Leaving home to pursue post-secondary education is a right of passage for many. Not only do university and college students gain an education that will hopefully help launch a successful career, they get firsthand experience – often for the first time – paying rent and utilities bills, and juggling the relationships with roommates and landlords. Here are a few things to keep in mind when moving to university student rentals.
Most schools feature dormitory/residence living options on or near campus. It’s a good option, particularly for first-year students who aren’t familiar with the city they’re moving to. But once they get the lay of the land, many first-year residents return as second-year renters.
Apply Sooner Rather Than Later
Most landlords will require you to fill out a tenancy application. They’ll ask for your contact info, current address, employment history, contact info for any prior landlords, and possibly a couple references.
While landlords aren’t supposed to discriminate against anyone – including students – when choosing who they rent to, you’ll likely have better luck finding student rentals close to your school or another campus in town than you will in a quiet residential area far from any post-secondary schools.
Round Up Some Roomies
Since you’re paying to go to school, you really should be focusing on your education. That means that, at most, you’ll be able to hold down a part-time job. Unless you have a large nest egg saved up – or parents willing and able to supplement your income – you’ll probably need a roommate or two to help foot the rent bill.
There are pros and cons to this. On the upside, many lifetime friendships have been forged as roommates. Just as many, however, have likely been severed by the experience.
The best way to have a happy roommate experience is to set some ground rules from the very beginning. Set a schedule for cleaning common areas like the kitchen, living room, and bathroom, determine if groceries and meal preparation are to be shared or if each roommate will fend for themselves, and clearly communicate any privacy needs or issues. For example, if one roommate has a late-night waitressing gig and plans to sleep through first period, their roomies should keep the noise down in the morning. But, on the flipside, the late-nighter shouldn’t be bringing the bar staff back for a post-work party.
Understanding Rent and Lease Agreements
Landlords typically ask for “first and last month’s rent” upfront when you sign the lease agreement. They’ll cash the last month’s rent cheque immediately as a deposit, then cash the other on the day you take possession. At the end of each year, your landlord is supposed to pay you interest on the last month’s deposit, at an interest rate set by the provincial landlord–tenant agency. (See below for your province’s contact info.)
Establish Your Utilities
Find out if the utilities (heat, hydro, telephone/internet/TV, etc.) are included. If not, you’ll have to set up accounts with each. Most require a security deposit for new applicants, and you’ll need your landlord’s name and contact info to set up an account.
Note that if you co-sign a lease agreement with a roommate, and they don’t pay their portion of the rent, the landlord is allowed to evict you both. Also, unless you make special arrangements, leases are typically for a one-year period. That means you’ll be on the hook for rent through the summer months.
When Your Landlord Can Enter
As a tenant, you do have a right to privacy. A landlord is generally required to give you 24 hours notice before they – or any contractors working on their behalf – enter the apartment. They can also only do so within reasonable working hours, typically between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. That said, a landlord can enter the premises in the event of an emergency. Say, for example, another tenant in a duplex tells them that there seems to be a flood in your apartment.
Neither the landlord nor the tenant is allowed to change the locks without the other’s consent, and must provide copies of the key immediately.
Each province has its own set of regulations regarding tenancy. Here are links to the relevant ministries and departments across the country. Each has detailed information on local rules, FAQs, and examples of relevant forms.