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Toronto Star: Looking for an apartment to rent? Try taking these steps - ACORN Canada

Toronto Star: Looking for an apartment to rent? Try taking these steps

Posted August 8, 2022

Posted August 8, 2022

Renting an apartment in Canada has become a tough task for many given the affordability crisis.

Despite the cooling of the housing market, rents continue to rise while supply of units is low. Recent data shows that, countrywide, the average price of a rental was $1,885 per month as of June.

For Betty Morrison, the sale of the home she was living in meant an uphill battle securing a place that fit the needs of her family at a price she could afford.

Morrison, 48, was evicted following the sale. She told the Star she searched high and low for a three-bedroom apartment that could accommodate her family. She is on a fixed income as a client of the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP).

Most of the apartments in her London, Ont., neighbourhood were out of reach because of the high prices — usually $2,500 per month for a three-bedroom — and her employment status. “I was calling landlord after landlord, and (they were saying) ‘Oh, you don’t have an employment letter from a job, you don’t qualify,’ ” Morrison said.

According to data from the website, the current average price for a two-bedroom apartment in London is $2,059, a 28 per cent year-over-year increase compared to 2021. Morrison has since found a place to live with help from a not-for-profit that handles a portion of her rent.

In Toronto, the average price of a two-bedroom apartment sits at $3,115, a 23 per cent increase year over year. For a one-bedroom, prices run to $2,192, up 18.5 per cent from last year.

Renting is often more economically viable for many people given the high purchase price of homes in Canada, said Jeet Dhillon, a senior portfolio manager with TD Wealth Private Investment. Like buyers, renters should have an idea of their budget and plan accordingly, she said.

For those on a limited income, Dhillon suggests putting a small amount of money aside monthly to get into the habit of saving. Even if the amount is small, having some emergency money will help if there is a setback, she said.

Meanwhile, take a look at the price of rentals in your preferred neighbourhood and see what the going rate looks like.

“You need to have a good handle on where you want to live and how that’s going to impact your lifestyle,” Dhillon said. And, like the purchase price of houses, the listing price for a rental might not be the price it actually rents for, she added.

“There are multiple people bidding for those properties and they are (pushing) up rent just like they were bidding up sale prices.” So it’s important to know the upper limit of your budget to allow some flexibility.

Hot competition is pushing some tenants to offer multiple months of rent up front to stand out against other prospective tenants, Dhillon said, adding that renters who consider going that route should have an agreement with the landlord that outlines how the offer will work.

Benjamin Ries, a housing lawyer with Downtown Legal Services at the University of Toronto, said offering multiple months of rent up front is maybe not the best tactic financially, but it is legal as long as it is the idea of the prospective tenant and not the landlord.

Ries also cautioned tenants about a scam targeting renters in which money is paid up front to the person advertising a rental. “You have no proof that they are either the owner or the owner’s agent,” he said. While this scam faded somewhat over the pandemic, it has started up again as the market heats up.

“Don’t give money to somebody whose name and address you don’t have,” Ries said. Without those, tenants can’t sue to get their money back.

For Morrison, it’s difficult to save any additional money each month given the amount of ODSP she receives. It was difficult to get landlords to talk to her in the first place, she said.

Morrison volunteers with ACORN Canada, a national advocacy organization for low- and moderate-income people. She wants to see policies like vacancy decontrol — which allows landlords to raise the rent by any amount between tenants — removed in Ontario to help tenants better afford a safe place to live.

“Housing is a human right … it’s not a commodity,” she said.


Article by Jenna Moon for the Toronto Star


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