Student renter guide

The ultimate guide to student housing in Canada.

Two female friends carrying cardboard boxes with belongings and moving into a new house

Everything you need to know as a student renter

When we think of college or university, we often picture students living in dorm rooms. In reality, some continue to live at home with family, while most students in Canada choose to live off-campus in rental apartments.

As a student, there are many things to consider before signing a lease, especially if you're a first-time renter. In this guide, we'll walk you through every step of the rental journey - from how to do your due diligence to how to find, apply for, and successfully move into your rental.


1. Types of rentals for students
    1.1 On-campus vs. off-campus
    1.2 Short-term vs. long-term rentals

2. Choosing your rental location

3. Living arrangements
    3.1 Living with a roommate
    3.2 Finding a roommate
    3.3 Determining compatibility

4. Personal requirements
    4.1 Choosing the right accommodation type

5. Lifestyle requirements
    5.1 Determining what's important

6. Creating a budget

7. Finding the perfect student rental
    7.1 The search process
    7.2 The application process
    7.3 The move-in process

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Types of rentals for students

On-campus vs. off-campus living

According to the Student Housing in Canada report by UTILE, approximately 1.5 million university students were renters in 2021, with 1.3 million of them living in apartments on the private market - i.e. outside of a university residence.

Whether you decide to live on or off campus is up to you, but here is a list of pros and cons to help with your decision:

On-campus housing: Pros
- Community: Living in a dorm means being part of a community, making it easier to meet and make new friends.
- Activities: It's easier to take part in campus activities and organizations when you live on-site.
- Convenience: From classes to the library to the cafeteria, everything is right at your fingertips.
- Zero commute: Not having to commute to class means more time for work, studying, or bonus - sleeping in!
- Academic support: Access to academic resources, tutoring, and study groups are readily available.

On-campus housing: Cons
- Limited privacy and space: Dorm rooms are often shared and smaller than your average apartment, meaning less room, less privacy, and less personal space.
- Rules and regulations: Be prepared to adhere to dorm rules and quiet hours.
- Increased illness: Living in close quarters makes it easier for germs to circulate.
- Cost: Because you have access to everything you need, the cost of dorm living is typically higher than renting off-campus.
Off-campus housing: Pros
- Choice: Living off-campus means you can pick your roommates and living arrangements.
- Independence: You have more freedom in terms of how you manage your living space.
- Privacy: You'll have more privacy and personal space than dorm living.
- Cost: Living off-campus can be cheaper, especially if you have roommates and are mindful of your budget.
- Food: You can cook your own meals, giving you control over your diet and saving money.
Off-campus housing: Cons
- Commute: Depending on location, you may have a longer commute to campus. This can be time-consuming and costly.
- Isolation: You may not have the same level of built-in social interaction and community as living on campus.
- Responsibilities: Off-campus living means more responsibility, like managing bills, cooking, and cleaning.

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Short-term vs. long-term rentals

Short-term rentals are leases that span a shorter duration, usually month-to-month or semester-by-semester. They can be great for a student renter for many reasons:

1. Flexibility: Short-term rentals offer the flexibility to adapt to changing circumstances. 
2. Temporary housing: Short-term rentals are ideal if you're studying abroad, interning in another city, or only attending classes for part of the year.
3. Furnished options: Many come fully furnished, which is great if you don't want to invest in furniture or move it in and out each semester. 
4. No need to sublet: You won't have to worry about finding someone to sublet your space during holidays or semester breaks.
5. Location: Short-term rentals are often close to campuses, libraries, and social hubs, which can help enhance your college experience.

Long-term rentals, on the other hand, are leases that last for a year or more. Here are a few reasons why they're appealing:

1. Cost-effective: Long-term rentals offer more affordable monthly rates, making them a budget-friendly choice.
2. Stability: Long-term leases provide stability and a sense of community.
3. Lower stress: You won't have to worry about moving in and out or finding a new place each semester, reducing stress and disruption.
4. More options: You'll have access to a wide range of housing types, from apartments to houses, allowing you to find a space that suits your needs.

Choosing your rental location

As a student, selecting the right location to rent is a big decision. To help narrow your search, consider the following:

1. Commute: How do you plan to get to school or work? Walk, drive or use public transit? 
2. Proximity to friends and family: If staying local, how close do you want to be to family and friends? 
3. Neighbourhood safety: Prioritize safety by researching neighbourhood crime rates.
4. Amenities and services: What amenities are essential for you? Grocery stores, gyms, parks, or libraries? Having the right ones nearby can enhance your student life.
5. Neighbourhood vibe: Consider your lifestyle preferences. Do you prefer a quiet, residential area for focused study? Or a vibrant, urban spot with shops, restaurants, and nightlife?

