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 see if you like a particular neighbourhood or city before making a long-term commitment. The rental process can vary across the country, or even within the same city, so it's important to ask the right questions when you are communicating with a potential landlord. Here is a step-by-step guide to renting an apartment in Canada.
6 Steps to Renting an Apartment in Canada:
First, know how much money you want to spend on rent per month. The Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) (2018) considers housing affordable if it costs less than 30 per cent of a household's before-tax income. So, consider your monthly income and break down how much of your earnings you're willing to spend on housing costs. Remember to consider 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 narrow it down to a particular city, look into which neighbourhoods appeal to you. You want to consider factors that are important to you, such as what's nearby and walkable, if you're on a transit route or near major roads, how close it is to work or schools, and what the noise levels are. Also consider what type of property you'll be the most comfortable in, take into account whether you prefer a walk-up building or something with an elevator. Weight the benefits of living in a townhome vs living in an apartment.
Once you've narrowed that down, you now have the option to send your list of criteria to a realtor or search for apartments on these popular sites on your own:
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? For how long?
- 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 street? How many cars can it accommodate? Is it free or 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?
These sites will give you a great idea of what apartments for rent are out there, but it's important to book a showing to get a feel for the space in person.
3. Book a Showing
Get in touch with the landlord or realtor who is showing the apartment. This is your chance to see it in person and decide if it could be your next home. Look around the apartment and check for leaks, damage, missing appliances, faulty locks, you name it. Ensure you also tour the common areas, parking and any other facilities the property offers. This is also a great time to ask about the neighbourhood and nearby amenities. If you have extra time, consider taking a walk around the neighbourhood to get to know the area.
4. Important Documents
Once you've decided on an apartment, some landlords may ask for the following documents to ensure you are a reliable resident before signing the lease.
Most landlords will ask you to provide some form of government-issued photo identification to confirm your identity for the lease agreement.
Some landlords will run a credit report before offering you a lease. If you don't have a credit score, or you had some credit trouble in the past, your landlord may ask for a guarantor. This is a person who will co-sign the lease with you, and will be responsible for any missed or late payments.
References are a normal part of the application process. Whether these are character or professional references from friends, past roommates, previous landlords or employers, your new property owner wants to hear that you are respectful, responsible and reliable before handing the keys over.
Some property owners may ask to see a letter from your employer with your salary details to ensure you have a stable income.
Proof of Income
Similarly, landlords may want you to provide proof of income in the form of pay stubs or tax documents to ensure you will be able to uphold your lease agreement.
5. Signing the Lease
Once your paperwork has been approved, you will sign a rental agreement. This is a contract between you and your landlord stating the terms and conditions of your lease, such as:
- Length of stay. Lease agreements are commonly 6- or 12-months in length, however, they can also be month-to-month.
- Monthly cost. This is the pre-determined amount that you agree to pay each month in exchange for living in the apartment.
- How and when rent will be collected. Some landlords collect 12 postdated cheques upfront so they can cash them on the first of each month, while others accept e-transfers or set up direct deposit, taking the money from your bank account. This process varies per landlord and property, so ask what they require before signing the lease.
- Security deposit. Generally, landlords require a security deposit prior to you moving into a suite. This will cover any damage to the suite that wasn't there at move-in time. If no damage occurred, or if repairing the damages costs less than your deposit, your landlord will return the remainder of your security deposit to you after your final walk-through is complete.
- List of included services. The lease agreement will state whether your rent includes additional services like heat, water, electricity, parking, internet, etc. 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 if the landlord can increase the rent and by how much.
- Rules. The landlord will list any rules that must be followed during your time at the rental property. These could include limitations on large gatherings, noise after a certain time, a no-pet policy, illegal activities occurring on the property, etc. Make sure to read this section closely.
6. Walk Through
Finally, you need to complete a walk-through of the property when you take possession of your new home. The purpose of a walk-through is to note the current condition of the apartment so you and the landlord are both aware of its state. You'll walk through the property together and note any damage you see before moving in, like: holes or dents in the walls, scratches on the floor, chips in the countertops, stains in the carpet, burnt-out light bulbs, etc. This property should also be clean, ready for the landlord to hand over the keys and welcome you to your new Canadian apartment.
Ready to start looking? Head over to our home page and browse apartments and townhomes by city and budget.
For more information on renting an apartment in Canada, please refer to the Government of Canada website.