A large part of the university experience involves living away from home, whether it’s in residence or off campus. Many students here at Laurier live off campus at least once during their four or five year stay. Some live in the same house until graduation and some move to a new place each year. For most of us, living in an off campus house is the first time we’re truly on our own. Living on your own, in your own place, is an amazing experience.
You have more freedom than you’ve likely ever had before, but at the same time you also have many more responsibilities. Some of those responsibilities include understanding your rights as a tenant and understanding what you can do if you feel that your rights have been violated. It’s also your responsibility to do your homework in terms of finding a suitable landlord, because they can either make your stay pleasant or absolute hell.
As a tenant, you have a number of rights. Some of them are obvious, such as your landlord having to give you at least 24 hours notice prior to entering your house and not being able to charge you a rent deposit, and some of them aren’t as well known, such as a landlord not being able to evict you for having pets. Even if your landlord has a “no pets” rule, you can’t be evicted for it as long as it isn’t damaging your unit and isn’t a dangerous animal. But each year I hear from friends that their landlord threatened to evict them if they brought their pet from home.
If you’re in a position where you feel that your safety is compromised, or even if tenancy just isn’t working out, you have the ability to terminate your lease. Even if you signed an 8 or 12-month lease, you’re allowed to terminate or end that lease as long as you give 60 days notice. Last year, a group of people moved into the vacant house beside mine, and with the police there every few days and receiving vague threats, we decided it would be best to terminate our lease. We did everything we could to reach a compromise, and our landlord worked with us, but sometimes it’s just best to move on, especially if you don’t feel safe in your own home.
One important thing to take into consideration when searching for a place is the fact that your landlord may not be local. My roommate and I are in a position right now where both my landlord and property manager are out of town, and that means getting little things fixed and getting ahold of someone can become a pain. In my old house, my landlords were local and every issue that came up was fixed within a day, whereas in my new apartment, it took almost two weeks to get a simple heating issue sorted out. When your landlord is local, they become more accountable. It’s understandable that a landlord from Toronto or Mississauga might not make the trip for a minor issue, but when your landlord lives 20 minutes away, there’s no excuse, so it forces them to take action.
The search for a place can be overwhelming; there are so many options and so many questions you need to ask. Everyone wants a place that they can be comfortable in and call home for the school year. Laurier Brantford’s student affairs website, www.lbstudentaffairs.ca, has an off campus handbook with countless resources to help you understand what you can and cannot do as a tenant, and what your landlord is and is not allowed to charge you for. Additionally, the Landlord and Tenant Board website has an FAQ section that answers a lot of the most common questions ranging from rights and responsibilities to questions about ending a tenancy.
Finding a place to live is never easy, and you are bound to experience highs and lows along the way. But as long as your search is thorough and you learn from past mistakes and problems, you are more likely to have that perfect place and great landlord. And hopefully, it will be one area you do not have to stress out about, so you can be more focused on school and your studies.