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15 Tips for Finding a House or Apartment for Students

As February slowly morphs into March, you might be trying to find a living arrangement for the next school year. Here’s a reliable list of questions to ask to avoid any unwanted surprises when you move in!



1. How long is the lease?

When would it start? Would it be possible to renew your contract another year? Is subletting allowed? If so, are there any conditions (would they have to sign a separate contract? Does the owner need to pre-approve beforehand?)


2. Is it furnished?

If it is, and the price is slightly above what you had set as a budget, keep in mind that furniture is also expensive. It can be simpler for out-of-province students to rent furnished spaces. Just make sure that the lamps work, the beds are in good condition, the toilets don’t clog, and that a piece of the counter top in the kitchen isn’t missing!


3. What household appliances are included?

This includes – but is not limited to – microwave, cooking plate, fridge (how many?), oven, toaster, and so on.


4. Are utilities included?

If not, how much is it per month? Is there a meter? If so, it is in the owner’s name or yours? Is this a negotiable aspect of the lease? What about wi-fi?


5. How much is laundry?

Is it a coin-operated laundry machine? Is it included in the price? Are the machines new? Are you sharing it with any other tenants?


6. Are there any other tenants?

Sometimes the basement will be rented off separately. If so, do they share the same entrance or have their own? Is there a different lock on the door if they have their own separate entrance? What if they have a car and there is only one parking spot? Do they share the same laundry as you?


7. How is the contract set up?

If you’re living with multiple people, individual contracts are preferred. One reason is if someone decides to leave the group mid-year, the whole group won’t be negatively influenced. A lot of owners prefer group contracts however, so you need to ask if it’s a negotiable point.


8. How are you paying for rent?

Check, direct debit, e-transfer…? Does the owner require first and last month of lease, or just last month?


9. Who are you paying?

Sometimes the owner is in another country and you’ll be paying directly to a property manager, or an agency. Know who the owner is, but also know who you are transferring the money to.


10. Where does the owner or property manager live in case of an emergency?


11. Who takes care of the snow removal and lawn care?

Usually, the owner will do it, or have a company take care of it, but it’s better to ask just in case.


12. How does the garbage system work?

Looking at the garbage disposal unit can also be a good visual cue as to whether it is a clean space overall.


13. Is there a garage or a parking space?

Is it included in the price? How much would it cost if an an extra spot is needed? If they are included in the price, and you’re renting by room with a group, you might want to discuss how to settle the extra cost whether someone has a car or not.


14. What are the closest bus routes?

It’s important to be close enough to your university, but also close enough to a supermarket! Go look around and see what kind of stores there are, or which bus stops are available close by.


15. Can you get a floor plan?

This can be useful in determining the price of the bedrooms compared to the listed price on the ad. If one bedroom is much bigger than the others but that person will still paying the same amount, you need to discuss with your group if that would be an issue.


Extra tips:

  • Locks

Look at the front door when entering. Is there a key, or does it require a code? Does it look secure? What about bedroom doors? Each bedroom usually has its own lock or code, but which system is in place? What happens if you lose the key, or forget the code?

  • Light

How is the brightness in each room? Is there a lot of natural sunlight? Are the lights halogens? Do they light up the room well?

  • Noise

Listen. Do you hear cars passing by? Students partying? People going up and down the stairs? Can you hear the neighbours?

  • Windows

Are the windows in good condition? Would they insulate sound and heat well? Have they been recently renovated?

  • Common area

Is it well maintained? In case of an apartment, look at the staircase; if they are clean, it’s usually a good sign. How often are they cleaned?


And if you’re looking into an apartment building, or looking with a company and you don’t like the place they’ve just shown you, ask them if there are any others in the area!


Happy and safe house hunting :)



Originally born in France, Solène now studies at the University of Waterloo in the program of Knowledge Integration. Determined to read every book on the planet and to finally finish a whole TV series, she aspires to find joy in everyday life and to hone her writing skills. Food lover as well as musician, she plays the flute, the piano, and just recently started playing the ukulele. Solène is above all determined to find her passion in life and loves to explore the world, dreaming to travel across the globe.
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