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6 Housing Tips Students Need to Know
Finding off-campus housing for the upcoming year can be stressful - there’s so much information to consider! Not sure where to begin? Your Municipal Affairs Commissioner, Benjamin Easton, has some helpful advice on navigating the tumultuous off-campus housing scene.
Ontario Standard Lease
What is it? Why should students ask for it?
“The Ontario Standard Lease [external link] is a document that the province created in April 2018. It exists to protect tenants by listing terms found in a typical lease in plain English. It’s essentially a fill-in-the-blanks lease agreement. It also notes what is and isn’t allowed to be in the contract. Perhaps most importantly, landlords have to provide tenants with the option to use the standard lease if they request it.
For example, section 5 of the Standard Lease covers rent. It includes a tick box for the period over which rent is payable (e.g. monthly, weekly) and provides a section for what is to paid every month in addition to rent (e.g. parking passes, utilities). This section also notes that tenants cannot be required to pay rent by post-dated cheques or automatic payments, but that they can chose to do so.”
The Ontario Government also has a guide to understanding the Standard Lease.
What to do when you find a unit you like
“Before you find an unit that you’re interested in, you should try to figure out what an interesting unit looks like to you. Make a list of what you want: maximum rent you’re willing to pay, utilities included or not, distance from transit or campus, number of bedrooms, basement or ground floor, highrise or house? Once you’ve decided what you want, you can go out and find it.
You should ask yourself if you are being pressured in any way to sign the lease for the unit. Things like a time crunch to find housing due to an upcoming co-op term, sales pressure by an agent, pressure from a group of friends with whom you’re searching. It’s OK to feel pressured—you just need to be aware of it. Next, you should ask for the Standard Lease.”
Resources available for students to access on campus
“UW Off-Campus Housing’s website has a bunch of resources available to help you out when looking for a place. This includes:
- Classified listings– students can have easy access to posted listings
- Tenant rights
- General tips"
Co-op students and house hunting
“Looking for housing on co-op is tough. You can try to find a sublet on online classified sites like Kijiji, or if your co-op is during the spring term, you might be able to stay in residence if there is a university or college in the city where your job is.”
When to begin looking for a place
“As early as possible - but don’t rush to sign a lease without considering if it satisfies your checklist.
There is a surplus of about 1,000 student rental beds in Waterloo, meaning that you will be able to find a place.”
Looking for a sublet
“Make sure to have the terms of your sublet put down in writing. UWaterloo Off-Campus Housing has a nice template sublet agreement that you can use.
Beyond this, you should know that the landlord must give the original tenant permission to sublet the unit, and the original cannot charge you more than their landlord charges for rent.”
If Ben could sum up the most important information for students to remember about off campus housing, it would be this:
1. Ask for the Standardized Lease
2. Read and understand the terms of your lease
3. Visit the unit
4. Bring a checklist
5. Don’t feel pressured
6. Don’t sign a lease for an unfinished building (most important!)