Things to discuss when visiting a rental property for the first time
- Are utilities such as heat, electricity, water, cable television, or Internet included in the monthly rental fee, or are the costs shared with other tenants? If the costs are shared, not everyone has the same usage or requirements.
- What type of heating is used - natural gas, oil or electric? Be aware that some energy sources cost more than others (e.g. electric baseboard heaters might cost more than forced air natural gas)
- Which utility companies service the unit? On average, how much did tenants pay before for utilities each month? Use this as a guideline only since the previous tenants' could have had different energy needs than your own.
- Is there parking? How much does it cost? What about additional vehicles? ,including guest parking?
- Is there additional storage? Is this included in the rental cost? Does this include bicycle storage?
- Is parking or laundry extra? If so, how much does it cost?
- Is there rent control in place? If not, how will future rent increases be handled?
- Who handles installing or moving telephone jacks, satellite dishes, or television cables?
- Is there high speed Internet available?
- Can changes be made to the premises, including painting?
- Why are the current tenants are leaving?
- If pets are allowed, what kind? Does the property need to be professionally cleaned at the end of the lease?
- Is smoking permitted?
- What are the neighbourhood and other tenants like?
- What makes the property unique?
- What security systems are in place? Have the locks been changed recently? Are there parts of the building that require key access?
- Are there policies on overnight guests or long-term visitors?
- Can vehicles be maintained or repaired on the property? (If applicable)
What to expect during your visit
A visit to a rental property is as much about getting to know the prospective tenant or landlord as it is about touring the space. This will help both landlord and tenant decide if they would like to enter into a lease agreement together.
For this reason, landlords can legally ask:
About income and where the prospective tenant works.
- How many people will be living in the home, and if there are any pets.
- If anyone who will be living there smokes.
- For written permission to run a credit check.
- For references and contact information, including from previous landlords.
Fact: It is illegal for a landlord to refuse to rent to people with children. A B.C. woman who was refused rental accommodation 5 times by landlords took her complaints to the B.C. Human Rights Commission and won compensation in each case.
Landlords cannot legally ask:
- Questions that infringe on a tenant’s Human Rights as outlined in the Code for their province.
- If there are plans to have (more) children.
- About a tenant’s ethnic background, religion, or sexual preference.
- If family will be visiting.
- For a Social Insurance Number.
- If the tenant is married, single or divorced.
If you feel that your human rights with respect to rental accommodation have been infringed upon, or if you need more information, discuss the situation with an advocacy agency or your provincial / territorial human rights office.
Safety & healthy living considerations
Safety, security and healthy living are also important considerations when looking for a place to live. Before deciding to rent, make sure to:
- Consider the nearest transit stop and parking areas if you have a vehicle. Are they isolated, or are there enough people around to walk to and from safely?
- Scan the local news for any reports of crime in the area, or call the local police station to ask.
- Look for added security beyond what you would expect for the area as this could signal a higher crime rate.
- Check the locks on the windows and doors, and ask the landlord to change them at their expense before you move in. (They are, however, not legally obligated to do so.)
- Examine sliding glass doors, like patio doors, for a reinforcement rod in the track that prevents them from being forced open.
- Check for working smoke detectors, fire exits and/or fire escapes, and fire extinguishers. For basement units, make sure the windows are large enough to crawl through.
- Look for properly vented space heaters and fireplaces with plenty of room around each for furniture to be placed safely.
- Look for the presence of mould (stains on the walls, musty smells, or rotting wood) to make sure the air you are breathing is clean.
Looking for a rental property in a rural area?
Rural districts have their own unique situations to consider, such as:
- Wells, septic systems and hard water might need more hands-on management than in the city.
- Well water will need to be tested before moving into a property and at regular intervals after.
- Large barns, sheds or outbuildings might be included in the rent and might need to be maintained by both you and the landlord.
- Road conditions vary depending on the season.
- Well water requires frequent testing for potability.
- Proximity to a fire department and hospital.
- Cell phone reception and Internet may not be as strong.
Always take detailed notes when visiting properties and interviewing prospective landlords. To help with your search, we’ve prepared a tool for you to download and take to your appointments.
Written by: Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation