Housing Search Tips

Helpful tips to assist you in finding affordable housing.

Click on the topics below for some helpful tips designed to help you in your search for an affordable place to live.

+ Phoning a Landlord About an Ad

  • Plan what you are going to say and what questions you want to ask
  • Remember to always be polite
  • Try to avoid giving personal information on the phone
  • Call between 9am and 9pm
  • If the unit is no longer available, ask if he has any other units
  • Remember to thank them for their time even if they were not able to offer you any help


+ Making the First Call

Here are a few things to keep in mind when calling a landlord about a unit:

  1. Rehearse the conversation using the sample script below:

    “Hello, my name is Jane, and I saw your advertisement for a two bedroom apartment in the “Renter’s News”.

    I was wondering if I could speak with you to get some details, and hopefully set up an appointment to meet with you. I can be reached at 555-555-5555.

    Thank you, and I hope to hear from you soon.”

  2. Think about these questions and have answers available before you call:
    • How many people will be living there?
    • When are you available to move in?
    • What is your source of income?
    • Where have you lived before?
  3. Don’t forget:
  • Get the address and read it back to them.
  • Verify the date and time of the meeting.
  • Sound cheerful and confident.

What Should I Ask the Landlord?

On the phone, before you view the place, take the time to ask a few questions so that you don’t waste your time looking at places that are too pricey or that won’t suit your needs.

  1. About Rent:
    • What is the monthly rent?
    • Does that include utilities?
    • If No: Roughly how much per month are the utilities there?
    • Are there any other costs?  (Parking, Storage, Garbage)
  2. About Location:
    • What is the address and apartment number?
    • And how many bedrooms does it have/how large is it?
    • What is the nearest intersection?
    • How do you get there by TTC?
  3. Contact Information:
    • What is the landlord’s name? (or person who will be showing the unit)
    • What is the contact phone number?
    • When can I see the apartment?
  4. About the Rental Process:
    • How will you be selecting tenants?
    • Will you do a credit check?
    • Reference check?
    • When can I expect to hear from you as to whether or not I got the place?


+ When Viewing a Unit or Filling Out an Application

When you go to view the apartment, it is a good idea to go with someone (a friend or an advocate) for support and also to have a second pair of eyes look over the unit.

This checklist will assist you when you are searching for your new home.  Keep track of all the features, location and price so you can make the best decision for you and your family.

Download our handy Rental Housing Checklist

Print out a copy of this checklist and take it to all of your apartment/room rental viewings.

A few things to remember:

  • Remember to be neat and clean in your appearance. Just as it is with a job interview, first appearances are important.
  • Have copies of your landlord references (at least two) complete with name, address and telephone numbers.
  • If you do not have landlord references be sure that you have a good explanation but it is best not to go into detail about previous bad landlord/tenant relations even if you have had an experience with a bad landlord.  Offer personal references as an alternative if you have no landlord references.
  • Have the details of your rental history, income source and amounts.
  • Do not put any false information on an application.  If the landlord decides to check, it will just look worse.


+ When Finalizing the Arrangements to Rent a Unit

If there are repairs that need to be completed prior to move in it is advisable to have a written agreement that describes what repairs will be completed prior to move in.  If that is not possible be sure that you have a clear agreement with the landlord.

You may consider making an arrangement with the landlord that you will do some of these things if he supplies the materials.

Note: Landlords can only ask you for first and lasts month’s rent. They cannot ask for extra money to cover the cost of furniture already in the apartment, for damages, or key deposits.


+ Staying Housed

Once you have found a place, be sure that you don’t lose it!

Below are some tips and resources to help empower you to know your rights as a tenant, and to stay housed:

  • Be sure that you pay your rent on time.  If something does happen that there is going to be a slight delay in paying contact your landlord ahead and explain but do not make a habit of doing this.
  • Keep your unit clean and do not do damage to the unit.  If you have children or pets do not allow them to do damage to the unit.  If something does get damaged, repair it as quickly as possible.  Even if you plan to move again remember that it is important to have references from previous landlords.  If you cause damage you will not have those references and some landlords take action in small claims court to recover the cost of repairs.  If you do not pay it is permanently on your credit rating and will affect you in the future.
  • You are responsible for your actions and that of your guests.  If you have parties and there are damages or noise complaints from neighbours you are responsible and it is grounds for eviction.
  • If there are repairs that are needed you cannot withhold your rent to have repairs done no matter how bad the situation is.  You should contact the Landlord and Tenant Board at 416-645-8080 or the East Toronto Community Legal Services at 416-461-8102.

Quick Tips

  • Read everything before signing.
  • Don’t sign anything unless you understand it, and agree to what is written on it.
  • NEVER sign a blank piece of paper.
  • Always make sure you get a copy.
  • Be EXTREMELY careful if you are asked to co-sign, as you may be responsible for the entire debt.
  • Always get a rent receipt (i.e. proof that your landlord received your payment).
  • Always ask question, there is never a dumb question.


+ Knowing Your Rights as a Tenant

It is against the law in Ontario for anyone to treat you unfairly or refuse to rent you an apartment because of your race, sex, colour, nationality, place of origin, sexual orientation, age, religion, or because you are single, pregnant, have children, are in recipient of financial assistance, have a disability or are between the ages of 16 and 24.

Always get legal advice if you receive any kind of
notice to vacate or notice of termination!

If you are refused an apartment for any of these reasons contact your local legal services office, or use one of the resources below:

  • For residents who live South of Danforth to Lake Ontario between the Don River and Victoria Park:

    East Toronto Community Legal Services
    1320 Gerrard St. E
    Gerrard and Coxwell

  • For residents who live North of Danforth/Bloor to York Mills/401 betweenYonge St and Victoria Park:

    Flemingdon Community Legal Services
    49 The Donway West, Suite 205
    Don Mills and Lawrence

One of the most important rights a tenant has is “security of tenure”.  This means that a tenant can stay in their apartment as long as they want unless your landlord has a legal reason to evict you. This right also applies to most roomers and boarders unless they share a kitchen or bathroom with the owner or the owner’s immediate family.

It does not apply to you if you are renting commercial space or staying in short-term emergency accommodations such as a hostel or shelter.


For more legal advice, check out YourLegalRights and the Landlord and Tenant Board website.

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