First-time renter guide

The ultimate guide to renting your first apartment. 

Happy couple sitting on the floor in a house

Everything you need to know as a first-time renter

So, you want to rent your first apartment? Congratulations! The rental journey can be both exciting and overwhelming. With the right tools and knowledge, you'll be well on your way to finding the perfect place to call home.

In this guide, we'll walk you through everything you need to know when renting your first apartment. From creating a budget to navigating the application and move-in process, we're here to help you make a smooth transition into independent living.


1. 5 things to do before renting an apartment.
    1.1 Create a budget.
    1.2 Choose the location you want to live in.
    1.3 Decide if you want a roommate.
    1.4 Determine your personal requirements.
    1.5 Choose a rental based on your lifestyle.

2. How to find and apply for your first apartment.
    2. 1 Use the right search tools.
    2.2 Don't rush the process.
    2.3 Be aware of potential scams.
    2.4 Prepare for the application process.

3. Getting ready for move-in day
    3.1 Move-in checklist

5 things to do before renting an apartment

A man holding a phone writing on a paper kept on the table

1. Create a budget

Before you begin your apartment search, you'll want to figure out how much you can afford to spend on rent, and from there set a realistic budget to avoid any financial stress. 

The 50/30/20 rule has become the standard when it comes to budgeting and is a great guideline to follow to avoid overspending. According to this rule, you should allocate 50% of your income to needs, 30% to wants, and 20% to savings.

50/30/20 budget rule
Source: The Balance

Here are some general steps to follow to determine how much to budget for your apartment:

Step 1. Calculate your total monthly income.
Step 2. Calculate your total monthly expenses, AKA your "needs". (See chart below for estimated costs.)
Step 3. Subtract your expenses from your income and see what's left for "wants" and savings.

Last, but not least, make sure to plan for *annual and unexpected increases and regularly review and adjust your budget.

*Annual Rent Increases vary by province, so make sure to check your provincial regulations.

Expense *Cost Per Month
Rent: During the budgeting process, you'll need to determine the
appropriate amount to allocate to rent based on your financial situation.
Utilities: Factor in the cost of electricity, water, gas, internet, and any
other expenses that may not be included in your rent.
Insurance: It is highly recommended (and in some cases required) to
obtain renters insurance, so be sure to add this to your list to protect
your belongings in case of theft, fire, or other unexpected damage.
Parking: If you have a vehicle, make sure to add a line item for
potential parking or EV charging fees.
Storage: If you have items you don't want to bring with you to your
new rental, look into the cost of storing them. Most properties have
onsite storage ranging from $50-100 per month.
Transit: Include estimated transportation costs if you rely on public
transit or rideshares.
*Costs are approximations and may vary by region, property, and provider.
Renting in Canada: Quick Stats
$2,042 Average cost
of rent in Canada
33% of Canadians
are renters
2.2 million The number of
rental units in 2021

2. Choose the location you want to live in

Choosing where you want to live involves honing in on the lifestyle you want and what is important to you. Ask yourself these questions to help narrow down your search:

- Do you prefer walking, driving, or taking public transportation to get to work or school? 
- How close do you want to be to family and friends?
- How important is neighbourhood safety to you?
- What kind of amenities do you want to have access to?
- Do you need peace and quiet? Or do you like the hustle and bustle of living at the center of it all?
- Do you prefer an older, more mature neighbourhood? Or do you want to be part of an up-and-coming area with lots of exciting development plans?

Once you have a good idea of the type of area you want to be in, make a list of the neighbourhoods that are a good fit based on your criteria.

Two females sitting on a couch and laughing

3. Decide if you want a roommate

To live with a roommate, or not to live with a roommate - that is the question.

Splitting rent with someone is a fantastic way to save money and help ease financial stress, especially for first-time renters. This will depend on your financial situation and where you're at in life (and whether you prefer companionship versus flying solo!).

If you decide to find a roommate, the best place to start your search is online. Here are a few resources to get you started:

- Palz Home Zone on Facebook
- Roomie Match
- Kijiji
- Roomster

Hot tip: You can also go to Google and type in "find a roommate in [insert city]". There are many city-based roommate finder websites that serve one city directly - so give those a shot, too!

4. Determine your personal requirements

Next, figure out the type of accommodation you need. The more detailed you are with this the better, as it will help when it comes time to begin your search.

Start with the basics:
- Are you looking to rent an apartment, a house, or a townhouse?
- Do you have a pet? If so, you'll need to narrow your search to pet-friendly rentals only.

Determine what size rental you'll need:
- Are you looking to live alone? Consider a studio or a 1-bedroom apartment.
- Are you looking to live with roommates or family members? Then you will probably want a rental with 2 or more bedrooms.
- Do you want access to your own outdoor space? If so, look for a rental with a balcony or backyard.

Note the unit and building amenities you desire:
- Do you need air conditioning or in-suite laundry? A balcony or a small backyard?
- Are you a fitness junkie? A building with a fitness room might be what you're looking for.

By getting clear on your personal needs and wants, you'll be better equipped to find your ideal rental.

Hot tip: Planning to live with a furry friend? We've got you! All Minto apartments across Canada are pet-friendly. 

A woman sitting in a cafe with a coffe mug looking at her phone

5. Choose a rental based on your lifestyle

You're going to want to make sure your rental aligns with your ideal lifestyle, whether it's a bustling urban vibe in the heart of the city or a serene suburban setting surrounded by nature.

Consider things like proximity to work or school, access to public transit, and nearby amenities like grocery stores, coffee shops, parks, and recreational facilities.

