Step 2: Before you rent

Three students walking on campus will fall foliage

Renting for the first time can be confusing and overwhelming. Here are some tips and tricks to help you through the process.


  • Pick your roommates carefully and talk about expectations before you decide to live together.
    • For example, talking about guests, use and cost of shared or personal items, cleaning of shared spaces and noise prior to moving in can help everyone feel comfortable.
  • If you have not met the roommates that you are moving in with, ask if a video call could be arranged or if you can connect on social media.

Searching for a place

  • Make sure to double check the legitimacy of online ads by searching the rental address on Google Maps, or image search the online photos.
  • You can look up the renter or rental company to ensure that they don't have any red flags or negative reviews

Signing documents and payments

  • Read all documents that you sign. Pay particular attention to your lease and be sure to read the ENTIRE document. The Region of Waterloo Worksheet makes reviewing and summarizing your lease easier.

  • Many landlords ask for a security deposit upon lease signing or moving in. It is illegal for landlords to ask for more than one month's rent as a security deposit. Landlords are also allowed to ask for a key deposit, but only if the deposit is refundable, and the amount of the deposit is not more than the expected cost of replacing the key(s) if they are not returned to the landlord.
  • Ask your landlord for a receipt for any payments that you make to them. If you pay last month's rent upfront, the landlord must give you 2.2% interest on the full amount every 12 months, so don’t forget to ask! The interest amount is set each year by the Ministry of Housing.
  • If you are expected to pay for utilities (water, gas, hydro), ask previous tenants about average costs or call the utility companies. Visit Enova Power for more information.

Additional information

  • Don't be intimidated by a landlord. If you're not comfortable dealing with them, it's better to walk away, think about the situation and even ask for input from someone else.
  • Reference these helpful tips if you have an issue during your tenancy.
  • If you are asked about credit or reference checks, find out what is appropriate on the Region of Waterloo Tip Sheet
  • If you are living with your landlord (sharing a bathroom and/or kitchen) or a member of their immediate family (i.e. child) you are not considered a tenant and so are not protected by the Residential Tenancies Act (RTA). In this case you will be considered a boarder and any agreement you and your landlord make can only be enforced under contractual law. If problems arise, remember that neither you nor your landlord are protected under the RTA.