Four steps to secure a home during apartment hunting season
Illustration by Lena Binningham
My experiences with renting an apartment in Toronto have been a far cry from simple and satisfying. From crowded showings to hellish hydro bills to noisy neighbours to flooding floors, I can personally attest that renting an apartment is no easy task. Thus the newspaper brings you four steps to find a great, or at least average, place to live in the city.
Step #1: Prepare to start viewing units
Start your search for units on padmapper.com or craigslist.com. These websites are great because you can see units flagged on a map and filter out choices based on price, number of bedrooms, and type of rental.
Think seriously about how far you can live from your place of study or work. If you look farther away from UofT campus, try to look for places close to subway lines. Using a streetcar line to get to school is less efficient and reliable when compared to the subway system.
Consider if you would like to live in a basement apartment. They tend to flood and they can be extremely dark through the winter months.
You should also never go to house showings alone (guys and girls), not only is it not safe, but it’s always good to have a second opinion when you’re looking at a place.
If you can, arrange to bring a parent to the house showing. Parents intimidate landlords and know all the good questions to ask.
STEP #2: Ask the right questions when you view units
Find out if your utilities are included in the rent or if you have to pay them separately. If they are separate, ask how much utilities will cost you per month; write this quote down for future reference. Make sure to ask other tenants what they pay. Last year, my roommates and I ended up paying $2000 for four months of sparse baseboard heating—you do not want to be in a similar situation.
Also, make sure you ask who and what controls the central heating and cooling system. This seems minute, but it is important as certain types of heating and cooling are much more expensive than others.
Ask if there is laundry in the building, and if not, is there a Laundromat nearby?
If the place needs repairs, figure out who will be making the repairs! It could end up being you!
Finally, the newspaper recommends inquiring about the three P’s: parking, parties and painting the place.
STEP #3: Secure the deal
Be aggressive and show you are interested. If you think you might be seriously interested in a place, bring cheques to the showing. It doesn’t mean you have to use them but it shows commitment.
If your landlord seems like a scumbag, don’t rent (no matter how nice the place is)!
Remember: security deposits are illegal. Have a parent or an experienced human being read the rental contact, and check for hidden fees, such as damage costs.
Also, confirm with the landlord that you can sublet the apartment/your room if you need to at some point during your lease.
STEP #4: Remain vigilant once you move into the unit
Check out the unit when you first move in and if there’s something wrong with it tell your landlord right away! This will save you time, money and frustration.
For the record: keep your rent receipts. If you haven’t gotten any, ask for them.
Continue to ask your landlord questions, it is his or her job to be available even when you’re already moved in.
If a dispute arises, you can lodge a complaint to the Landlord and Tenant Board to attend a hearing.
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