Now that you’ve made the decision to live off-campus rather than living in residence on-campus, you may be wondering where to begin your search. Wherever you decide to live, remember that it will be your home for the next eight to twelve months, or longer. Shop around. Be selective. You don’t have to settle for cramped or low quality housing. Take the time to look around and find something that makes you feel comfortable.
While the housing market in Toronto is very large, it is also very competitive. In 2016 vacancy rates were at a very low level of 1-2%. While this number might be discouraging, there are thousands of units available for rent in the city. But it will be important to have a plan, stay organized, and act quickly after you have found housing that you are comfortable with.
While there is always housing being advertised, it might take you some time to find a place that fits your criteria. It's a good idea to start your search at approximately four weeks before your target move-in date so that you won't be pressured to accept housing that you are unsatisfied with. You will want to make a list of the criteria that you are looking for. This will help cut down the number of postings you will have to sort through and will help you avoid unnecessary site visits. Criteria to consider include:
Rent costs vary according to a number of factors, including size, location, and type (basement apartment vs. high rise condo for example). Below are average costs based on housing advertised on the University of Toronto's Off Campus Housing listings site (https://offcampushousing.utoronto.ca/) from April 2017-April 2018.
|PRIVATE||Bachelor or Studio||$900|
|1 Bedroom||$1,000 to 1,200|
Will you want to live within a walking distance to UofT Scarborough, downtown, or somewhere in between? While housing in Scarborough is typically less expensive, some students prefer living in the downtown area and commuting further. What’s more important to you? Would you rather have a short commute and be right next to campus, or live closer to downtown and have a longer commute?
How will you be getting to school? If planning on taking the TTC, you might want to find housing close to a subway or RT station, or near a bus or street car stop. If you are planning on driving to school, you would want to look for housing that includes parking.
Do you want to live with other people, or would you prefer living alone? If you are new to the city, having roommates can be beneficial to help you get oriented and learn more about the area.
The two most common types of accommodation are living in an apartment, and living in a house. Often, if living in a house you will be renting one room and will be sharing the common areas (kitchen, bathrooms, living room). Sometimes accommodations in a house are limited to just the basement area, which may have less natural light. Apartments are usually in high or low-rise buildings with many other tenants. They are usually professionally managed where as houses are typically managed by their owners.
Will you be looking to buy your own furniture, or would you rather live in housing that is already furnished? Living in a furnished house can provide some convenience and savings, but you will likely be limited to the provided furniture.
Some housing will have a washer and dryer available in the unit, while others will not. For those without, you will have to find a public Laundromat in the area.
Please Note: The information provided on this listing site has been submitted by private landlords not associated with the University of Toronto.
The University does not investigate, endorse, or guarantee the accuracy of the information provided by any listing, or the condition of the accommodation. Although the University reviews all information posted, the University assumes no responsibility in regard to any lease made with a landlord or any arrangements made by students sharing accommodation.
The University shall not be responsible for any loss or damage suffered or incurred by any individual or entity arising out of or relating to a listing found in our service. The accommodations listed here have not been inspected by the University and we advise students to meet with the owner and inspect the premises before signing a lease.
Now that you know where to look for housing advertisements and have created a list of criteria for what you want, it’s time to begin the search! The first step is to view the above listing service and narrow down your search results by using the filter according to your search criteria. Have a close look at the search results, and be sure to read the listing thoroughly. Once you’ve identified the units that you are interested in, it’s time to begin contacting landlords to plan a site visit.
Depending on the contact information available on the posting, you will either have to call or email a landlord. It’s a good idea to sound cheerful and confident, be polite, and introduce yourself. Explain that you’re interested in renting from them and set up a time to meet and view the unit. If communicating via phone, be sure to have a paper and pen handy to take down the address and viewing time. The landlord may also have some questions, and these often include:
If you try calling and the phone goes to voicemail, here is a sample script that you can use to leave a message: "Hello, my name is _______, and I saw your apartment listing on the University of Toronto Off-Campus Housing Listings Website. I would like to speak with you to get more information, and hopefully set up an appointment to meet with you and view the place. I can be reached at _______. Thanks, and I hope to hear from you soon!"
Actually visiting the unit before signing a lease is very important. Besides seeing if you like the place, you can also get a good feel for how comfortable you will be in the neighborhood.We recommend going to visit the rental unit with a friend for your safety.
Before you go, make sure that you think of an extensive list of questions to ask. Some ideas include:
For a more thorough list of questions and inspection items, please see the inspection checklist found at the end of this document.
Although some of the questions in the previous section touched on safety issues, safety gets its own section in this document as it should be an important factor in your decision. It's strongly recommended that you visit the neighbourhood, meet the landlord, and thoroughly inspect the unit before signing a lease. You may want to consider re-visiting potential housing at night to check for adequate lighting, and the feel of the neighbourhood. You want to gauge your landlord's sense of responsibility and importance in regards to safety concerns by asking safety related questions. If the landlord attempts to brush off your questions or shows little concerns, you might assume that safety issues won't be high on their priority list.
