Renting as a Grad Student

This page is to help with renting in Kitchener-Waterloo as a graduate student—whether you're just moving here, looking for a new place, or want to know about your rights as a tenant.

Where to find places to rent

Targeted at students:

  • St. Paul's Grad Apartments: The only option for actually living on campus (other than squatting), an apartment tower on the west side of campus; has various sizes of apartments.
  • CLV (Columbia Lake Villiage): The other official campus housing, about a 20 minute walk north-west of campus; CLV North consists of two-bedroom town houses shared with another grad student or your partner/family. CLV South is atypical for grad students, but possible, consisting of shared four-bedroom town houses (targeted at undergrads, but grad students live in designated units).
  • OCH (Off-Campus Housing): The official university source for finding non-campus housing.
  • WCRI: A student housing co-op with several locations. There is no official affiliation with the univsersity, it is entirely run by the residents. Note that, as a housing co-op, not all of the tenant laws listed below apply; this has implications in particular for rent increases not being as greatly restricted as in ordinary housing.
  • Timbercreek, Accomod8u, kw4rent, etc.: Various rental agencies targeted at students. Most, if not all, have bad reputations for taking advantage of students. If you rent from one of these, be sure that the apartment actually exists now (not "will be done by the time you need it", but is 100% done today), and that you know your tenant's rights (using the links in the sections below), because they WILL frequently try to take advantage of you (make you re-sign leases, illegal rent increases, etc.).
Not targeted at students:
  • kijiji: A popular site for buying/selling things in Canada, that also lists places for rent (owned by ebay, basically Canadian Craigslist).
  • Various non-student rental agencies: Sometimes the best option is to find the name of a local agency, and look up their website. These places will generally have higher rents and be farther from campus, but are also usually nicer.

Moving from out of town

It's important you or someone you know physically sees the place you'll be renting before signing. Misleading descriptions or outright scams are common. The exception to this is campus housing (i.e., CLV and St. Paul's)—they're not the best deal in town, but their rent is reasonable, they're well maintained, and are in good locations for getting to campus. A common strategy is therefore to rent campus housing initially, then find another place to move to (or decide it's good enough to stay). If you can get to the area ahead of time for apartment hunting though, that obviously works fine too. If you intend to do this, note the "When to look for an apartment" section, though, as timing your apartment hunting visit carefully will be very important—you will likely need to plan carefully and make good arrangements before arriving on what apartments you will be visiting when.

When to look for an apartment

One thing that may not be obvious about the housing market in Ontario in general, but particularly in Waterloo, is when you should be looking for an apartment. Apartment availability will typically be highest in spring between the end of the winter term and the beginning of the fall term (as students will be graduating and attempting to find others to take over their leases). It is important to note, though, that one part of tenant law in Ontario states that a tenant must give >60 days notice to their landlord of their intention to move out. This applies to all tenancies where rent is paid monthly, whether that be based on a longer lease agreement or a month-to-month arrangement; this encompasses the vast majority of accomodations in Waterloo. This has the important implication that the ~60 days between a tenant giving notice and actually moving out is typically when a landlord will seek to fill vacancies.

Therefore, if you're looking for apartments (particularly non-student apartments, as the landlords of student apartments frequently behave in various bad ways to evade these rules), you may find that the only availabilities you see will be for apartments in the next 60 days. If you're looking to find new housing, you will likely want to start seriously searching somewhere early in that 2-3 month window before you will be moving in -- this may imply you will have to give notice of your intention to move out (or choose not to stay in CLV) before you already have a new apartment lined up, since tenants tend to not give large amounts of notice greater than 60 days. There also exist larger housing companies who create waiting lists for spots in their buildings, which complicates this. If you find a building you particularly want to live in, you may be able to add your name to their waiting list, and they will notify you when an opening has become available. In such a case, you will want to have done so well before 60 days prior to your intended move-in date, as the only guarantee is that when an opening appears, it will be for a spot sometime 60 days or more from then. The openings themselves may not come for some time.

Tenant's rights

The below sites help outline the rights you should expect, but the single most important thing to know is that for nearly all housing in Ontario (housing provided directly by the university and WCRI being the notable exceptions you may encounter in Waterloo), you should expect to be given a Standard Lease to sign. The Standard Lease is a template designed by the province of Ontario which helps to simplify the lease into more widely accessible language, and clarifies your rights as a tenant and your landlord's rights throughout the tenancy. It also outlines the processes through which tenants and landlords may adjudicate disputes, and actions you as a tenant may take (like withholding rent payments) under specific conditions. A landlord who attempts not to give you a Standard Lease is a red flag from the get-go.

Ontario renter's rights:
https://www.ontario.ca/page/renting-ontario-your-rights

UW guide to tenant rights:
https://uwaterloo.ca/off-campus-housing/students/tenant-rights

UW GSA Free Legal Aid:
https://uwaterloo.ca/graduate-student-association/services/legal-aid

Region of Waterloo Renter's Toolkit:
https://www.regionofwaterloo.ca/en/living-here/the-renter_s-toolkit.aspx

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Topic revision: r3 - 2019-06-19 - JustinTracey
 
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