It is that time of the year again. Summer is picking up, and instead of finding a rental, you would rather focus on going to the beach and maybe getting a summer job cuddling goats.
While summer can be relaxing, trying to find a place to rent is stressful. This is regardless of whether it is for next week or next fall. Rentals are snapped up quickly, so you have to move fast but move smart. We have put together a brief guide about looking for a rental.
Pick the Right Time to Look
Not now, but right now. The vacancy rate has recently dropped to one of the lowest in Canada at 0.5%. Many rentals available in September are not posted until later in the summer. That doesn’t mean quality rentals aren’t posted, but the few that are going quickly. Get up early and make it the first thing you do. Locking down that dream location that much earlier can take off months of stress down the road. Early bird gets the worm, and also the nice apartment.
Resources at your Disposal
Just because Victoria’s rental market is tight, doesn’t mean you can’t find a nice place to live at not too obscene of a price. Websites tailoring to specific tastes include Walk Score which rates the walkability of the location, or UVic Housing which serves as a housing forum for students.
Study the Location
Spending time in the neighbourhood, while not possible for some, can be critical to knowing if an area fits your needs. Resources like Google Maps can be used to figure out the commute. Change it to times when you would be working to figure out what the traffic and time would look like. Figure out its proximity to local places, and spend some time walking around and taking in the culture. Whether it’s Fernwood or Downtown, just perusing local businesses is a deceptively simple way to feel out a location.
Watch Out for the Latest Scams
Don’t get ripped off. In competitive housing markets like Victoria, scams are rampant. Consider the story of local man Craig Hiebert, who looked for a place to rent after his landlord planned to sell. He corresponded with a renter over email, but once he visited the house, found that it was never actually available to rent. The scammer was simply trying to get his deposit. The best ways to combat scams are to actually see the house in person. Const. Matt mentions some red flags, such as “If somebody is asking for personal information like your SIN number or specific details like date of birth through email without meeting them, without seeing the suite, that would cause some red flags for me.”
Make a Great First Impression
Any landlord can give you horror stories of past renters. First and foremost, they are looking for someone who is not going to cause them grief and pays the rent on time. Treat it like a job interview. Bring references. Present yourself well, and keep positive while looking through a place. Be prepared to sign rental papers. Just as much as you dislike looking for places to rent, they dislike going through the circus that is finding a good tenant. Keep in mind though that this goes both ways. While they’re evaluating you, you should also see if they are a good fit for your lifestyle.
Ask Former Tenants Questions about the Landlord
Understand that renting is effectively a business relationship between you and the landlord. This is the person you go to when getting your damage deposit, or having repairs done on that leaky faucet. Asking current tenants about their experiences is a powerful tool to figure out if you should rent. One article recommends asking questions such as “Is the landlord easy to work with? Are they responsive to repair requests? Do they feel safe living here? Are the neighbors quiet and friendly?”. One of my biggest mistakes when first renting was underestimating the importance of this relationship. Sure, my landlord was prickly when I first signed the papers, but I naively thought that once I signed the lease, I would not see him again. If I had spoken to former tenants, I could have found out how high the turnover rate was for his properties and looked elsewhere.
Get a Written Contract
Verbal agreements aren’t worth the paper they’re not written on. Spoken agreements can feel personable while lacking the coldness of a doorstop-sized contract. While they seem like a quick and easy way to get moved in, they are ineffective at dealing with housing issues that inevitably crop up. Who’s liable for repairs? What are the rules for subletters? Getting a contract, whether you are renting or subletting, is critical for keeping things stress free. What might be unspoken common sense to you can be completely different in the eyes of a landlord.
Know your Rights as a Tenant
Fortunately, in BC, renters have extensive rights. It’s important to know those rights. They are nuanced, comprehensive, and well worth the read (if a little dry). They can be found here.
Take a deep breath. You now know how to put your best foot forward, find a place to rent, and understand your rights. The sooner you work on renting, the sooner you’ll be able to work on that tan.
Do you have any rental tips people should know? Post below.
Written by Ben Wagg for Victoria Buzz