When inspecting the unit, be sure to ask yourself the following questions:
Living with bed bugs can cause much mental, physical and financial anguish. Bed bugs were nearly extinct thirty years ago, but have dramatically increased in numbers since to become a serious problem in many major cities. The best approach is to be proactive in ensuring that there is no infestation in any rental unit that you are considering. Ask your landlord if there is any history of bed bugs in the building (even if they've been reported on another floor, they can spread very quickly), and check the Bed Bug Registry (www.bedbugregistry.com).
Bed bugs can be present in even the cleanest apartments, as they do not feed on garbage or food (they feed on blood, like mosquitoes). They are difficult to spot, multiply easily, are hard to eliminate, and can go over eight months without feeding. Thus, if you suspect that your apartment has bed bugs, it's important to act fast and notify your land lord as soon as possible. It is your land lord's responsibility to pay for extermination services.
For information on how to prevent and treat bed bug infestations, see http://www.toronto.ca/health/bedbugs/index.htm.
If a landlord refuses to help when a tenant notifies them of a bed bug problem, tenants may obtain assistance or advice from a legal clinic, the Landlord and Tenant Board or from Toronto Public Health.
If it becomes necessary, Toronto Public Health can issue a Health Protection Order (Section 13) to a landlord and/or tenant or both under the Health Protection and Promotion Act, to ensure clean-up and treatment is completed.
If you inspect or rent accommodation that you have found through our
service, and your evaluation of the premises or the landlord's attitude
towards personal safety is negative, make sure you discuss your views
with us. You can also lodge a formal complaint that could result in
the landlord being banned from advertising with us.
Please click here to access the off-campus housing service feedback form.
There are a number of important costs to consider when living off campus.
|Rent||$550 - $1,000/month|
|Utilities||$50 - $100/month|
|Phone & Internet||$50 - $150/month|
|Tenants Insurance (see below)||$300/year|
|Public Transportation (TTC Pass)||$116.75/month*|
*(A limited amount of discounted passes are available at the SCSU office each month for $116.75)
Costs associated with owning or renting a vehicle (parking, fuel, maintenance, insurance)
The above are the basic costs associated with living off-campus, but for budgeting purposes you should also think about tuition and school expenses, food, entertainment, shopping, gifts, toiletries, and other miscellaneous items.
When moving into your new home, we strongly recommend that you purchase tenants insurance. Tenants Insurance:
While it is often exciting to live with people you know, many housemates-to-be overlook the importance of discussing needs and expectations prior to moving in. You should consider discussing items such as cleaning schedules and responsibilities, sharing items in the unit, study habits, sleep patterns, guests, and noise expectations. Try to have everyone meet each other, and make sure that everyone is comfortable. Communication and flexibility are key for successful housemate relations.
Regardless of how well you know your housemates, it’s a good idea for everyone to put down all agreements in writing with signatures at the bottom. You may want to create this housemate agreement form shortly after all parties have moved in, as it may take a few weeks to identify potential areas of conflict. Download the template housemate agreement form so you can adapt to fit your own particular needs and agreements. It is also a good idea to agree upon a timeframe to revisit the agreement and create amendments as need be.
One of the most crucial elements of maintaining good housemate relations is regular and open communication. If you are all too busy to regularly touch base on issues, schedule times to sit down and talk. It is also a good idea to discuss differences in communication styles, as people do communicate differently.
While leaving notes or messages on whiteboards might appear to be an easy solution with no confrontation, the absence of tone and body language can easily create misunderstandings and lead to passive aggressiveness.
If there are issues that you are unable to resolve with your housemates, you might want to consider mediation. St. Stephen’s Community House provides a free conflict resolution service that will help roommates talk to each other and work out a solution with a team of neutral mediators.
St. Stephen’s Community House
91 Bellevue Ave, Toronto, ON
Some students prefer to have long-term housing arranged before arriving in Toronto. Although this can provide peace of mind, we do not advise you to enter into a rental agreement without inspecting the unit and meeting the landlord.
Despite not being Canadian citizens or permanent residents of Canada, all international students are encouraged to file a tax return with Canada Revenue Agency. Many students living off-campus don’t realize that rent payments for off-campus housing are considered to be tax deductable expenses. However, to include rent payments as an expense in your tax claim, you must have proper receipts from your landlord.
A rent receipt must include at least the following information:
Never make any rental payments with cash. Instead, make payment by cheque, money order, or online transfers such as Interac email money transfers provide you with proof of payment other than a receipt issued by your landlord. It's important to have as much evidence of payment as possible in case disputes ever develop. Personal cheque is always the best option as it provides you with a few days grace to contact your bank and stop payment if necessary.
Your potential landlord may ask for a guarantor. A guarantor is a person who can guarantee that your rent will be paid every month. A guarantor must have an account or credit history with a Canadian bank. If you do not have a guarantor, you will need to open a bank account at a Canadian bank to prove that you have enough money to pay your rent.
If you need to open an account with a Canadian bank, you may need:
Once the account has been opened, you can ask for a letter from the bank detailing the date your account was opened, the funds available, and your good standing with the bank. It may also be helpful to get a letter from the University of Toronto stating the duration of your study, including any funding you may have.
Your landlord or potential landlord is not allowed to ask for your legal status in the country, including your Social Insurance Number (SIN).