Living Arrangements

Living with a roommate

Roommates offer financial advantages if you're looking to keep costs low. However, you'll want to think about whether having a roommate aligns with your lifestyle.

When you're immersed in long study sessions or spending all day in class, do you want to come home to a quiet space? Or would you prefer living with peers for a sense of companionship and to ease the challenges of student life?

Happy group of friends playing video games at home and smiling

Finding a roommate

Opting for a roommate? There are many ways to find the perfect one. Consider the following:

Family and friends
Sometimes, the best roommate can be found within your immediate circle. After all, trust is key for any successful relationship, and who better to share a space with than someone you already know and trust? By choosing someone from your inner circle, you're more likely to have shared interests, values, and habits. So before you start your search, consider the people already in your life. The perfect roommate could be closer than you think!
Online search
There are many location-based roommate finder websites. Find them by opening up your search browser and typing in "find a roommate in [insert city]". Or, check out the following websites:

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

Most roommate finder websites will have you create a profile, so be prepared to share some information about yourself to land a compatible roommate. Include the following in your profile:

- A friendly introduction (include a few fun facts about yourself)
- What you like to do in your free time (show some personality)                                                                                                                    ---- What you're looking for in a roommate
- When you're looking to move in
- Your ideal rental location
- Your monthly budget
- Your general schedule (work, school, and sleep)
- Your thoughts on guests and partying
- Your cleanliness standards
On-Campus resources
Most colleges and universities offer resources to connect students with potential roommates, such as bulletin boards, online platforms, and roommate-matching services. These can be invaluable in your quest for the ideal roommate - take advantage of them!

Two female friends sitting on the couch at home and laughing

Determining compatibility

Find someone you'll enjoy sharing your space with! Put together a list of questions to ask potential roommates, such as:

- What do you do for fun?
- What is your major or field of study?
- What does your daily routine or schedule look like?
- How often do you clean?
- Do plan on having friends come over often?
- Do you have any pets?
- Do you smoke?
- Do you have any food restrictions?

Tip: Get to know your potential roommate and make sure you both feel comfortable with the living arrangement. If dealing with someone you don't know well, ask them to complete a background check and sign a roommate agreement that outlines expectations, rules, and responsibilities. This can serve as a reference point in case of disputes. 

Two female friends sitting on a couch with a dog watching tv and smiling

Personal Requirements

Choosing the right accommodation type

When it comes to selecting your accommodation type, you'll be faced with a myriad of choices. How big of a space do you need? How many bedrooms? Do you need a backyard? Get clear on your needs so you know what to look for.

- Roommates: Will you be living with roommates? If so, how many? 
- Housing type: Do you need an apartment or townhome? 
- Pets: Do you or your roommates have any pets?
- Outdoor space: Do you want a backyard space where you can host BBQs or get-togethers? Or are you okay with a balcony in an apartment building?

Next, take note of the amenities you desire, both in your unit and within the building. Ask yourself the following:

- In-unit amenities: What are your must-haves when it comes to in-unit amenities? (i.e. AC, in-suite laundry, balcony, etc.)
- In-building amenities: What are your non-negotiables when it comes to building amenities? (i.e. parking, storage, fitness facility, concierge, etc.)

By defining your personal needs and preferences, you'll be better prepared to find the perfect student rental that suits your (and your roommates?) lifestyle.

P.S. Do you or your roommate have a pet? With Minto Apartments, all furry friends are welcome!

Young girl sitting at the steps and using lap top

Lifestyle Requirements

Determining what's important

Finding the right rental means figuring out your unique lifestyle and needs. Whether you crave the bustling city vibe or wish for a peaceful suburban escape surrounded by nature, it's essential to choose a place that aligns with your student journey.

Here are some key factors to consider:

- Proximity to campus: Shortening your commute can free up valuable time for studying and extracurricular activities.
- Access to Public Transit: Easy access to public transportation can be a game-changer. It makes getting to class, work, or exploring the city a breeze.
- Nearby Amenities: Are there grocery stores, coffee shops, parks, and recreational facilities nearby? Having these essentials within reach can simplify your daily life.
- Community Vibes: Are you a social butterfly who thrives on interaction or do you prefer quiet evenings in? Understanding if you want to be in an area with entertainment options or a cozy, tranquil atmosphere is important.

Tip: Looking to elevate your student living experience? Consider renting from a property management company. Fully managed buildings offer many perks and benefits, including 24/7 emergency services and a professional team to handle everything from maintenance to organizing on-site events.

