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TENANT'S GUIDE TO RENTING

Deciding whether to rent or buy typically comes down to life circumstances. If you don’t have a down payment, are not sure where you’ll be in the next three to five years or simply can’t afford something you want to live in, then renting may be the best option for you. However, you should consider both the pros and cons before committing to the process as it can be a challenging one in a big city like Toronto that’s crowded with other rental hopefuls and has low vacancy rates.

Weigh your Options

The upside of renting is there are fewer maintenance hassles and associated expenses, often a single, predictable payment each month (no need to factor property taxes, utilities and other costs into your budget) and you can easily move every year at the end of the lease term with proper notice (60 days before expiration). What’s more, it’s cheaper to relocate when you rent as you’re not on the hook for land transfer taxes, real estate commissions or legal fees. On the flipside, you’re paying down someone else’s mortgage and not building equity, and if property prices go up, your landlord reaps the rewards, not you.

Ask a Realtor

In the case that you’re still on the ‘rent-buy fence,’ talk with a licensed Realtor who can take a deeper dive into your options. Should you choose to go the rental route, a Realtor can also assist with finding the perfect place in the right neighbourhood to rent, whether a house or condo, as well as help negotiate the price and terms of your lease at no cost to you — the commission is paid for by the landlord. Alternatively, you can look for rentals on your own online but be weary; there are a lot of scammers who use free websites like Craigslist and Kijiji that don’t actually own the properties they’ve listed for rent. Viewit is more reliable since landlords must pay to advertise their rental. However, caution is still advised.

Get Ready to Rent

Knowing what to expect before you find the perfect place to rent will make for a much smoother process. Most rentals come on the market two months before they are available for rent, so if you’re looking to move-in on September 1st, for example, you should start looking July 1st. Also, leases are usually for 12 months, after which tenants are considered to be month-to-month (unless a new lease is signed).

There’s a lot of paperwork involved in a residential lease agreement and any good landlord will want you to provide certain documents. Items to have readied in advance (so you can move quickly when you find a property you like) include: a deposit (typically first and last month’s rent), ideally in the form of a certified cheque or bank draft; letter of employment as you will have a hard time convincing a landlord you’ll pay the rent if you don’t have proof of a stable, paying job or you’re otherwise financially viable; list of at least two references (with phone numbers) who can vouch for you; and an up-to-date credit report.

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