Renting an apartment

We all know that renting an apartment can either be the best or worst experience of your life. Most commonly, negative experiences come from unpleasant or negligent landlords.

Fear not, we’ve put together some tips on how to avoid typical drawbacks of renting and how to keep yourself protected should something go wrong.

Talk About Price

Although rent typically isn’t negotiable, you’d be surprised what your landlord is willing to compromise on; especially if it’s a renter’s market. If you’re unable to bring the cost of rent down see what other incentives they can offer that will help ease the cost of expenses. Having been through this recently I can say that the list of inclusions with rent is endless. Free parking, WIFI or a prepaid laundry cards seem to be the most popular incentives, but you can even bargain for a free month’s rent when you sign a one or one and a half year lease.

There are ways to lower your expenses, even if it not actually the cost of rent, all you have to do is ask. Trust me, in this market, they will match whatever other offers you may have gotten from other rentals!

Get Feedback from Other Tenants

Finding out firsthand what the living conditions are like and what the experiences other tenants have had in the building can help you to get a better understanding of what you may expect. Sure the landlord or sales office will give you the big pitch, but nothing is better than finding out for yourself just what exactly you’re getting yourself into.

Some sample questions to get you started;

  • How long have you lived here? Are you happy with your unit?
  • What is the response to maintenance requests?
  • Are there any noise or safety issues?
  • Is there anything out of the ordinary that I should know?

Going door to door can be a bit intimidating and might not be possible. If you get a chance talk to people you see in the lobby or around the building. You can even try notes under the door or in mail boxes with your contact information. You may only get a few responses, but any information you can get will be extremely helpful.

I have actually googled certain apartment buildings to see if the rental agency or building has any reviews that could be helpful.

Put Everything in Writing

Make sure to go over your lease with a fine tooth comb and make any changes or additions you feel are necessary. If you have any questions or anything is unclear, make sure you ask before you sign!

Remember that it’s best to correspond with your landlord in writing, so either email or text. This way should they make promises they don’t keep or engage in unethical behaviour you have documented proof and can also refer back to it should there be any problems.

Keep in mind that this is a contractual agreement and should be treated as such!

Document Your Initial Walk Through

With any rental, you will need to setup a move-in and move out walk through. This is for your benefit as much as the landlords. Make sure to carefully document any damage on both the inspection form and with pictures to avoid being charged for damage you didn’t cause. Also document any non-functioning appliances, burnt out lights or damage that need to be addressed either before you move in or in the near future. Get it in writing!

Get Informed

Every Province will have different laws to help protect both the landlord and the tenant. Make sure and do your research to stay informed of your rights. The Residential Tenancies Act will outline what you need to know about leasing an apartment.

Knowing your rights will help to keep you out of unfavorable situations or at least prepare you should you find yourself in a bind. Remember, that you should always try to communicate with your landlord first and resolve any problems before escalating it to your lawyer or legal aid.

Honesty is the Best Policy

Having a favourable living experience falls both on landlord and tenant, so lead by example. Make sure you are doing your part by paying rent on time, following by-laws and be honest with your landlord about any issues. If you know that rent is going to be late, bring it up before you default on any payments; who knows maybe you can come to an arrangement to help you through rough times.

Remember trust breeds trust, and the best way to build trust is through honesty. Fix any damage you may have caused before you move out and make sure to let your landlord know if it’s something you’re unable to deal with on your own. Treat your landlord and the property with respect, it will go a long way if there is ever a problem.


Could your rental apartment use an upgrade? Here’s another great article for you: How to Upgrade an Outdated Rental Apartment