As a next step, I reached out to the realtor to schedule viewings for all the listings I shortlisted. He was super helpful and asked me for 3 items to proceed: Employment letter, a Credit report from EQUIFAX, and the Rental agreement. I was also asked to provide 2 references (names and contact information) of individuals who knew me in Canada; I had this ready as well. While I had my employment letter ready to be shared, for the EQUIFAX report, since it’s valid for 1 month from the time of purchase, I waited to purchase it until a couple of days before I was supposed to leave for Canada. My plan was to land in Toronto in the middle of the month and sign a lease for the 1st of the following month, so that gave me a week or two to finalize a place. I booked my initial stay at an AirBnB for a total of 3 weeks – 1 week extending into the following month just so I could take my time setting up my new place and then finally move in.
Tips for renting your first apartment
- For newcomers who are yet to find employment, showing sufficient funds to cover more than a couple of months worth of rent or being able to provide a local guarantor or co-signer might help. You don’t have to necessarily provide bank statements, a simple letter from your bank stating the available funds should suffice.
- The same approach may work for those lacking Canadian credit history. For a good credit report, it is suggested to have a minimum of 6 months of credit history. Here are some tips on how to build a good credit history.
- EQUIFAX and TransUnion are the two major credit rating organizations in Canada and you can choose either one to get your credit report. However, EQUIFAX is the more popular one and most landlords ask for a credit report from EQUIFAX.
I coordinated with my realtor to schedule viewings within the first 2 days after I landed. Since this wasn’t my first landing (I completed my soft landing earlier), I had everything figured out and didn’t need to spend time with the usual formalities that newcomers have to get done.
Toronto rental tip: The rental market in Toronto is hot and very fast moving so when you like a place you have to be quick to make an offer. Even if you take a night to think it over, you might lose out on it!
I looked at 5 places on the first day and liked one of them. I told my realtor it was okay to proceed and within the next hour, he emailed the paperwork to me, I signed it and sent it back to him. Then I had to wait for the landlord to accept the offer. Quite often there are multiple offers on a single unit and the landlord gets to pick the tenant, thanks to the demand-supply gap causing vacancy rates in Toronto to be as less than 1%. At times, tenants even get into a bidding war to secure a unit but thankfully, I didn’t have to do that. My realtor informed me that there was one additional offer for the unit I liked but the landlord decided to proceed with me because he had a good relationship with my realtor. So sometimes, the realtor you pick can make all the difference!
After an offer is made, the landlord is obligated to respond back with an acceptance or rejection in 24 hours. So the next day, after what seemed like a very long wait, my realtor informed me that it was a done deal – I got the unit I wanted!
How to secure a rental unit in Toronto
Now, as a new tenant, I had 3 tasks to accomplish:
1. Pay first and last month rent via a certified cheque or bank draft within the next 24 hours. I obtained this draft from my bank and then had to drop it off at the landlord’s agent’s office. When you do this, ensure you get the receipt after delivering the draft. I, then, had to email a copy of the receipt and the certified cheque to my realtor as proof of payment completion. You also should keep a copy for yourself to be safe.
Tip for obtaining your bank draft: Walk-in early morning as soon as the bank opens, and it will barely take 15 minutes to get a bank draft.
Note: some landlords may accept other methods, such as e-Transfer, and some may ask you for more than 2 month deposit, this however, if frowned open and not quite legal.
2. Get the hydro (electricity) set up. Here, I messed up a little bit but was able to fix it. My realtor informed me that the hydro provider for my condo was Toronto Hydro but that was not the case and it was instead a new provider called Enercare. I realized later that I should have double-checked with the landlord or the building management before proceeding. I initially registered with Toronto Hydro but my application was not processed since they don’t service the building. Later, I was able to successfully register on Enercare and have the hydro transferred to my name.
Tips for setting up your hydro:
- There are different hydro providers so make sure you get that right. Ask your landlord, realtor, and building management to confirm.
- The registration process for hydro transfer is online and typically takes a day until you receive confirmation, so you don’t have to physically visit any place to get it done.
3. Get tenant insurance. The key here is to look around and browse different providers so you know the rates. I picked a basic one with Sonnet for about $16 a month. Most major real estate firms offer home insurance at higher costs but there are also newer agencies that offer competitive rates such as Square and Sonnet.
Next step was to email proof of hydro transfer and tenant insurance to the landlord once all of this is done the unit is yours! There may be additional documents, such as condo rules and regulations, and the condo web system registration that some buildings use. The latter information is typically provided by the landlord.
Once all the formalities were completed, we set a date for the key exchange. And that completed all the procedures to secure my new home in Canada. Overall, I got all of this sorted in about 5 working days. I had also requested for an early move-in date (about 3 or 4 days earlier) which was accepted. So I had about a whole week to set up my place before I actually moved in.
Note: Most condo and apartment buildings have specific dates the moving elevator is available and you have to book it in advance to secure a timeslot to move in your larger items.
It’s worthwhile to remember that your total spend per month on accommodation will be more than just the rent as you will have to factor in things like utility bills (hydro, heat, AC, internet, home phone, cable TV) and things like parking, insurance, and transit passes. So what may initially seem like an affordable unit, may actually turn out to be expensive.
In conclusion, while my story may be an ideal case scenario, with proper planning and research, you will be well-equipped to find a place you like!
A few additional notes on the renting process, such as types of properties and inclusions, can be found in the Arrive Resources.