Tag Archives | off-campus housing

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. www.freecycle.org 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:

Image by Jeff Croft, Flickr

Image by Jeff Croft, Flickr

Everyone has their “first apartment” story, usually embellished with cockroaches, mice, nasty landlords, or other foul creatures. Avoid the typical mistakes students make with their first apartment by observing these tips:

1. Scout out multiple places

Even though the first apartment you see seems wonderful, and it seems like nothing could be better, give yourself options. View at least three places. While you’re hunting, be wary of irritable landlords. If the landlord shows you the apartment and is aggressive, irritable, or unpleasant while doing so, you would have to deal with the same attitude throughout your entire stay.

2. Don’t sign on the spot

Even after looking at multiple locations and narrowing it down to one, do not sign anything on the spot. Ask for the paperwork and read it over on your own time. Envision yourself living in the apartment and compose a list of questions to ask your landlord based on what you might need, or be concerned about. Even if it wounds your independence, show the contract to your parents along with pictures of the apartment. They could know something about old, leaky radiators that you don’t, or could catch something in the contract that could have ripped you off.

3. Protect yourself with paperwork

Congrats! You were meticulous about the apartment, the landlord, and the paperwork. Now you have to protect yourself by keeping copies of everything you sign, and making sure the copies are signed and dated by the landlord as well. This way, if the landlord claims you owe them money, or some other recompense, you can back up your protests with documentation and the exact date on which it was made legitimate by your signature.

4. Avoid infestation

Apartments, especially when it comes to student housing, are notorious for insect and rodent infestations. Protect yourself by buying a can of Raid and spraying the apartment before you move in. By spraying before you move in, you can get into all those tricky corners, and none of your stuff comes into contact with the poison. Spraying for bugs is especially crucial during or directly after the summer months.

5. Remember to pay rent

Forgetting to pay rent is a lot easier to do than it seems. The next month can sneak up on you. Set an alarm on your phone for the last day of each month to remind yourself. You can also give your landlord post-dated cheques to save yourself multiple trips to their office.

6. Know your rights

Sometimes you do all the right things, and sign on to what seems like a good, clean apartment with a reasonable landlord, and it still goes wrong. If you’re stuck with a year’s lease and a bad situation – your landlord could be refusing to help you deal with an infestation, which you don’t have enough money to take care of yourself – don’t be afraid to wield the appropriate paperwork and force them to help.

There are laws that require a landlord to provide a safe, clean space for their tenants. A lot of the laws that ensure tenant rights are available online, as are the processes and accompanying documents to enforce observation of these laws. Google “rental tenant’s laws,” and your area, to find out what laws apply to rentals in your region. You can even try asking a student housing advisor at your school for help if you’re having real trouble.

7. Move out properly

Some year-long leases turn over automatically unless you give your landlord proper notification that you are moving out. Go to your landlord and ask for the proper documentation for notification of termination of lease. In Ontario, this form is called an N9 form, and can be found on the Landlord and Tenant Board’s site.

Usually the tenant is supposed to give two months (60 days) notice before they move out, even if their lease is only for a year (remember, automatic turnover). If you do not give proper notice that you are moving out, the landlord might hold you responsible for rent until you do. This means you might have to pay three full months of extra rent! Again, be sure to date your documents when you sign them.

Image by gardener41, Flickr

Image by gardener41, Flickr

After a long and laborious housing hunt, the time has finally come for you to tour a prospective home. You’ve scheduled a visit with the property owner, and you’re ready to go! Here is a list of things to keep in mind when touring a property:

  1. Take a friend or family member with you. 
    It’s always helpful to have a second opinion! They might notice things that you otherwise would have missed. Also, if you have arranged the tour appointment online and are not personally acquainted with the person who is showing you around the property, it’s wise not to go alone.

  2. Bring a camera, cell phone, notebook, and pen.
    You want to be able to take pictures and record all the details about the property. You won’t remember all of it later!

  3. Bring a list of questions to ask while you tour the unit.
    Don’t be shy! This is your opportunity to ensure that there won’t be any unpleasant surprises for the duration of your lease.

    • Which utilities are included in the rent? Are Internet, hydro, and electricity included?
    • Do I have to pay a security deposit?
    • What is the method of rent payment?
    • Are the building tenants mostly families, students, or retirees?
    • How safe/quiet is the building? Are there security cameras or personnel?
    • Do I have to pay for parking?
    • Where do I dispose of my garbage and recycling?
    • Who is responsible for apartment maintenance and repairs?
    • How old is the property/when was the building constructed? Have there been any major changes or renovations? (The older the building, the more likely maintenance problems are to result from old ceilings, windows, plumbing, or flooring.)
  4. Examine the property.
    Take your time, and do not hesitate to really scrutinize the space when you’re looking around – this is your potential home. Take pictures of each room. Check the doors, windows, and locks. Flush the toilet, run the water in the sinks and showers, check the water pressure and temperature. Take note of (and photograph) any damaged walls or carpeting, as well as any broken fixtures or appliances. Look in the cupboards and the corners under the sink – this is where the insects tend to hang out. It hadn’t occurred to me or my roommates to check those spaces for evidence of any gnarly sort of infestation, and we were not exactly thrilled to discover a whole bunch of tiny new multiple-legged friends doing the congo in the back of our spice cupboard shortly after we moved in.

