Freshly painted walls, sunny south-facing windows and ample closet space — seems like you just found the perfect Toronto unit.
Obviously, it goes without saying that you would have — should have — gone to a showing for this gem of a place. Even then though, there are bound to be a couple of details you might have forgotten to take notes of — you know, other than the obvious rent, parking and lease term, as you were busy admiring the interior or dreaming about romantic picnics on that porch…
Below is a list of 13 questions you’d want to ask a potential landlord after visiting to make sure it’s a perfect match before signing on the dotted line. Whenever in doubt, remember to check with your legal advisor or the Ontario Landlord and Tenant Board (LTB)’s guidelines. Ryerson’s off-campus housing info hub also has great resources.
- How old is the unit?
The answer will give you a better idea of what to expect in terms of how often maintenance might be required or whether the appliances still have a lot of life left in them. If the unit has been recently renovated, you can count on the landlord to take their time showing it off. However, keep in mind that while newer units could mean less work needed from you both, they potentially come with a downside at the tenant’s cost: being exempted from rent control — the enforcement of a cap on annual rent increases.
- What utilities are covered, if any?
This can vary from all inclusive to none at all. In Toronto, standard utilities are typically hydro, gas, water/sewage and garbage. Ask for a monthly estimate if it’s going to be on you to pay for these. If you’re really lucky, some landlords cover cable and internet, but realistically, most tenants can expect to set these up themselves.
- Is there a heat and AC system?
Many units aren’t always centralized and so one or both might not be provided. This isn’t ideal, but if you end up settling with finding your own options, floor heaters and window air conditioners are very easy to come across for a wide range of prices.
- Who’s responsible for maintenance bills?
The LTB-approved answer is the landlord even if they try to tell you otherwise — unless the repairs are for damages caused by a tenant or their guests.
- How would you like the rent paid?
Landlords can have a preference, but try to avoid places that ask for cash when electronic means, like e-transfers, are accessible to both parties. The latter is a more secure method of payment, with receipts at your disposal whenever you need them.
- What’s the laundry situation like?
En-suite laundry is an amenity first-time tenants may take for granted, but the reality might be disappointing. When that’s the case, check with the landlord if there’s still a laundry room in the building and whether the machines are coin or card-operated. If not, be prepared to look up reviews of laundromats in the area.
- How furnished will the unit come?
If you’re attending a showing when the current tenant is still occupying the unit, you might want to settle with the landlord which furniture came with the unit in the first place and which aren’t theirs. Maybe that modern double-door fridge you saw won’t stay, though it’ll be a good idea to let the landlord know if you’d be interested in purchasing anything so they can pass it on to their tenant.
- How much can I decorate?
Some landlords may have strict opinions about painting or drilling into the wall as they will require you to return the place to its original condition when you vacate.
- Am I allowed to have a pet?
As lovely as they are, pets (excluding service animals) can be a ground for eviction later on if they damage the property or cause discomfort through noise and allergic reactions for any other tenants in the same complex, so it’s probably wise to discuss this with the landlord early.
- How many past tenants have lived here before?
This is a subtle question landlords likely won’t mind or doubt, compared to straight up asking whether they have a lot of interest, to help you determine how desirable a place actually is — a great unit of a great landlord probably won’t be sitting empty on the market for too long or too often. If there were only a handful of tenants and they all stayed for a couple of years each, chances are you’re in good care!
- Are sublets allowed?
If you really love this place, you’ll probably want to keep it even when you have to leave for an extended period of time, like back home or away for a project. This is where a sublet comes in handy. Now, landlords can’t say no unless they have a reason the LTB deems valid, but you’ll benefit from knowing where they stand on this early instead of when things escalate
- How much deposit is asked for up front?
No more than one month/rental period’s rent — whichever is less — is allowed by the LTB, and landlords can only collect this on or by the move-in date. This amount is strictly for the last month’s rent before your tenancy ends. Damage or security deposits aren’t recognized, but reasonable key deposits are, as long as they’re refundable.
- What papers do I need to apply for?
Finally, once you’re sure about proceeding, inquire about the application process. When there’s a line, have the deposit and documents such as proof of income, credit score reports and past landlords’ references ready as soon as you ask in order to maximize chances of being chosen. It can be a little tough in the city’s rental scene, but you’ll eventually find the right place if you just follow the steps and more importantly your gut!