Finally, reflect on the community vibe. Are you a social butterfly, or do you prefer quiet nights in? Figuring out if you want to live in an area filled with lots of entertainment options, or a quieter area with a cozy feel, will help you make an informed decision.

Want to elevate your living experience? Consider renting from a property management company. Fully managed buildings come with many perks and benefits like 24/7 emergency service and a professional team to handle everything from maintenance to on-site events.

Minto apartments

How to find and apply for your first apartment

Use the right search tools

There are many different ways to find an apartment to rent, but a great place to start is online - just keep in mind that not all search tools are geared toward those looking to rent in Canada

Consider narrowing your search to specific regions, such as Ottawa, Toronto, Montreal, Calgary, or Vancouver. You can also check out local Internet Listing Services (ILS), reputable realtors, and property management websites to find available rental listings.

Here are a few of our favourites:
- Kijiji
- PadMapper
- Zumper
- RentSeeker

Don't rush the process

Renting your first apartment is a big milestone, so give yourself lots of time to find the perfect place.

As you come across rentals you think might be a good fit, reach out and ask for a tour. If you're looking for a rental in a new city and are unable to see the space in person, ask if a virtual tour is an option.

A man and a woman talking and walking on the streets
Finally, consider jotting down a list of questions to ask the landlord or superintendent on your tours. Questions like:

- What is the cost of rent?
- Do you require a deposit?
- Are utilities included?
- Is parking included?
- When is rent due?
- How do I make my rent payments?
- What are the lease terms?
- Do you require renter's insurance?
- What's your pet policy?
- How are repairs handled?
- What amenities are on-site or nearby?
- Is there a resident app?

P.S. Looking for a new apartment rental in Canada? We've got lots, so be sure to check us out! How do you plan to get to school or work? Walk, drive or use public transit? 

Be aware of potential scams

With more and more people searching for apartments to rent online, rental scams are on the rise. As a first-time renter, it's important to know how to spot and avoid scammers. Look for some of these tell-tale signs:

- There are no address details for the rental listing
- The monthly rent is lower than other similar places
- There are no photos, the photos are pixelated, or there is only one photo showing the exterior of the unit
- You're asked to leave a deposit without a formal agreement in place
- You're asked to send money when you haven't spoken to or seen the apartment yet
- You're asked to send money to someone outside of the country

Whatever you do, never share your personal or banking information online without talking to or meeting with someone in person first. And remember: If it seems too good to be true, it's because it probably is!

Before you rent, know your rights! For example, a landlord cannot refuse to rent to you because you are a newcomer to Canada or because you have children.
Your rights as a renter will vary by city or region, so make sure to do your research.

Coffee, iPad, keyboard, phone and spectacles on a wooden table

Prepare for the application process

Once you think you've found the right rental, it's time to move forward with the application process.

The process may vary depending on your city and the landlord or the property management company you're dealing with, but for the most part, the information you'll need will be the same. Be prepared to hand over the following:

- Proof of income/employment. Your most recent pay stub or a job offer letter on company letterhead.
- Identification. A piece of ID, like a driver's license, with your name and current address for a credit check.
- References. Since you won't have a landlord reference to share as a first-time renter, be sure to gather a few personal and work ones.
- Last month's rent. Have the funds available in your bank account for this, or ask if paying via credit card is an option.
- Banking info. You'll need a credit card or direct deposit information, depending on how you want to pay the rent each month.
- Security deposit. Some landlords or companies may ask for a security (or damage) deposit at the time of application. Typically, tenants get the deposit back at the end of their leasing term, upon move-out.

Note: Most places will run a credit check and sometimes even a criminal background check, so be prepared for that as well.

A man and a woman climbing up the stairs with boxes full of home decor items

Getting ready for move-in day

Hooray! Your application has been approved, you've signed your lease, and now you're ready to start packing.

While gearing up to move into your first apartment can be an exhilarating time, it can also be overwhelming. Here is a handy checklist to help you stay organized and ensure a seamless move-in day.

Move-in checklist

Before moving
- Talk to your landlord or property management company about what to expect on moving day. Find out when and where to pick up your key and how to register for resident portals or apps, like RENTCafé, that you can use to pay rent, submit service requests, or keep up-to-date on what's happening in your rental community.
- Confirm your loading dock and elevator booking at least 24 hours ahead of your move-in date. 
- Arrange for a local moving company or recruit friends and family to help you move. (Hot tip: Confirm the date and arrival of your moving team at least 1 week before to avoid any moving day mishaps!)
- Start packing up your belongings and label boxes for easy unpacking.
- Contact utility providers to set up your electricity, water, gas, and internet services.
- Set up renter's insurance to protect your belongings, if desired.
- Notify all relevant parties of your new address (think: bank, subscription services, friends, and family).

A man and a woman sitting beside the window in an apartment playing with their dog
Moving day
- Pick up your key from your landlord or property management company.
- Coordinate with your movers. 
- Set aside a bag or box for the essentials such as toiletries, a change of clothes, basic kitchen and cleaning supplies, and important documents.
- Perform a walkthrough of the apartment to verify its condition, and if needed, give it a quick cleaning.
- Test all appliances, plumbing, and electrical systems to ensure they're working properly.
- Unpack essential items and gradually unpack the rest.
- Set up and arrange furniture to your liking.
- Install any necessary window coverings for privacy.
- Set up your internet and entertainment systems.
After moving day
- Explore your new area! Locate nearby grocery stores, pharmacies, restaurants, and other essential services.
- Familiarize yourself with your new building's amenities.
- Explore public transportation options and nearby attractions.
- Meet your neighbours and get acquainted with the community.

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