First Time Renters: Here's What You Need to Know

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Renting your first apartment is a major milestone. For perhaps the first time in your life, you’ll be living on your own. 

If you’re ready to sign your first lease, here are a few things you should know.


Budget wisely

Keeping on top of your rental payments means having a budget and sticking to it. 

Generally, the rule-of-thumb is to spend no more than 30 percent of your income after tax on your monthly rent. If this seems out of reach to you, consider finding a roommate to split the cost of rent and utilities.

For other monthly expenses, consider Elizabeth Warren’s popular 50/20/30 budget rule. Essentially, you’re splitting your total income into three categories: “needs,” “savings,” and “wants”. Fifty percent of your income should go to needs such as groceries, car payments, and rent. No, your Netflix subscription does not count. Thirty percent of your income is for the fun stuff that isn’t essential, such as dining out, sporting events, vacations and yes, Netflix. The remaining 20 percent of your income should be put away into savings. 


Location, location, location

If there’s one thing I took away from watching Property Virgins with my parents growing up, it was Sandra Rinomato preaching: “Location, location, location.” 

Where you choose to live will affect the price range of the apartments available for rent. Suburban cities typically have a higher cost of living, whereas apartments in rural areas tend to cost less. The neighbourhood, nearby amenities, and access to public transit all affect cost as well, so pick the location that works for you and your budget. 


Know your rights as a tenant

It’s important to know your rights and responsibilities as a tenant, even before you sign your first lease.

Ask lots of questions and read your lease agreement thoroughly before signing. You’ll want to get a good idea of what it is like living at the apartment, what your total costs will be, and what you can and cannot change within your rental unit. The Government of Alberta provides a checklist of questions tenants should ask before renting, which is a handy reference for renters in all provinces. 

Your landlord also has certain rights and responsibilities that you should be aware of. Some provinces, like Ontario, require all landlords to use standard lease agreements. Become familiar with the lease agreement requirements in your province to ensure you’re signing the right documents and that all of the information you need has been made available.


The Takeaway

Finding an apartment to rent takes time and planning. Choosing the right location, ensuring you’re renting within your budget, and knowing your rights and responsibilities as a tenant will all help you find your perfect home. If you’re ready to start your apartment search, check out these apartments for rent in your city.