House-hunting tips for first-timers

Five suggestions to ensure your search for a new place is as smooth as possible

Derek Hepburn, ArtSci ’08
Derek Hepburn, ArtSci ’08

From the Christmas break to finish your first year. You’re excited to see friends but dreading to get
that politics mark back. And then suddenly it hits you. Where are you going to live next year? Who are you going to live with?

Panic sets in. If you don’t act soon, won’t all the good houses be gone?!

Stop. Breathe deeply. Many people will hurriedly put together a group to get a house together, even though they may have only known each other for a matter of months. After you throw together a group, the next problem for a lot of people is signing the lease for one of the first houses they see, because they think they will not find a place later.

When time is an issue, even a constructed one, it’s easy to ignore reality and jump at the first possibility. It’s not necessary to sign early in Kingston. There is no shortage of housing, and it’s important to remember that when hunting for a place.

Here are five tips and cautions when looking for your student pad:

1. Know that you don’t have to settle for a house that looks like it could use new everything. It’s unfortunately a cycle that gets perpetuated by student apathy that houses in the Ghetto are stereotypically grungy and in disrepair. People often pay too much money for houses that aren’t
fit to be rented. Spend some time looking for a place that looks good. If your preference of location two minutes to your favourite bar, five minutes to Stauffer) is that important, make sure to press your landlord to fix things to make it suitable.

2. Don’t sign a lease without fully understanding what the legalese inside means. This goes hand in hand with knowing exactly what a landlord is and isn’t allowed to do. For instance, despite saying “No animals or pets areallowed” the landlord can’t deny you from signing unless the animal is considered dangerous. That’s the simplest example of a “void” clause. Google “Tenant Protection Act” and the first five hits have great info you should know.

3. How well do you know the people who you’re going to sign a lease with? It can occasionally be an
unwise move to live with friends, because you’re signing a legal contract, and if something happens (one person bails after signing because their marks weren’t great, etc.), the likely outcome is that the remaining people in the house will get a call from the landlord asking for the other person’s share. It can be a sticky business, and you don’t want to spend time trying to recover money in small claims court.

4. Even halfway through a school year, there will still be vacant houses in Kingston, some very close to campus. This clearly shows there isn’t a housing shortage for students, and it’s okay to spend time looking for a place. There’s nothing wrong with looking through five or 10 houses or apartments until you’ve found what you want.

5. Regrets cannot un-sign a lease. One of the most important things about seeing places, meeting landlords and eventually signing a lease is to know that you shouldn’t let yourself be bullied into signing anything. Don’t let soon-to-be housem tes make you sign without you seeing the place just because they say it’s great. When all is said and done and you’ve finalized where you’re going to live next year, it can be tough to get everything taken care of, so plan ahead for necessities like furniture, small appliances, and make sure everyone contributes. Some houses will stay together for years, and
some will barely make it through a year. Either way, you can enjoy the time if things are planned out and everyone does their part.

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