Seven tips to improve your experience renting
Whether you’re a hesitant second year who’s not sure about renting or an excited fourth year who’s ready to leave dorms behind, it’s worth getting some advice before you make this step. Here are seven tips to get you started:
1. Find the right place
Websites such as Kijiji and Rentboard, local classified ads, and the ASA Student housing guide, hosted on their website, make finding options for a place to rent relatively straightforward.
Look into important factors like location, utilities, shared or common spaces, and conditions such as the allowance of pets and/or smoking. Remember that cost is not everything. Simply finding the cheapest place to live can leave you disappointed.
Be realistic about what you want and what you are willing to sacrifice. You might not get everything you want in a house, but make sure you get what you need. Addie Oluwajana, one of the ASA’s off-campus representatives, advises students to find somewhere that’s comfortable to sleep and study.
2. Find the right roommates.
Start searching for roommates early. Talk to friends and other connections to find people who you think you can spend the next eight months in close proximity with. Third-year Bio major Leah Reid said that “good roommates are key.”
Heather Marshall, Augustana alumna and experienced renter, says that she found it can be easier to live with someone you get along with, but are not necessarily close or best friends with. “It helps to have a boundary around the friendship and keep you from feeling like you are always in each others’ space,” said Marshall.
Take inventory of what matters most to you when looking for roommates. Standards of noise, social activity, and cleanliness are important factors. Pet peeves and personal/communal items are also important to note, according to Marshall.
Marshall stresses the importance of having a ‘house meeting’ to understand how the dynamics between roommates will work out.
“I remember people feeling left out, when I lived in a house with 6 girls, if someone planned something but didn’t invite everyone to come along,” said Marshall. “One of the girls didn’t like to be spontaneous with her social calendar, whereas, a number of us loved that more spontaneous approach to our social lives.”
Get to know you potential roommates in advance. Go out for wings, play a board game, or just chat over coffee. Learning about their personalities and interests will not only help you decide if you want to live together but will help you start on the right foot if you do.
3. Try before you buy
Once you have your future roommates together and have found a place that is what you want it’s time to check it out. Contact your landlord and set up a time to visit the house together. Pay close attention to things like size of rooms, number of bathrooms, soundproofing, and kitchen space including that of the cupboards and fridge.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions like when renovations were done and what is included with the house such as a kitchen table or vacuum cleaner. Take this chance as well to discuss with your roommates about preference of rooms, potential layout of furniture, and parking spaces.
4. Make the deal
When it’s time to make things official be sure to establish logistics with your roommates and landlord. Do you pay rent through post-dated cheques or e-transfer? Does one renter pay the landlord and you pay that person back? When is rent due and what is the penalty for being late on your rent?
Make sure to ask your landlord about renting over the summer as most houses will be on a yearly lease. Third year GDS major Annika Olesen says, “Expect to pay summer rent to keep your place.” Sub-letting your house to others during the summer is worth considering if you move back home. Be sure to talk to your landlord about setting up summer renters for your house before making any promises though.
5. Avoid problems before they start
You may or may not want to sign an official roommate agreement but be sure to lay down ground rules. Once school and other activities are going you don’t want the added stress of roommate problems dragging on.
Deal with problems as quickly and simply as possible, having contracts and rules laid out helps this a lot. Olesen says it is worth making a chore schedule to make sure things get done.
Establish good lines of communication as well before things get busy. Is it best to have regular roommate meetings? Does email or texting work? There is nothing worse than not being able to contact your roommates to solve problems.
6. Think long term
It may seem early to be thinking a year ahead but it is worth considering some things. Are you planning on renting the same house for several years? Living with the same people for several years? If you don’t have to worry about moving in and out as well as changing roommates year to year it can be well worth your while to put in the work to make things run smoothly. This includes staying on your landlord’s good side.
Simple things like keeping the yard neat and walk shoveled show your landlord that you are responsible. Also not putting holes in the wall or having the police called because of noise complaints says a lot about you. Local landlord Dave Stolee says, “Landlords look for responsible and honest people who will take reasonable care of the property, not disturb the neighbours, and pay their rent on time.”
Now that the hard part is over, sit back and enjoy being even more of an adult. You just gained a considerable amount of freedom and responsibility, congratulations.