It’s no secret that rent in Ontario is high and only getting worse. Due to the way rent control in the province works, new tenants get the worst deal of them all, often paying a significant premium on apartments where the landlord has been allowed to raise the rent as much as they want.
While rising rents are a Canada-wide issue, Ontario is home to 16 of Canada’s 20 most expensive cities. The problem is not just limited to Toronto, with places like Kitchener, Hamilton, Barrie, London, Mississauga, and Brampton seeing rents over $1,800 a month for vacant 1-bedroom units.
The situation has made it tough for students, people moving out on their own for the first time, people leaving relationships, and people changing cities for work. If staying in your current place isn’t an option, these tips can help you find and rent a more affordable apartment in Ontario.
#1 Look at Basement Apartments
Basement apartments can be a good way to save money. They may come up short when it comes to natural light, and some of them may feel like they have low ceilings, but many basement apartments can be clean, safe, and affordable places to live.
The key to finding a great basement apartment is knowing the legal basement apartment requirements in Ontario. The nature of the rental market means that there are definitely landlords out there renting out illegal units, and with very little enforcement, it’s up to you to avoid them.
These are the basic legal requirements:
- The minimum unit size is 145 square feet (13.5 square meters).
- The minimum ceiling height is 6 feet and 4 inches (1.95 meters).
- The minimum window size is 5% of the living floor area and 2.5% of the bedroom floor area.
- There must be heating and ventilation.
- There must be smoke alarms on every level.
- There must be light switches in every room.
#2 Try Purpose-Built Rentals
A growing number of rental units in Ontario are in condo buildings, which means that different units have different owners, and rules are created by a condo board. These rules can change, including whether or not pets are allowed or whether you can smoke on the balconies.
That’s an important difference compared to purpose-built rentals, where the entire building is owned by a single landlord.
You may find more security in a purpose-built rental than a condo that is someone else’s sole investment property, as they may find it easier to evict you for personal use or not be aware of the rules and regulations on rental units.
#3 Make Sure the Listing Is Rent-Controlled
Even if you can afford the rent on a place now, there is no guarantee you will be able to next year if it isn’t rent controlled.
Recent changes to how rent control works in Ontario are still confusing to many. First, there is no vacancy control. That means landlords can raise the rent as much as they want between tenants, which is why it’s so expensive to move compared to staying where you are.
Second, the age of your unit determines its rent control status. Units that came onto the market after November 15, 2018, are not rent-controlled. The landlord can raise the rent as much as they want each year.
For units older than that, the province releases a guideline rent increase each year. The landlord can apply to raise your rent more than that to cover costs like renovations, but the default is the provincial guideline.