Student Checklist: Renting 101

Moving away from home for the first time is a big deal – it’s the first for being independent, living on your own and testing the waters of adulthood. While finding a place to rent can be overwhelming, the process doesn’t have to be stressful if you’re prepared.

Follow this checklist to ease yourself into finding your temporary home away from home.

Research the Area

Doing adequate research about the neighborhoods, perhaps using guides like this one for Chicago, and potential areas that you are interested in moving to, is entirely in your own hands.

Consider options that matter the most to you: safety, convenience, housing type, and proximity to campus. Your living experience can vary greatly depending on where your new place is situated. Do you prefer a quieter neighborhood or a busier one?

Use all the resources you have, be it Google reviews, real estate websites like Rentable, recommendations from friends and family or better yet – making a personal visit to the neighborhood to scope it out. This works all over the world. For example, you can get creative with searching for information, some students looking to rent in Canada in the Kitchener real estate market have even turned to Reddit to help them out. Once you’ve settled down on a few neighborhoods that fit your needs, you can begin hunting for your apartment.

Know Your Options: Lease or Sublet

With the convenience of technology and the Internet, there are many ways for students to find a place to rent. When assessing these methods, you need to ask yourself: How long are you planning on staying? Deciding whether you want to sign a formal lease or a sublet will help you figure out which method best fits your purpose.

For example, if you are looking to rent a place for a year or longer, it is best to sign a lease with a landlord. This is a more secure and formal process that will usually involve deposits and security fees, with a rental agreement detailing everything you need to know about your rent. However, as with researching neighborhoods, remember to check out your landlord or rental agency before signing any papers. 

A cheaper option is to sublet from someone who has signed a lease to rent. Subletting comes at a more affordable price, but also means that your subletter will act as the middleman between you and the landlord if there are any issues. Subletting is ideal for a shorter period of stay and means that your name is not the one on the rental agreement, which comes with both advantages and risks. Often, students can find sublets through Facebook groups, or by recommendations from friends and families.

Educate Yourself on Laws

It is critical to understand your rights as a tenant when you are renting. Often, students are too busy or uninformed to realize that they’ve fallen prey to money-hungry landlords and rental agencies before it’s too late.

Take the time to read over any residential tenancy laws and what applies to you, keeping in mind that it may differ depending on where you are moving to. For example, Ottawa real estate has a Residential Tenancy Act that serves to create a rental housing system to protect tenants. Simple knowledge about notices of entry, key deposits and who to contact about poor landlord practices are always an advantage in handling any disputes.

Keep a Record of All Documents

To further ensure that no problems arise during your tenancy, remember to always keep track of documents and communication between you and your landlord. The first thing to do when you move in is to take pictures of your place (floors, walls, ceilings, kitchen utilities, doors, etc.) to reference in the case of damage claims. 

Any communication you have with your landlord should be written, through mail or emails. Should any problems come up, it’s handy to have a record of your conversations.

After researching and knowing more about the rental process, the only thing left for you to do is to make the most of your stay!