Learning the ins and outs of leasing apartments as a student

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Photo by Eva Ou

If you’re a student who’s going home for the summer, or someone looking for work in the Waterloo area, you’re probably considering subletting your apartment or finding an apartment to sublet. 

After my own personal crusades looking for both sublets and subletters, I think it’s fair to say that I have enough experience to give you all a succinct run-down of what you need to know if you’re either renting your place out or finding a place to rent. 

1. Proceed with caution and don’t settle.

This tip is pretty broad, I know. But it’s easily the most important thing to remember. Regardless of whether you’re subletting or are a subletter yourself, you need to examine all of your options before settling for something. If you’re renting your place out, you should rent it to a person you think you can trust. Handing your lease over to the first person to show interest is a surefire way to screw yourself over.  First, it’s important to find out why they’re subletting. Did they get kicked out of their last apartment? It’s probably best to steer clear. Have they secured a job near your apartment and are looking for local housing? That’s a pretty safe bet.  Reversely, if you’re looking to rent a place, it’s equally as important to fully evaluate the aparment before making a decision or settling on something you’re not sure of. If something the renter has said or shown you makes you uneasy or sceptical, ask for clarification. If you’re still unsure, move on. There’s as many subletters are there are places to sublet, so if something you’ve seen or heard is making you uncomfortable, you’re not obligated to commit by any means. 

 2. Set guidelines. 

If you are renting your place out, it’s a good idea to contact your property manager and ask for any guidelines on subletting. Usually they will provide you with a subtenant agreement, which is basically like a condensed version of the lease you originally signed.  

Outside of this, it’s also a good idea to set any guidelines that you may feel are necessary for your own peace of mind.  If you have a rule that you want your renter to follow — like a chore chart, for example — it’s important to establish this immediately so there’s no confusion down the line.   If the person you’re renting from hasn’t established any guidelines that you feel are necessary for your comfort, then maybe the place isn’t for you. This is also the time to establish the rental price, method of payment and when rent is due.   A lot of people who are renting out their apartment do so at a reduced price. This is worth considering when you’re either looking for a place or looking for a subletter.  In regards to payments, e-transfers are the better option because your bank account keeps track of all payments for you. If you want to get paid on the first of every month, establish that from the get-go.

3. Establish a sense of accountability.

By this I mean that you should make it clear on all fronts what you expect from the person you’re either renting to or from.  Some people take photos of their room before they have their renter sign off on anything in order to avoid any arguments over potential damages. Sometimes they sign a checklist which lists the condition of the place before renting, again, to keep the renter accountable for any damages. 

Most people who are subletting their apartments still pay rent to their landlords, but the person they are subletting to sends their agreed upon rental amount to the original subletter. This means that the original renter is going to be held accountable for payments regardless of if their subletter pays them or not.  If you’re subletting, you’re likely not working directly with the landlord, and transactions are happening in a not so official way. Most importantly, you need to establish from the get-go what your expectations are before renting. 

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