With so many rentals in Toronto to choose from, the apartment hunt can be stressful and confusing. There’s definitely some red flags you should keep in mind. So, we put together these 13 essential tips to make the process much easier and to protect you throughout your tenancy.
- Pick your three top priorities. Budget should be number one (here’s some tips), but what else is most important to you? Do you need parking? South-facing windows? In-suite laundry? Close to work or your university?
- Focus on just a few neighbourhoods.Rather than trying to choose between thousands of rentals available across Toronto, narrow your search to a few favourite neighbourhoods that would be perfect for you.First, consider whether the average rents in your favourite neighbourhood fit your budget. Next, consider the neighbourhood’s atmosphere and who your neighbours would be, and be sure to factor in transit and amenities like grocery stores and bars.
Read our Neighbourhood Guides to choose which ‘hoods are best for you.
Here are a few articles that might help too:
- View it Toronto: 10 Apartment viewing Tips for Renters
- Top 10 Up and Coming Neighbourhoods in Toronto 2017
- Top 16 Toronto Neighbourhoods for Young Professionals
- Toronto’s Best Apartment Rental Websites
- Top 15 Neighbourhoods for Singles in Toronto
- 15 Most Dog Friendly Neighbourhoods in Toronto 2017
- The 10 most family-friendly neighbourhoods in Toronto
Once you’ve decided which neighbourhoods you’re into, look at specific properties!
- Be prepared for showings.Arriving at apartment showings without the paperwork you need could cause you to miss out on your dream apartment. Since landlords and property managers often ask you to fill out a lease application on the spot, you’ll need to bring with you cheques to hand over a damage deposit, contact information for your employer and your past landlord, credit check documents, and maybe a “renter’s bio” about yourself so the landlord won’t forget you.
- Pre-measure your furniture. You won’t have time to go back and check that your king size bed will fit in the bedroom, or that there’s enough space for your dining table. Bring a list of measurements for your furniture, plus a measuring tape to measure out each room. Knowing what you can and can’t bring with you will save you lots of money and hassle. Plus, be sure to make sure your furniture will fit through the door and into the elevator.
- Use a checklist and pictures to compare favourites. When showings day comes around and you’ve scheduled visits to 5 to 8 different apartments for rent in Toronto, you’re going to need to keep track of which is which when the day ends. Avoid feeling confused and overwhelmed by creating a checklist for each apartment you see. While you’re there, check off which features and amenities it has. Add notes with your observations about the apartment. And take pictures.
- Check out the details.During showings, get nosy. Look in closets to see how much storage space you really have. Look at the window frames and under sinks for signs of mold. Test out the thermostat and A/C, run the shower, flush the toilets, open and close the windows, and test all the lights.
- Get it in writing.If you spot any problems with the apartment like windows that are stuck shut or the thermostat doesn’t work, get the landlord to write in the lease that these things will be fixed – and by when. Also, get the rent amount and damage deposit in writing and get receipts for both when you pay, as well as the term of the lease.
- What does a typical rental lease look like in Toronto?
- 8 best tips for renegotiating your rental lease
You’ll also need to go over a checklist of damage to the apartment before you move in, and have both parties sign it so you don’t get stuck paying for dents and scratches you didn’t create. Ask whether you can paint and put up photos, and get that info in writing, too. You’ll be glad you did.
- Read Reviews.Some apartment complexes will have some reviews posted about them online, so do you research before you consider a place. Be sure not to take one negative comment to heart, but be on the lookout for repeated complaints.
- Ask a friend.Maybe it’s your first time renting, or maybe you just need a friendly face. Some of your friends may have more experience than you when it comes to renting in Toronto, and could think of some questions to ask that wouldn’t necessarily cross your mind.
- Set realistic expectations. Don’t be glued to certain criteria, as you may end up turning down a great place to call home. Learn how to pick and choose and determine what’s really a necessity for you. Maybe one place has a great view, but the other has in-suite laundry.
- Move-in in the winter.It is sometimes the case that rent isn’t as high during the winter months, as there is not as much demand. Be sure to ask this question when you are considering a place to rent.
- Make a spreadsheet.This is a good way to track all the apartments you’ve seen, and makes for a very organized pros and cons list. Use it to compare prices, areas, utilities, etc.
- Ask for the things you want.Many people don’t realize that when it comes to renting, or the real estate business in general, certain things are up for negotiation. So if you have a question or concern, be sure to speak up or you could be missing out on a great opportunity!