Guide to renting an apartment in Canada
By Delaney Rombough
Posted on January 20, 2021
Deciding whether to buy a home or rent depends on your personal needs and financial situation. If you aren’t quite ready to buy a house or want more flexibility in your living arrangements, renting might be a great option for you.
Benefits of renting
There are many benefits to renting instead of buying right away. Renting is generally cheaper than buying. When you rent, you might not have to pay various fees, like real estate agent fees, property taxes, ongoing home maintenance costs, or water and energy costs if they are included in the rent. The overall upfront and monthly costs are also lower, which allows you to save some money. Renting also offers more flexibility. There is no long-term commitment, as lease agreements are usually one year, which, you can renew afterward if you like. This makes it easier to move to a new home, neighbourhood, or city. Other benefits of renting instead of buying include: fewer responsibilities for maintenance and repair, which are typically the landlord’s responsibility, no real estate taxes, and protection against decreasing property values.
Finding somewhere to rent
First thing’s first; you need to find somewhere to rent. There are many resources available to help you find what you’re looking for. Rental listings are often posted in local and community newspapers where you want to live. You can also find ads on physical bulletin boards at places like libraries, community centres, places of worship, and grocery stores. Right now, the most popular place to find rental listings is online. There are websites such as www.kijiji.ca, www.rentals.ca, www.zumper.com, and www.padmapper.com. These websites show photos, list all the amenities included, and provide contact information for the landlord. You can also use social media to join groups and places for rent in a specific area including Facebook buy-and-sell groups.
Then you need to decide what type of housing you want to rent. Apartments are one option. Amenities can vary and may include laundry rooms/washer and dryer, fitness facilities, common areas, balconies or outdoor space, and security. A basement apartment in a house is often considered an apartment. You can also rent entire houses including townhouses, duplexes/triplexes, and detached homes. These houses offer more space than apartments and have access to some outdoor space like patios, backyards, and gardens. There are also rooming houses, which are shared accommodations, with short-term (typically week-to-week) or long-term options. Many rooms include a personal refrigerator for the tenant, but the kitchen and bathrooms are shared among the residents of the house.
A rental agreement-or lease- is a contract between a landlord and a tenant. The landlord grants the tenant the right to live in a rental unit, and the tenant agrees to pay rent. Many provinces have a standard lease agreement, but adjustments may be made. The lease defines the legal rights and responsibilities for both the tenant and landlord. Learn more on your rights as a tenant here. The lease will include terms for: the rent (including when to pay and how much), parties involved (tenant and landlord names and contact information), what’s included and what’s not, conditions for terminating the agreement, when and by how much the landlord can increase rent, the security deposit, and any other rules. Depending on the province, landlords may also require a security deposit or last month’s rent, and the amount that can be charged as security deposit differs from province to province. Generally, the security deposit cannot be higher than one month’s rent. In addition, some provinces require a walk-through inspection before you move in. This ensures that you are not held responsible for any existing damage. Make sure to do this inspection with your landlord and photograph and document any damage. Some landlords may also check your credit history and references to ensure that you will pay rent on time. If you don’t have a credit history or have a low credit score, landlords may require a guarantor to sign the lease with the tenant. A guarantor is usually a parent, family member, or friend with a good credit score who agrees to pay the rent on your behalf if you cannot. Being a guarantor is a big responsibility. This person has to rely on you to pay the complete amount on time. This is why it is best to ask someone that you know and trust.
Costs of Renting
The cost of renting is more than just monthly rent payments. You will need to pay for utilities (heat, water, etc.) if they are not included in your monthly rent. You may also need to pay to set up internet, cable, and phone services with a telecommunications company and make other security deposits associated with setting up these accounts. You also might want to consider getting renter’s or tenant’s insurance. Tenant’s insurance can cover the costs of damage to or loss of your possessions, any accidental damage you cause to the rental unit, personal property stolen from your car, and injury caused to visitors. Unless you are renting a furnished unit, you will also need to furnish the unit yourself, which can be fun but expensive. You’ll need things like dishes, furniture, bedding, small appliances (toaster, microwave, etc.), and cleaning supplies. There may also be ongoing costs depending on your rental agreement. These costs may include yard maintenance, parking, laundry, and utilities.
Protecting Yourself from Scams
Unfortunately, scam artists like to take advantage of renters. Scammers typically try to get money from prospective renters and then disappear. These are some of the warning signs.
- The monthly rent is significantly less than current market value.
- You are asked to leave a deposit or a last month’s rent with no formal rental agreement or lease in place.
- You are asked to send a security deposit to a landlord outside the country.
- You are asked to send money before having met anyone or seen the apartment.
- You are told that you don’t need a lease or a lawyer.
- Advertisements show photos of the outside of the property only.
- When you ask about the apartment, you are sent to a website requesting personal or financial information. Legitimate sites will require a secure login before asking for personal or financial information.
- When you ask about the apartment, you get sent to a website asking for personal or financial information.
Here are some things you can do to avoid getting scammed:
- Research the address and visit the property to make sure the listing and the photos are accurate.
- Schedule a showing with the landlord.
- Request a lease and review it thoroughly.
- Know your rights as a tenant.
It is generally easier and cheaper to rent when you first come to Canada. Renting gives you the chance to get to know your neighborhood and get settled without too big of a commitment. Then when you are ready and if your financial situation allows it, you could consider buying a house.