So You Want to Rent an Apartment

Image by Pieter van Marion, Flickr

Image by Pieter van Marion, Flickr

Commuting sucks. I would know, as for my first year of university I commuted from Newmarket to downtown Toronto, which on a good day takes an hour and half. After drowning and doing very poorly in my first year of school, I decided to rent an apartment with my friends. It was a taxing process, but after being accepted, knowing that I would be that much closer to campus almost guaranteed me better grades.

Don’t start looking too early.

As soon as you decide to get an apartment, you may feel antsy to start looking and contacting people right away. DON’T DO IT. Usually current renters are required to give their leave 2 months before, so trying to view apartments 5 months before doesn’t really make sense.

Start looking at buildings that seem nice, visit websites and figure out if the location is right for you. Then about two months before, start calling and making appointments to see certain places.

Roommates are key!
Renting alone is a huge financial burden, and that’s why most students who don’t live on campus share with friends. A $3000 dollar apartment becomes under $600 a month if you share with 5 people, so try and find people you get along with to rent with you.

Something important to discuss with roommates is whose name the Wi-Fi and additional bills names comes in. It can be hard to choose – I suggest drawing straws.

Read the fine print
Most buildings make you pay hydro and don’t include Wi-Fi, so make sure you read the lease and ask as many questions as you can to the leasing managers. Make sure you know your budget and look into these costs beforehand so you can save up accordingly and plan your money.

Read the lease really carefully and ask questions before you sign. There can be certain points in the lease that you may not agree with, so make sure there are no tricks. Ask about things like parking, water and power, laundry, rent payments and emergency situations.

A typical application
It’s hard to know what a renter’s application consists of before you do one, but it’s usually an application with your personal information, some kind of credit check or check with your bank, references, and a T4 or statement showing how much money you make a year.

Some places ask for much more or less than this; it really depends on where you apply. Landlords can ask for as much or as little as they want, but never be afraid to ask if you think there isn’t a reason to provide certain information.

You’re most likely going to need a guarantor to sign for you before you can rent because students don’t have a full time income. This can be a huge burden for your parents and can affect their credit, so make sure that you talk to them and explain what they have to do. Most guarantors must sign the lease as well, which means if one roommate doesn’t pay, all guarantors will be notified. Make sure each roommate has their own guarantor so they will be responsible for each other. Guarantors apply as tenants, so they will have to fill out the same application as you do.

Remember your furniture!
When planning expenses, remember that you have to provide furnishings for your new place. This can be expensive, but if each roommate brings a few things or you split the cost of expensive items, the price goes down. is a website where people are trying to get rid of their items, so you can end up getting things for free! I also recommend Ikea for furniture; they have great pieces that are good for students on a budget.

Make a contract with your roommates
Sometimes things go wrong with friendships and people don’t behave like they’re supposed to. In order to stop this from happening, make a contract that each roommate must sign in so that the rules are clear. Include things like food, showering and bathroom privileges, room, TV, guests and laundry privileges. Consider setting a fine rate for those who break these privileges.

Here are some more articles that might help with your first apartment: