If you're somebody who has had frustrations with the renting process, there's a decent chance that Cios can help. Short of building affordable housing themselves, the Toronto-based Cios is focused on building technological tools that make things simpler for renters, but also landlords.
Their flagship product is called Cios, which matches renters with landlords, like Match.com but for renting rather than dating. It also handles pretty much every step in the renting process after you find a place, too.
To get pre-approved, Cios has partnered with California-based Plaid, whose product allows users to connect banking accounts to tools like Cios, and once connected, you'll be given a verification report that shows your monthly income and ability to come up with rent.
Traditional methods for tenant screening such as credit checks can take several weeks, but Cios says the tool they've created can get you pre-approved within hours, and of course those traditional methods can still be used alongside their tool.
That subtool is also a standalone product called Cios Verify, which has partnerships with landlord and tenant associations and is now available to all Canadians as of October 6, free of charge.
From there, you fill out your needs and preferences, and Cios, the main platform, will use AI to match you with landlords that have done the same thing. You'll then be able to accept or decline the match, and sign leases digitally.
Cios has also cut out the apartment-showing part of the process, instead offering a 30-day trial period in all the leases they facilitate. According their FAQ, their leases are actually a 30-day lease combined with an 11-month lease. If you're unsatisfied by the end of that 30 days, users can request a new match and try again.
When asked by STOREYS whether this wrinkle could dissuade landlords for signing up, Cios' Co-Founder and CEO Terry Wang says that it's possible, but they've found that less than 1% of tenants actually get to that point of requesting a rematch. To balance things out for landlords, rent for that initial month is also upped to 120% in order to discourage lease-hopping.
Past that 30 days, you can pay your rent digitally through e-transfers, at no additional charge. Cios also gives you the option of paying via a credit card, allowing you to build credit by paying rent and collect rewards points, with an additional 2.9% fee per successful payment.
For landlords, aside from the verification tool, Cios offers features that collect payments, manage renter requests, and help automatically fill vacancies, cutting the time in between tenancies. Landlords are then charged 5% + $0.30 per successful payment, with volume discounts via Cios Pro for landlords with 20-plus rental units.
Wang tells STOREYS that they currently have 806 rental units as part of their pilot program, with just 50 landlords. "The vast majority of these are in the GTA, with some in the surrounding areas," he says.
The Canadian Rental Market
The company was founded by Wang and Victor Peter, currently the Chief Technology Officer, after their own troublesome experiences as renters. They then realized they were both passionate about "creating a better way to rent" and decided to start Cios, which is named after the Irish word for "to rent" (pronounced like "keys", as hinted at with their logo).
They say their mission "is to make it effortless to find home" and that "by 2030, renters will outnumber homeowners 3:1." It's a little unclear where that number comes from, but data published by Statistics Canada this September indicates that it's definitely trending in this direction.
According to that data, the population of renters and homeowners in Canada is currently about 33.1% and 66.5%, but the population of renters is growing at twice the rate of homeowners, along with a shift in the nation's housing supply, which is increasingly shifting towards multi-family rather than single-detached homes.
Renters also traditionally skew younger, such as post-secondary students, who have had well-documented difficulties in the rental market across Canada, but especially in cities like Toronto and Vancouver. Cios recognizes this and have also partnered with a number of Canadian universities, with details to be announced at a later date.
Both Cios and Cios Verify are currently web tools accessible via Cios' website, but Wang says an iOS/Android app is plausible, given a strong enough demand. The main Cios platform is currently in beta, with a full launch currently set for January.