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Did you know, if you’re a newly-admitted student who has applied for living accommodations before the deadline, UofT guarantees you a Residence for your first year living here? You will have the chance to be part of a close-knit community, within walking distance of your classes, with access to a range of events, academic support, and much more!

However, not everyone’s needs may be fulfilled through On-Campus housing, and one may be interested in finding more inclusive options. Further, students from 2nd year onwards are no longer guaranteed a living accommodation, so if you’re an upper-year student, who is still in the process of finding a place to live for the upcoming school year, the following information may be beneficial for you.

In my first year, I was admitted into Chestnut Residence which is a student residence 15 minutes away from the St. George campus. Here, I shared a room with 1 other person who I was matched to using the StarRez portal’s roommate finder. The room had an ensuite washroom, came furnished, and we also had the privilege of a house cleaning service once a week. The residence gave us options to choose meal plans, which are still in place, and you can learn more about the same here

Piya standing in the Chestnut Residence lobby during move-in day.
On my move-in day at Chestnut Residence in 2018.

While I enjoyed my stay at the Chestnut Residence, I wanted more privacy and chose to stay off-campus for the rest of the years. I am now entering my final year as an Engineering student at the University of Toronto, and throughout the years here is what I have learned through my varying experiences with the following off-campus living options:

Option 1

The University’s housing offices can help you navigate the rental market and find the best fit. You can browse the University of Toronto’s off-campus rental housing listings, and find another student to share a rental unit, using the Roommate Finder service. Access the University of Toronto’s off-campus rental housing supports (external link).


  • Searching through the University’s off-campus rental housing drastically lowers the risk of scams. Often, solo searching may lead to encountering malicious attempts of deception. An example has been provided through the screenshot below.

    You should never pay anything before or after an apartment viewing until you have fully confirmed the identity of the landlord/ rental agent, viewed the place in person, and signed a lease first. If sufficient information on the owner is not available, you can ask the person for proof of ownership. While I haven’t used this method, you can also search the Ontario land registry online through It costs per document to view details on the owner of a specific property, and you need to make an account for the same.
A text conversation screenshot of a scam wherein the 'landlord' attempts to secure a deposit beforehand.
A screenshot of a scam wherein the 'landlord' attempts to secure a deposit beforehand.
  • You have the opportunity to find shared accommodations on the off-campus portal tool. There are filters to search through the database for units that match your budget, preferred neighbourhood, and other personal preferences. Using the Roommate Search Tool, you can meet other students who share similar interests as you. This is an excellent opportunity for networking to live with other University of Toronto students, which helps you experience a culture similar to on-campus housing. You can learn more about the same here.


  • This process requires patience. Finding someone who matches your boxes in terms of an ideal roommate will take time. You may not get everything you want in one person. For e.g. your roommate may be a night owl while you’re a morning person. It’s important to communicate openly from day one to make sure you’re on the same page as other parties. 
  • The average rental price in Downtown Toronto has increased drastically. It is priced more than the average cost of on-campus accommodations since leases usually only include the base cost of the rent. Leases usually span anywhere from 8-12 months, while student residences’ leases are almost always the duration of the Fall/Winter session (8 months).

Option 2

Working with a Rental Agent.

Fun fact - it costs you absolutely nothing to work with a Rental Agent in Toronto! Your future landlord ultimately is responsible for paying them their commission for finding a tenant that matches their needs.


  • It's free!
  • This option gives a larger pool of rental properties to look at: whether you’re someone who wants to live alone, or with someone, area of choice, furnished/unfurnished, utilities, square ft. etc. 
  • Renting through this method also means you’re not required to pay for a meal plan. You’re ultimately responsible for your own food consumption habits and can adjust your budget given your personal circumstances. 
  • You’re safe in the hands of an experienced professional, an agent who will guide you through the process if you’re completely new to the city. This includes searching, applying on your behalf to properties, as well as negotiating between both parties (landlord and you).


  • If you’re an International student, the current market is extremely competitive, and there are students who sometimes pay more than the legal limit (the legal requirement is paying a deposit of 2 months: the first and the last month of the lease. For. e.g. if your lease starts on the 1st of September, 2023 and is for the duration of 12 months, the deposit should be the month of September 2023’s rent and August 2024’s rent.). There is a pressure to often pay for multiple months at once to secure a place which is unique. 
  • Other requirements such as sufficient documentation: A local guarantor will be needed (Canadian resident and/or citizen), alongside your credit score, income capacity/offer letter, and so on. 
  • Extremely competitive: each place has upwards of 10 offers: the prospective tenant applies with the best ‘bid’. Listings sent by the agent show an asking offer needed as the ‘minimum’ to apply for a property. In my experience, I almost always had to offer much more than this base price, and yet didn’t get accepted! There are extraneous factors that are not always controllable. To get things moving quickly, you will need to start searching well in advance: June/July onwards. 

Option 3 (my favourite)

Through Facebook groups/ Facebook marketplace/Kijiji/Cold contacting mutuals.

This option usually doesn’t involve a Rental Agent. This means you can talk to the landlord directly, and don’t need to enter any bidding war! The flexibility is all yours - I got my current accommodation and previous one from a Facebook group where landlords are seeking tenants (without having to pay agents a commission), tenants are subletting, and much more.

Please note - I no longer ‘endorse’ this specific Facebook group because it is usually unmonitored by the admins, and there is a heavy influx of scams. However, a quick search on Facebook under the titles ‘off-campus housing’, and ‘downtown Toronto’ will lead you to more groups.

Things to look out for when searching solo

Instead of a pros vs. cons list, it would be important to discuss Option 3 in the light of my experience, and some tips to look out for.

  • Condo by-laws: when my roommate, who was an International student, wanted to go back home to India over the summer, our condo manager said that subletting for less than 6 months was not permitted. This was not mentioned to either of us when signing the lease. While there were no ‘mal intentions’, it was ultimately my roommate's and my responsibility to read up on the terms and conditions of living in a specific condo.
  • When sharing the lease with someone: try to live with someone you already know of before or someone who belongs from a similar situation who won’t back out last minute, or not pay rent, etc.
  • Keep documents prepared well in advance for a smoother process: your University of Toronto offer letter, your student visa, study permit, passport, guarantor documents, your own credit score, and your savings/ earning capacity/ dependent’s earning capacity.
  • Look up tenant rights (laws for and against your favour). If you own a pet, for example, many landlords say that they wouldn’t accept a tenant with one. However, legally, you’re allowed to:
    Section 14 of The Residential Tenancies Act (“RTA”) explicitly states: “A provision in a tenancy agreement prohibiting the presence of animals in or about the residential complex is void.”
  • Read the Lease Agreement properly before signing: is it a monthly rent, or weekly rent? How much is the key deposit, double-check the names on documents, and your personal information - accuracy is key to avoid any anomalies.
  • Be extra careful with scams: people pushing for deposits before seeing the place in person, anyone asking for multiple months upfront, etc.
    Always ask someone you know who has experience searching apartments alone before making the big leap.
  • Remember, if anything seems ‘abnormal’ or someone is being too pushy, it’s too good to be true, there’s something inappropriate going on and you should be wary of proceeding with it.

I also have a more in-depth discussion on YouTube that shares my experience with some example property viewings and prices: 


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