FINDING RENTAL HOUSING
When searching for rental housing, it is important to calculate how much money you can afford to pay each month. Your basic rent is an obvious expense, but there are still other monthly and one-time expenses to consider.
Here are some examples of monthly expenses that may or may not be included as part of your rent:
- utilities, such as electricity, heating, and hot water;
- TV, internet, and phone services;
- coin-operated laundry;
- transit pass;
- parking fee or permit; and
- tenant insurance.
Here are some examples of one-time expenses that you may need to pay at the start of your tenancy:
- security deposit;
- pet damage deposit;
- deposits to utility companies;
- installation / activation fees to utility companies;
- deposits to telecommunication companies;
- installation / activation fees to telecommunication companies;
- moving truck;
- boxes and supplies to pack your belongings;
- new appliances, such as a microwave, barbeque, and TV; and
- new furniture, such as a bed, couch, and dresser.
Deciding where to apply for rental housing can be overwhelming. To help focus your search, think about your rental needs and preferences. Consider ranking the following factors:
- distance to work, school, shopping, and friends;
- access to public transit;
- size of the unit;
- type of property;
- type of neighbourhood;
- nearby amenities;
- smoking / non-smoking rules;
- pet policies;
- roommate restrictions;
- accessibility requirements; and
- safety concerns.
Search popular rental websites such as Craigslist, Kijiji, and Padmapper, but also expand your search beyond the internet. Not all landlords know how to advertise their rental units online, so look out for bulletin board postings at coffee shops, “vacancy” signs outside buildings, and listings in your local newspaper. It can also be wise to get the word out within your network of family, friends, coworkers, teams, and clubs. Even strangers or acquaintances may have a lead on your future home, so consider mentioning your housing search when buying groceries, getting a haircut, or settling your bill at a restaurant.
Craigslist, Kijiji, and PadMapper have a lot of legitimate rental listings, but you need to be careful of scams. Never send money to someone you have yet to meet, and never pay a deposit before you have viewed the rental unit. If you are suspicious of a potential landlord, trust your instincts.
To avoid rental scams, ask yourself the following questions:
- Is the rent suspiciously low? How much do similar rental units in the neighbourhood cost?
- Are you being asked to mail your deposit in cash, or send it electronically?
- Is the person you are contacting not willing to arrange an in-person viewing?
- Does the person you are contacting seem too eager? Most landlords will ask for references and/or a credit check before committing to a tenant.
- What do the neighbours say? Depending on the type of housing, you may be able to ask people living nearby about the owner and property.
Newcomers to BC: If you are moving to BC and want to have a home lined up for when you arrive, ask someone you trust to view rental units and meet with potential landlords before accepting any offers. Alternatively, consider staying in a hotel or hostel until you have personally taken the time to find a new home.
Finding a rental unit in BC can be challenging, as you will most likely be competing against several other applicants for the same housing. When attending a viewing, do your best to stand out from the crowd by making a good first impression, coming prepared with relevant documents, and asking the right questions.
HOW TO MAKE A GOOD FIRST IMPRESSION
Here are a few tips to consider when viewing a rental unit:
- arrive on time;
- dress business-casual;
- avoid clothing with tears and controversial slogans or logos;
- minimize strong smells of perfume or cologne;
- do not smoke or drink alcohol before the viewing;
- introduce yourself and shake the landlord’s hand;
- take your shoes off when touring the property (and remember to wear socks);
- strike up a conversation and try to find some common interests; and
- thank the landlord for showing you their rental unit and answering your questions.
WHAT TO BRING
Consider bringing the following to a viewing:
- cover letter;
- credit check;
- pet resume;
- Renting It Right certificate;
- tape measure and furniture dimensions; and
- friend or family member.
WHAT TO ASK
Consider asking the following questions during a viewing:
- Does the rental unit follow local bylaws? For example, is the rental unit an illegal suite?
- Does the place include appliances and amenities, or has it been “staged” for the viewing?
- Are the neighbours generally quiet and respectful?
- Is the building soundproofed, or is it common to hear noise from other units?
- Has there been a history of bed bugs, other infestations, or illegal activity?
- Is there public transit nearby?
- What are the rules about smoking, pets, roommates, and accessibility?
- Is there laundry available in-suite, or at least somewhere on the property?
- Are there designated parking spots for tenants, or is there only street parking?
- Is storage room available on the property?
- Are there any fees for parking, storage, or laundry?
- Is the heat for the unit controlled from within the unit or from within a different unit?