Facts that are important for a renter?

Everyone has a different lifestyle. What might be suitable from one person's perspective, may not be true for others. There are several student housing search options that are not fulfilling the demands for each individual. Various needs such as budget, proximity to their school as well as shopping and services, and personal preference all play a major role in the selection of a rental search. There are a few common things that each individual should consider from a rental property:

Make sure your lease is in the form of a written contract. Never provide money until you are certain of your decision to rent. Always ask for a payment receipt from your landlord. Ensure the rental meets the minimum health and safety standards.

Watch for these four red flags

Fake housing ads on various channels such as Facebook groups, Kijiji, Craigslist and other social media, are often aimed at university students looking for last-minute rentals. These fake ads generally ask for an online rent deposit but the problem is there's no apartment. Here are some ways to avoid falling victim to a fake rental advertisement:

If a landlord or property owner is unavailable to show the property, there is a reason to worry. Potential renters should be concerned if there are only photos or verbal agreements in place without seeing the rental property in-person. Sending deposits without actually seeing a property and signing a lease agreement in person is never a good idea. According to a warning on Kijiji, if users meet up with the person face to face at the rental property, most scams can be avoided. It's important to do your homework and know the average price range for apartments in the area. If a rental property is priced well below the average for that particular town, or area of town, it may be too good to be true. Look for duplicate ads with varying prices. Imposters can copy and paste somebody else's listing and claim it as their own. Be on the lookout for an overeager landlord trying to lease an apartment to you. A legitimate property owner will do some typical screening and ask questions to ensure renters are credit worthy.

Aside from the four major red flags listed above, renters should also take some precautions when considering their rental unit:

Ensure the landlord has done due diligence from a safety standpoint. An unsafe rental unit can result in fires or physical harm to yourself or guests. An insecure unit can attract thieves, who are particularly drawn to small expensive electronic gadgets such as popular cell phones, laptops and iPods. Be sure that the apartment is clean and meets health requirements. A unit with mold, mildew, dust mites or animal dander can make some people sick, or can aggravate allergies. A unit with insects or rodents can make food impossible to keep around. Check windows and doors for drafts and make sure to test heating and cooling units. A unit with poor heating can be uncomfortable and can even make you sick. If heat is not included in the monthly rent, a poorly insulated unit or one with electric heat can add over CAD 100 per month to the cost of the room. Check the plumbing in the drains and toilets. A unit with plumbing problems can become unlivable in less than 24 hours. A landlord who does not respond to urgent matters promptly can render you virtually homeless in the middle of winter. Choose roommates that fit with your personality and lifestyle. A bad choice of roommate can turn a home into an uncomfortable place to stay, where no one will speak to each other and everyone is complaining.

Rental checklist

A little caution before renting can prevent a lot of trouble! While many things can be corrected through legal processes, below is a detailed checklist that can be useful to prevent issues before they start:

A rental unit is supposed to be up to standards BEFORE the tenant moves in. However, when this is not possible, it will mean that repairs will have to take place during your stay, which can disturb you for a prolonged time. You can negotiate a reduced rent in such cases.

There are several housing options available for both short and long term. Be sure to think ahead to other seasons when considering the location: walking through snow is very hard work, and bicycling in winter can be very dangerous.

The tenant is generally responsible for maintaining smoke detectors, and the landlord is responsible for maintaining fire alarms, fire escapes, sprinkler systems and fire extinguishers.

It is important to be patient when searching for housing, even if your search is urgent, otherwise you may find yourself in a less than ideal situation. A comfortable home can improve your grades and performance, and an uncomfortable home can ruin a career. Finding a good home is always worth the effort.

If your heat and/or plumbing stops working, will the issue be dealt with promptly? When arranging to see the rental unit, was the landlord easily reached?

If you are sharing a house or apartment, be sure your roommates can be trusted, and can be relied on for their share of the housework.

Is the landlord in the same town? If not, do they have a local caretaker?

Is the neighbourhood treated respectfully by other neighbours?

Are washers and dryers included? Are they in good condition, clean and free of mildew? Are they free or a reasonable rate to use? Do you pay for the electricity of the usage of the washer and dryer?

Is this a good location for school, work, shopping and entertainment?

Is the walkway and entrance well lit?

Is the walkway level and safe to walk on?

Have the other tenants been in the building for a long time?

If empty, has the rental unit been cleaned and repaired before your viewing?

Was the water heater installed or serviced recently?

Is the electricity, heat, water and sewer included in the rent? If not included, how much is the electricity, heat, water and sewer expected to be? If possible, it's best to ask former tenants this.

If applicable, is there a fire escape, and is it properly maintained?

Are there smoke detectors? These are cheap, but should be factored into your rent consideration.

Check room corners and under the fridge and stove for signs of bugs or rodents. Do you find feces, small hairs, mousetraps or other signs?

Check inside the oven: is it empty and clean?

Check inside the fridge: is it clean, cold and odorless?

Check the kitchen faucet: do both the hot and cold water work? Do they work quickly? Does the drain work properly?

Check the bathroom faucet: do both the hot and cold water work? Do they work quickly? Does the drain work properly?

Check the bathtub/shower faucet: do both the hot and cold water work? Do they work quickly? Does the drain work properly?

Flush the toilet. Does it flush quickly and refill quickly?

Check around the tub and window for mildew. Mold and mildew love moisture. Is the bathroom well ventilated?

Check in dark areas of the bathroom for signs of bugs.

Three people who get up at the same time and share one washroom and a single water heater is considered the livable limit. How many roommates will you have? How many washrooms are there? How many water heaters? Are your school schedules similar?

Is there carpeting? Does it smell like mildew, smoke, must or animal urine or dander?

Check for missing trim at the bottom of the walls; check any gaps for signs of insects.

Feel the walls for variations in temperature. The walls of a well-insulated home should feel about the same temperature, even on the sunny or shady side.

If beds are provided, are they clean, comfortable and odor-free? Brush the mattress gently with your hand. Do you see dark specks?

Check every door leading outside. Are there signs that someone has broken it open? Is the door solid? Does it have a bolt-lock?

A rental unit can have a long list of past tenants, and any of them could have copies of the key. When were the locks replaced?

Check the windows. Are the screens torn or missing? Are there other signs of break-ins? Can the windows lock?

Are the windows single or double-paned? Is mildew present at the bottom?

Check the garbage area. Is it outdoors, enclosed, and well-maintained?

Is the neighborhood noisy? Do you hear loud music? Is there any late night traffic?

If you have found problems with the apartment, do the problems look old and ignored? Has the landlord promised to make repairs to these problems? Ensure these promises are in writing.

Did the landlord or rental agent answer all of your questions openly and directly? Did the answers make sense and were they consistent with what you observed?

Check the ceiling for signs of water damage. Does it look recent? Has it been repeatedly repaired?

In the basement, are there signs of flooding? Do you smell or see mold or mildew?

Do you see repair tools and materials? Are they covered with house dust?

Modern electricity supply outlets and plugs are three-pronged and polarized. Most modem North American devices rely on this standard. Are there enough three-pronged outlets in each room? Are the two-pronged outlets polarized?

A ground-fault protected outlet has a safety device inside it to turn the power off immediately if an electrical device falls in the water. Are there outlets near the sinks or bathtub? Are they ground-fault protected?

Is there adequate built-in lighting in the rooms, hallways and especially over staircases?

Will you be sharing costs such as electricity phone or Internet? If so, how does this affect the total cost?

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