5 Tips for Scoring the Best Student Rental Housing

By: Penelope Graham, Zoocasa

 

The Edmonton rental market, unlike in neighbouring provinces, is relatively affordable – a

slowdown in Alberta’s oil industry, coupled with fewer people moving to the region, have led to

more available listings on the market. According to the Canada Mortgage and Housing

Corporation, the rental vacancy rate in Edmonton rose from 1.7% to 4.3% between October

2014 to 2015, with the average rent for a two-bedroom dipping to $1,259 per month. Some

landlords have even resorted to extra incentives like big-screen TVs to appeal to prospective

renters.

 

However, that doesn’t mean it’s easy for students to find rental housing. And, with 38,000

attending the University of Alberta annually, competition for off-campus rentals can be stiff.

While it’s unlikely you’ll come across a rental bidding war like those occurring in the Vancouver

or Toronto real estate markets, it’s still vital to put your best foot forward as a renter, especially

if you have your sights set on an upscale condo or townhouse.

 

Here’s what you can do to win that coveted rental as a student.

 

1. Compensate for your Lack of Credit History

Your ability to pay your rent regularly and on time is of utmost importance to landlords, and

they’ll want to know how you’ve handled debt obligations in the past. That can be tricky when

you’re a student, though, because it’s unlikely you have much experience building credit.

Ensure you come armed with great character references such as an old boss you have a

positive relationship with, or even a guarantor who can co-sign the lease agreement for you.

Also be prepared to write cheques for your first and last month’s rent and, if living in a

province that allows them, damage deposits. If you’re receiving student financial aid, ensure

your landlord is aware, as it indicates you’ll have a regular source of money for rent.

 

2. Rent in Bulk

Rental housing leases are generally 12 months long – but the academic year only lasts from

August to April. That can pose a conundrum to landlords who don’t wish to cut leases short. To

them, a stable tenant who plans to stay in the rental long-term is more appealing than one who

will vacate at the end of the year. If you can, hanging onto your rental throughout the summer

months and for multiple years while at school could give you an edge. If that’s just not a

possibility, and if your landlord allows it, you can also explore subletting your leased unit during

the months you’re away from school.

 

3. Work with an Agent

Real estate agents are instrumental when buying a home – they can do the legwork for you to

find the perfect property, and help you negotiate a competitive price. Well, this service is

offered for renters too – and it’s usually free. In return, a rental agent will take a commission

(often about one month’s rent), from the landlord. It’s important to note, though that you’ll

need to sign a contract granting your agent the exclusive right to represent you. If you find a

rental without their help, they’ll still need to be paid commission, either from the new landlord,

or out of your own pocket.

 

4. Prep on Rent Prices

It’s important to educate yourself on what the fair market rental rate is in your region. For

example, units located within walking distance of school, transit, or other amenities can go for a

premium. You may save yourself some cash by looking beyond those areas for your housing

options. Being aware of potential rents ahead of time can also help determine your budget, and

give you negotiating power; if you’re after a unit with multiple interested parties, you may be

able to counter with a higher offer of rent.

 

5. Be an Informed Renter

Above all else, and especially if this is your first time renting away from home, it’s important to

know your rights as a tenant. Whether or not your landlord can raise your rent, call for your

eviction, or file a dispute can differ depending on your province. Study up on your local

Residential Tenancy Act so you’ll know what to do if you’re faced with any payment or tenant

issues.