For example, you may need to be in close proximity to public transit. Like most renters, you'll probably have to make a few compromises between what you want or need and what you can afford. Before starting your search, you may want to draft a list of your rental requirements. Use the Rental Search Worksheet to get started.

What is included in the rent?

When looking for a rental home, cost is often a key consideration. What you can afford on rent depends on a number of factors, including household income, outstanding debt, utilities and other living expenses. Consider how much debt you are comfortable with, how important your lifestyle is to you and how much you want to put aside for the future.

The basic monthly rent is an obvious cost, but many less-obvious costs can also add up. Don't forget to consider the following:

  • Are utilities, such as heat, electricity, water, cable television and Internet included? If not, these costs may come as an unwelcome surprise. Find out which utility companies service the building, then contact each company to see if they can provide you with an average monthly consumption estimate. Keep in mind that these costs will fluctuate as exact usage varies from tenant to tenant. However, the estimates will give you a good idea of how much you can expect to pay in monthly fees.
  • Don't forget to estimate the cost of extras such as laundry and parking facilities if these services have not been included.
  • Don’t forget to calculate transportation costs. Will your monthly travel costs increase, decrease or remain more or less the same at this new location?
  • You may need to provide your own appliances, in which case any costs associated with rental or purchasing of such equipment should be factored into your total monthly rental cost.
  • You may also want to check if there is any form of provincial or territorial rent control in place. If not, ask the landlord how much he plans to raise the rent in the future.
  • Whether the unit has enough bedrooms.
  • Affordable or Not?

    As a general rule, your monthly housing expenses - including rent, electricity, heat, water, and municipal services - should account for less than 30% of your before-tax household income. However, in certain situations and it may be difficult to find rental accommodations within this range. Property insurance, parking, cable, telephone and Internet services should not be included in this calculation.


    Location is a key consideration when searching for housing. Prime locations cost more, but often have advantages, including reduced commuting time and expenses. Being in close proximity to work, school, public transit or other amenities are also essential factors in pinpointing ideal locations. Other important considerations are safety and proximity to family and friends. Prepare a list of locations that best match your personal needs, then add any secondary locations that appeal to you. So, when you begin your search, be sure to evaluate the location in addition to the building and living space, taking the following elements into consideration:

  • Crime level in the area.
  • Distance to work and/or school, friends and family.
  • Access to public transit and major roads.
  • If you have children, are there any parks and play areas nearby? What about schools?
  • Local amenities: entertainment, recreation facilities, shopping, libraries and restaurants.
  • Traffic and congestion. Are there traffic jams at rush hour or at certain times of the season?
  • What is your perception of the general air quality?
  • How are the noise levels in the area at different times of the day?
  • Housing types
    Basement apartment

    Basement apartments are units located in basements that have been converted into apartments. Basement apartments may have a separate entrance and may also include a private bathroom, kitchen, laundry room and heating system, although these common areas and utilities may be shared with other tenants in the building. Low rise apartment buildings usually have basement apartments.


    Detached houses are stand-alone units and usually one or two storeys high. Detached houses are also called single-detached or single-family dwellings. One-storey units are called a bungalows and come in many styles. Ranch-style bungalows are large, one-storey homes.

    Walk-up and low-rise apartments

    Walk-up and low-rise apartments are located in buildings that do not have elevators. In general, walk-ups are less expensive to rent than high-rise apartments. Walk-ups are usually older buildings that do not exceed five storeys in height. They may only include a small number of conveniences, such as laundry rooms or storage lockers.

    High-rise apartments

    High-rise apartments are located in buildings ranging from 6 to 30 or more storeys high. High-rise apartment towers have elevators and there are often security systems in place monitoring access to the building. They often include laundry facilities, sports and recreation facilities and other luxury amenities. High-rise buildings usually have efficient electrical, heating, sewage and plumbing systems.

    Rooming houses

    Rooming houses are units in which rooms are rented on a weekly or monthly basis. They often include a refrigerator for food storage. Tenants usually share a common kitchen and bathroom. Single people often rent units in rooming houses.

    Semi-detached dwellings or duplexes

    Semi-detached houses (or "semis") are attached to another, similar house. The common wall is generally thick enough to prevent sound from passing between the units. Semis can be either one or two storeys high and usually have backyards. In some cities, such as Montreal, semis are called duplexes. In other parts of Canada, a duplex is a two-storey house with separate dwelling units on each storey. If a yard is available, it is usually only accessible to first-floor residents.

    Single-room occupancy (SRO)

    Single-room occupancies are similar to rooming houses, but include a private kitchen and bathroom in each unit.

    Townhouses or row houses

    Townhouses, sometimes called row houses, consist of several homes with common walls between each house. They are usually two storeys high. A stacked townhouse is one townhouse sitting on top of another. Each townhouse is two storeys high.