Plan ahead. That’s crucial when choosing a rental home, according to Glenn Matthews, Housing Mediation Officer for Western University and Fanshawe College.
“Before you even look at homes, you should have an idea about what it is you’re looking for.”
He says that there are five key factors that should be considered when finding the perfect place to call ‘home’ for 12 months:
Matthews said that far too often, students go out and look at houses without determining how much they’re willing to pay.
In doing so, you may run the risk of touring beautiful homes that are far-out of your price range, and consequently be disappointed when you view homes that are more budget-friendly.
Additionally, make sure you’re on the same page of what your price range is if you’re living with other people.
If you’ve determined your budget and choose to live with others, make sure you lay down the expectations as roommates.
Should you have a cleaning schedule? What will you do with shared common space?
More importantly, Matthews highly recommends a roommate agreement that identifies, in writing, the responsibility of each tenant.
“If a group signs a joint-lease, they’re going to be liable for each other. So, if one of the roommates screws up as far as not paying the rent, moving away, or not paying the property, a landlord can hold any one of the other tenants responsible.”
He adds that those who sign on as a guarantor, usually a parent or guardian, should ensure that there is a roommate agreement in place as they are usually the ones who end up having to pay the price.
When looking for a home, it is important to figure out what amenities are most important to you. Do you need to be close to city transit? How many bathrooms do you need and for how many people? Do you have a job you need to get to?
Matthews says sometimes it’s the smallest things that can end up making a difference.
“It might sound funny, but a dishwasher can save a lot of roommate problems. You may want to think about those sorts of things.”
“Make sure you know what legislation covers you.”
Matthews says that most rentals are covered under the Residential Tenancy Act (RTA), but not all. One situation you may find yourself in is living with your landlord or an immediate family member of your landlord, in this case, Matthews says you have no rights.
“If you share a bathroom or a kitchen with a landlord, or their immediate family, you have no rights basically. Sometimes a parent buys a property to rent out, and their child has their friends live in the house with them… those friends have absolutely no rights.”
Sharing a unit with the owner or their immediate family means you are no longer covered by the RTA, and you could be at risk for an immediate eviction.
However, Matthews says that because you are not under the RTA, it also makes it easier for you to leave the property should you choose.
When choosing a place to reside, keep in kind how you live your life. Do you want to be in a quiet neighbourhood or do you like a busy nightlife close by?
Matthews also adds that you may need to change your lifestyle to abide to London by-laws, particularly the 8-day garbage schedule and noise by-laws.
If you follow these steps, you should feel confident in your search for your 12-month home. However, if you really want to know about the pros and cons of a rental, Matthew says your biggest help is the current tenant.
“Usually students are really good about telling other students if it was a good landlord or not.”
While it’s his job to help with rental issues, Matthews hopes that students don’t find themselves needing his help.
“When we’ve surveyed students about 90% are happy with their rentals, 5% are okay, and about 5% are not happy…if you follow the five steps hopefully you find yourself satisfied.”