Jumping into a new housing rental can be a pretty stressful time. There are so many things to consider as you look at potential homes, and sometimes you don’t even know where to begin.
Here’s some information to help you out. Below you’ll find outlined neighbourhood descriptions of Toronto and the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), things to remember as you look for family-friendly housing, and what types of questions your potential landlord is and is not allowed to ask you.
Finding the Perfect Neighbourhood
As BlogTO states, “Toronto is a city of neighbourhoods.” Some of those most popular for University of Toronto students on the St. George campus include the Annex, Chinatown, Yorkville, and Little Italy.
Click here for an interactive map of the Greater Toronto Area, where you can read descriptions of the multitude of neighbourhoods in the GTA and learn about their restaurants, art scenes, and service offerings.
SeeTorontoNow shares the highlights each neighbourhood has to offer and, importantly, the transit routes that service each area.
As you search consider…
Proximity: Before beginning to look for a home it’s best to determine if there are any services or locations that you and your family desire to be close to. Need to be near to a subway stop? The streetcar? Maybe you’re adamant on a home close to the library or to your children’s school. Whatever it is, ensure that you’ve taken it into consideration before seeking rentals. Finding the perfect home is far less exhausting when you’ve pre-determined the spots that are best suited to fulfilling your family’s needs.
Potential Hazards: As you’re touring units, ensure that you’re on the lookout for any potential dangers that would affect members of your family. It’s a good idea to look at railings, stairways, balconies, and windows to determine whether or not they would potentially cause harm.
Wider, carpeted stairs are easier to climb for little ones and older ones, and though still not ideal, are better if you’ll be transporting strollers from your unit to the ground level and vice versa.
Screened windows are best, ideally with locks well out of a child’s reach. Ask your landlord to replace any broken locks prior to you taking rental ownership.
Railings and balconies must have secure railings and banisters, be tall and strong, and with little space between the parapets. Always supervise little ones when they’re on the balcony!
Amenities: See if the building’s grounds have a fenced in courtyard with green space or a kids’ area. Consider how important on-site laundry facilities are for you. Is it essential that they be in your unit? If there’s no in-building option, where’s the nearest Laundromat? Do you or anyone in your family need a bath rather than just a shower? Should your building have a gym and pool, make sure that they’re secured and inaccessible to children. If you have older children, make sure your family learns the rules and regulations of their pool and gym usage.
Space and Upgrades: If you’re planning to stay at your new home for longer than a year or 8 months, take into consideration how your family and its members may grow! Is the home open concept so that you can keep your eye on those playing and doing homework? Will you need more storage or bedrooms in the future? Are the hallways wide enough for strollers, walkers, etc? Can the space be easily baby-proofed?
This great list was compiled by realtor.com.
What Information do Landlords Need?
Settlement.org is a fantastic resource for those hoping to learn about their tenant rights and responsibilities, in particular for information specific to immigrants and newcomers to Canada.
They’ve compiled a list of impermissible and permissible questions for a landlord to ask you.
Some of those which landlords are allowed to ask include: What is your income? Where do you work? How many people will be living with you and what are their names?
Your landlord cannot ask questions like: Are you pregnant? Do you plan to have (more) children? What is your marriage status? Are you a Canadian citizen? What is your ethnic background or religion? Do you receive public assistance? What is your age? These questions cannot be asked because they relate to the Ontario Human Rights Code, and to discriminate based on such information is a violation of your Human Rights.
Remember to fill out rental application forms as completely as possible. As well, know that you do not need to provide to a potential landlord your Social Insurance Number (SIN). Your credit history can be checked without this piece of information.
Wondering about what moving in? Moving out? Rental repairs? The Federation of Metro Tenants’ Association has a tenant survival guide in 14 different languages! This guide tells you about the necessary pre-rental documentation requirements, deposit expectations (often in Ontario landlords will request first and last month’s rent), and ending your tenancy. The guide is a fantastic resource for any and all tenants; it even walks you through procedures for landlord reporting and provides a list of contacts that offer support to tenants.
From Ontario’s Landlord and Tenant Board, here’s some more information on tenant and landlord rights and responsibilities for first time renters.
Need more info? Contact Housing Services at UofT for resources, information sessions, and support or see our previous blog post about on and off-campus housing options.