 in available credit and John has used $14,966 from this available credit.

  • The Past Due Amount is the amount that is outstanding for the applicant to pay towards a particular loan or credit payment. For example, John Doe is late on paying his Mortgage Loan. He has an outstanding balance of $10,893.

  • Payments 30/60/90 is used to show the number times that the applicant has been 30 days late, 60 days late and 90 days late in making payments during the past 6 years.

  • Monthly Payments shows how much the applicant is to pay towards a credit, debit or loan each month. For example, John Doe must pay $378 per month towards his Automobile Loan.

Tree Balances

Tree balances

This section provides insight into each of the applicant’s each tradelines. Here is a quick summary of the definition for each heading:

  • Credit Grantor” is where you find the name of the institution that the applicant has an account open. As you can see, John has an account open with Bell Mobility, TD Mortgage, etc.

  • Payment Status” shows if the applicants are paid up to date or behind on payments. John has paid his Bell Mobility account up to date but is behind on his CIBC Personal Loan. Additionally, you can see that he is “at least 120 days past due” on his TD Mortgage payments.

  • Account Type” depicts what type of payment is to be made in the account. John has two installment payments to make on his CIBC personal Loan and CDA student loan. He has a one auto-loan with Toyota and one mortgage with TD Mortgage.

  • High Credit” shows the credit limit or total amount that can be owed on each account.

  • Balance Amount” shows how much of the limit has been borrowed by the applicant and will be left to pay.

  • Last Activity or Payment” shows the last date a payment was recorded on the account. As you can see, John last made a payment towards his Capital One Costco Card on March 1st 2020.

Note: The numbers under “High Credit” and “Balance Amount” corresponds to the amounts provided under the “Debt Summary” section. For example, John Doe has one form of debt under “Other Debt”. We cansee from his report that this is the CIBC Personal Loan because the “Total Balance” corresponds to the “Balance Amount” and “Max Limit” corresponds to the “High Credit”.

Tradelines Payments (cont’d)

Tradeline Payments

This section provides payment information on the applicant’s tradelines. Here is a description of the headers in this section:

  • The “Credit % Used” informs us of the amount of credit that has been used from the available credit limit. Calculated as “Balance Amount” divided by “High Credit”

  • The “Months Reviewed” outlines how many months the account has been active.

  • Under “Past Due Amount” will show you the amount of late payments that are owed by the applicant to the Credit Grantor. (This will coincide with the “Debt Summary” above)

  • The “Payment Term Amount” shows the monthly or bi-weekly debt payments owed. These are all summarized in the monthly debt payments gauge at the top of the report.

  • The “Narratives” will explain the reoccurring nature of the payment to be made. For example, John has to pay $129 per month to his Capital One Costco Card. He also has to pay $189 bi-weekly towards auto-loan. It will also show if a tradeline is in default and has gone to collections.

Note: To learn more about the RCODE system, how it works and what each symbol means, please visit

Section 5: Additional Credit Information

Local and Foreign Credit Inquiries

local inquiries

This section provides information about other instances where an applicant’s credit has been requested. These types of inquiries appear on your credit report and are discoverable through Equifax. The report provides the name of the institution where the inquiry was made as well as the date of the inquiry. When running a SingleKey report for example, an inquiry will appear in this section of the applicant’s credit report.



This section shows if the applicant has filed for bankruptcy or a repayment plan in the past 7 years. The search will detail the liability amount, the account information (including the case number), the date of filling and whether the bankruptcy has been discharged. Here, you can see that John Doe filed for bankruptcy in 2018 for the amount of $86,000.



In John’s case, he has several items that have gone to Collections. Items that fall under “Collections” are accounts that have gone unpaid for more than 120 days and have been sold to collections agencies to recover. This suggests an inability to repay debt and can be viewed as a serious detriment to an individual’s ability to be financially responsible. Items that have gone to collections (paid or unpaid), remain on record for 7 years. As seen in the image above, the SingleKey report shows the following information:

  • Date of Last Payment” – this is the last time a payment is made to the account.
  • Creditor” – the party who the money is owed to.
  • “Amount Owed” – the amount of money that is outstanding from the date of last payment.
  • The Assignment Date” – this is the date that the account went into collections.

Secured Loans

secured loans

A Secured Loan is a loan that is backed by an asset. The SingleKey report shows whether an individual has any secured loans, the name of the creditor who the loan would be owed to and the date of filing. Secured loans are different than normal loans because creditors have more confidence in the loan being repaid. When the loan is not, the creditor then has a claim to the asset backing the loan.

Judgements and legal items

The report also includes the information and specific details about court cases, decisions and other legal items. This can include civil proceedings such as divorce cases.

Other Scans

other Scans

Finally, the SingleKey report includes information from additional scans listed in the image above. The scans are based on the self-reported information provided when the report is ordered. These scans most often return with no results (indicated by “None Found”) but where are results, they will be displayed in these sections here.

To order a tenant & background check report in order to get this comprehensive view of your tenant, please click here.