Creating a budget

Take some time to figure out how much you can afford to spend on rent, and from there set a realistic budget.

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.

The 50/30/20 budgeting rule

Source: The Balance

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

Step 1. Calculate your total monthly income. Be sure to include any financial aid or income you might be getting from other sources, like OSAP or family.
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: Determine what you can allocate to rent based on your financial situation.
Aim to spend no more than 30% of your monthly income on rent.
Utilities: Add in the cost of electricity, water, gas, internet, and any other utilities
that may not be included in your rent.
Insurance: Renter's insurance is recommended (and in some cases required), so
make sure to add this to your list to protect your belongings.
Parking: If you have a car, add a line item for potential parking or EV charging fees.$50-80
Storage: Most properties have onsite storage ranging from $50-100 per month.$50-200
Transit: Include estimated transportation costs if you'll be relying on public transit
or rideshares.
TuitionWill vary depending on college or university
FoodWill vary by student
Personal ExpensesWill vary by student

*Costs are approximations and may vary by region, property, and provider.

Young businesswoman using laptop

Finding the perfect student rental

The search process

While there are many ways to find a rental, a great place to start is online. Ensure the search tools you're using are geared toward students looking to rent in Canada by narrowing down your search to specific regions, like 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 common rental search tools:

- Kijiji
- PadMapper
- Zumper

Remember: As a student, you may be on a timeline to find a rental for the start of the school year, but make sure to give yourself lots of time to find the right place.

As you come across a good match, reach out to the landlord or property management company and ask for a tour. If you're an international student looking for accommodation abroad and unable to see the space in person, ask for a virtual tour instead.

Jot down questions to ask on your tours, like:

- What is the rent and when is it due?
- Are utilities included or are they separate?
- Is parking included?
- Is renter's insurance required?
- What are the terms of the lease?
- Do you allow subletting? If so, how does that work?
- How do I make my rent payments?
- What's your pet policy?
- How are repairs handled?
- What amenities are on-site or nearby?
- What security measures are in place?

P.S. Looking for a student apartment rental in Canada? We've got lots, so be sure to check us out!

Be aware of potential scams

With an increasing amount of students searching for housing online, rental scams are on the rise. Know how to spot and avoid scammers by looking out for these tell-tale signs:

- 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 rental unit yet.
- You're asked to send money to someone outside of the country.

Don't 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 probably is!

The application process

Congratulations! You've found the ideal student rental for you. Now, it's time to move forward with the application process.

This process can vary depending on your city and the landlord or property management company involved, however, the documentation required remains the same. Make sure to have the following on hand:

- Proof of income/student status. You may be asked to provide your student status, such as an acceptance letter or proof of financial aid.
- Identification. A valid piece of ID, such as a driver's license, is typically required for a credit check.
- References. Gather personal references from friends, professors, or employers who can vouch for your character and reliability.
- Finances. Be ready to cover last month's rent by having the funds available in your bank account or ask if credit card payment is accepted.
- Banking information. You'll need your banking details to set up rent payments.
- Security deposit. Some landlords or companies may request a security (or damage) deposit during the application process. This deposit is refundable at the end of your lease term, provided there is no damage to the property.
- Credit and background check. Most rental properties will conduct a credit check, and occasionally, a criminal background check. Be prepared for this by maintaining good financial habits and a clean record.

Need to sublet your apartment while you're travelling or returning home for the summer? Some landlords allow subletting, while others have policies against it, so be sure to ask before signing anything.

The move-in process

Once your application has been approved and you've signed your lease, it's time to prep for move-in day.

Here are some things to consider to help stay organized and ensure a seamless transition:
Think ahead
If you're moving at the beginning of the school year, keep in mind that many other students will be in the same boat. Make sure to schedule service appointments ahead of time to avoid disappointment. And plan to move in at least a few weeks before classes begin so you have time to get settled.
Be prepared
Touchbase with your landlord or property management company on 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 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.
Recruit help
Recruit friends or family to help with packing and moving, rather than paying the pros. Sweeten the deal with some pizza and beer, and you're sure to draw a crowd! And keep in mind, you don't need to pack everything. You'll likely be returning home to visit, so you can always bring more later.
Set up relevant services
Contact utility providers to set up your electricity, water, gas, and internet services. And don't forget the renter's insurance! Most landlords or property management companies require it.
Notify relevant parties
Finally, notify all relevant parties of your new address (think: bank, subscription services, friends and family). Or, if you plan to return home after school or only rent for a short term, you may want to leave your address as is and collect your mail when you go home to visit.

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