  5. Be polite. 
    At the end of your visit, thank the landlord or property manager for showing you around. Be cautious when it comes to making a snap decision or signing the lease on the spot – if you are interested in the property, you can tell the landlord that you are interested, and will be calling him or her soon.

  6. Speak to current tenants in the building.
    Trust me, it’s not weird, and it’s a wise thing to do. If you don’t know any of the tenants personally, hang out in the lobby and see if anyone passes by. Explain that you’re thinking of moving in and ask if they have a minute to answer a few questions. Ask if they feel safe living in the building. Ask if they enjoy living there. Ask if they have had any problems with the building or building management. Ask if the landlord or building manager are dependable and responsive to repair requests. The building tenants do not care if you move in or not, and might be more honest as a result. You won’t regret it!

  7. Visit as many properties as you like.
    It’s good to have a number of options to compare. Once you decide which property best suits your needs, make sure you know everything you need to know before you sign the lease.

    Good luck!

Image by jk5854, flickr

Image by jk5854, flickr

Congratulations! You’ve finally found a property that suits your needs, and you’re ready to make it official. Between the dense language of a legal contract and the pressure of an impatient landlord, it can be easy to feel as if you only have enough time and patience to quickly skim the lease before you sign, but remember – your lease is a binding contract. Once inked, you’ve committed yourself to its many rules and obligations. You need to be familiar with each responsibility that you and your landlord will be legally obligated to uphold for the duration of your lease. Here is a list of things you should know before you sign:

  1. What is a lease, exactly?
    A lease is a legal contract which requires you (the lessee or tenant) to pay the owner (the lessor or landlord) for the use of a property over a defined period of time. The lease comprises several numbered sections which outline all of the terms and rules by which you and your landlord must abide for the duration of the lease.

  2. A lease is not the same thing as a rental application.
    If you had to fill out a rental application prior to signing a lease, be aware that the application alone may not be a binding agreement to lease. The rental application is designed to give your landlord some personal information so he or she can screen you and ensure that you are someone they can trust to lease their property (and pay the rent).

  3. Read the terms and conditions of the lease.
    A legal contract is not exactly what one might consider a beach read, but I can’t emphasize how important it is to actually read your lease before you sign it. If you are having trouble with it, sit with a friend or family member and go through each clause together. If anything is unclear, call your landlord. In order to prevent being taken advantage of in the future, you should be well acquainted with your rights and any obligations for which you may be held accountable.

  4. If you are a smoker or pet owner, make sure to be aware of any smoking or pet restrictions in your lease.
    I’m serious – read your lease carefully! My roommates and I had a cat for eight months before we re-signed our lease and discovered a clause which prevented the ownership of pets in the apartment. Oops.

  5. Ensure the full name, phone number, and address of your landlord is on the lease.
    In case of emergencies, or if you need to call someone for repairs or maintenance, it’s good to be able to get in touch with your landlord as quickly as possible.

  6. Visit the property and ask questions.
    Investigate any prospective home before you sign yourself to it. Find out which utilities and services (heat, water, electricity, parking, garbage collection, maintenance and repairs) are included in the rent, and which ones must be arranged or paid for separately. If you plan on subletting your property, written approval of the landlord is often required. Ensure all of these details are written in the lease.

  7. Do not sign a lease with provisions you disagree with, and get any verbal agreements in writing.
    If there is anything that you are uncomfortable with, bring it up with your landlord – legal provisions can be negotiable. If you get any concessions as a result of your negotiations, ensure that everything you agreed to is written in the lease.

  8. Know who is responsible for routine maintenance, pest control, and emergency repairs. Get that in writing, too.
    It’s never fun when the toilet floods the apartment in the middle of the night, and it’s even worse when you have to call a plumber and pay an expensive fee out of your own pocket. If your landlord or management company takes maintenance requests, ask about availability and response times.

  9. Check the termination clause of the lease.
    Your lease may specify the number of months prior to the end of the lease you must provide your landlord before giving notice of your intention to terminate the lease. Otherwise, your lease may be renewed automatically, leaving you with a plethora of undesirable options – being stuck with your lease for another year, having to pay a hefty fee to get out of it, or going through the hassle of finding a replacement lessee to whom you might be able to transfer your lease. Also, make sure your lease conforms with applicable laws regarding the minimum amount of notice you are entitled to before you can be evicted.

  10. Get a copy of your lease, and keep it in a safe place.
    Remember, your lease exists so that you have verifiable proof of the terms to which you and your landlord agreed regarding your tenancy. In case of any problems, it is wise to keep a copy of the lease for future reference. If you have roommates, make copies for them as well.