Whether you are new to the city or new to the country, there is a lot to know when it comes to renting your first apartment. Renting is a great way to test out a particular area before making a long-term commitment. The rental process can vary greatly based on location, so it's important to ask the right questions when you are communicating with a potential leasing agent.

Here is a step-by-step guide to renting an apartment,

1. Select your Budget

First, know how much money you can spend on rent each month. The Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) classifies housing as affordable if it costs less than 30 per cent of a household's before-tax income. So, consider your monthly income and decide how much of your earnings you're willing to spend on housing. Remember to factor in additional costs like utilities and parking when setting your budget. This creates a benchmark for you to start looking.

2. Search for an Apartment

Now that you're ready to look for an apartment, start to research where you want to live. Once you select a particular city, look into which neighbourhoods appeal to you most. You’ll want to consider what's nearby and walkable, if you're on a transit route or near major roads, how close it is to work or school and what the noise levels are. Also, consider what type of property you'll be the most comfortable in and take into account whether you prefer a walk-up building or a residence with an elevator. Weigh the benefits of living in a townhome compared to an apartment.

Next, you can send search for apartments yourself on these popular sites:

By browsing these websites, you can see what types of apartments are available in your desired neighbourhood and within your budget. You can also fill in certain criteria that are important to you:

  • - Move-in date: When is it available?
  • - Rooms: How many bedrooms does it have? How many bathrooms?
  • - Appliances: Does it have a dishwasher? Or in-suite laundry?
  • - Parking: Is parking underground, covered or on the street? How many cars can it accommodate? Is there an extra charge?
  • - Utilities: Are they included? If so, which ones? How much do they generally cost?
  • - Pet policy: Are pets allowed? If so, is there an extra fee or deposit?

Note: There are several rental market scammers on unregulated websites such as Facebook Marketplace and Kijiji, so in order to make sure that you are inquiring about an available suite and not a scam, we suggest sticking with verified sites like Avenue Living Communities.

3. Book a Showing

Girl attending a showing of an apartment at Avenue Living Communities.

Once you have identified your next venue for living, get in touch with the leasing agent to arrange a showing of the apartment. This is your chance to see it in-person and decide if it’s right for you. We suggest surveying it thoroughly while checking for leaks, damage, missing appliances and faulty locks.

Make sure to also tour the common areas, parking options and any other facilities the property offers. This is also a great time to ask about nearby amenities.

Pro tip: Consider taking a walk or drive around the neighbourhood to familiarize yourself with the area.


4. Compile Documents

Once you've decided on an apartment, some leasing agents may ask for the following documents to ensure you are a reliable resident before signing the lease.

Photo Identification

Most leasing agents will ask you to provide government-issued photo identification to confirm your identity.

Credit Report

Some leasing agents will run a credit report before offering you a lease. If you don't have a credit score or you’ve had some credit trouble in the past, your leasing agent may ask for a guarantor. This person will co-sign the lease with you and will be responsible for any missed or late payments.


References are a standard component of the application process. Whether these are character or professional checks, your new property owner wants to hear that you are respectful, responsible and reliable before handing over the keys.

Employment Letter

Some property owners may ask to see a letter from your employer with salary details to ensure you have a stable income.

Proof of Income

Similarly, leasing agents may want you to provide proof of income in the form of pay stubs or tax documents to ensure you will have adequate finances to cover your lease agreement.


5. Sign the Lease

Once your paperwork has been approved, you will then sign a rental agreement. This is a contract between you and your leasing agents stating the terms and conditions of your lease, such as:

  • - Length of stay. Lease agreements are usually six or 12 months in length; however, they can also be month-to-month.
  • - Monthly cost. This is the pre-determined amount you agree to pay each month in exchange for living in the apartment.
  • - How and when rent will be collected. Some leasing agents collect 12 postdated cheques upfront so they can cash them on the first of each month, while others accept e-transfers or direct deposits from your bank account. Make sure to ask what they prefer before signing the lease.
  • - Damage deposit. Generally, leasing agents require a damage deposit prior to you moving into a suite. This will cover any damage to the suite that wasn't there at the move-in time. If no damage occurred, or if repairing the damages costs less than your deposit, your leasing agent will return the remainder of your damage deposit to you after your final walk-through is complete upon moving out.
  • - List of included services. The lease agreement will state whether your rent includes additional services including heat, water, electricity, parking and internet. Make sure you are clear on these details before you sign.
  • - Conditions. The lease will also include how and when the contract can be terminated, as well as policies on rent increases.
  • - Rules. The leasing agent will list any rules that must be followed during your time at the rental property. These could include limitations on large gatherings and excessive noise after a certain time. Make sure to read this section closely!

    6. Conduct a Walkthrough

    Person taking an image of the apartment during a walk-through to document the condition of the apartment.

    Finally, you’ll need to complete a walkthrough of the property when you take possession of your new home. The purpose of a walkthrough is to note the current condition of the apartment, so you and the leasing agent are both aware of its state.

    You'll walk through the property together and note any damage you see before moving in. Be sure to take note of any holes or dents in the walls, scratches on the floor, chips in the countertops and stains in the carpet.

    This property should also be cleaned for you, ready for the leasing agent to hand over the keys and welcome you to your new residence.

    Pro tip: Make sure to take photos of all damages before you move in to supplement the recording of potential issues in writing.

    Ready to start looking? Head over to our home page and browse apartments and townhomes by your city and budget.

    For more information on renting an apartment in Canada, please refer to the Government of Canada website.