Tag Archives | apartment

Student Apartment Maintenance: DIY or Leave it to the Pros?

Image by Breather, unsplash.com

For many of us, going away for college is the first time we moved away from home and the first time we actually have to take care of some “grownup” things on our own. For the first time, you are truly responsible for the condition of your apartment and its regular maintenance. And for the first time, you realize that maintenance includes more chores than vacuuming and folding clothes. However, you are also probably a tenant and not the owner of the apartment, so you have to be extremely careful not to damage anything and consult your landlord about any bigger projects. Here’s a list of maintenance chores you can do, and the ones that require the assistance of a professional.

DIY: Recover and Paint Old Chairs
The simplest way to save money when moving into an apartment is to keep the furniture the landlord has left, instead of buying everything from scratch. However, sometimes, when the place is being rented for years, the furniture is old and worn out. You don’t have to throw it all away; just refresh it a bit. Take the old dining room chairs, apply two coats of paint (let it dry overnight) and refresh the existing cushions by replacing the fabric.

Leave to the Pros: Installing a Gas-Fueled Appliance
So, you bought a new appliance (water heater, oven, clothes dryer) and you’re eager to try it out? Don’t do it. Any mistake with connecting gas lines can lead to gas leaks and build-up which can eventually spark and explode. This is a job that should be left to the professionals. So, either ask for installation to come with delivery or call the pros after the appliance is at your address.

DIY: Paint the Place
There’s nothing like a little paint to introduce life in a gloomy apartment! Of course, before you decide on the color and start your little project, consult your landlord. After you get his seal of approval and find the necessary equipment (paint, paint roller, painter’s tape, rags) you can get down to business. If the painter’s tape is applied firmly (and straight), you should have no problems getting professional results.

Leave to the Pros: Plumbing Issues
You may be able to unplug a clogged toilet or a sink if the problem is not very serious, but any other plumbing issues should be left to the professionals. Working with plumbing involves a lot of leaks that can cause mold, structural problems and other damage. Professional plumbers can solve breaks and leaks without worsening the problem.

DIY: Clean the Fridge
Every so often, the fridge must be cleaned from the inside out. It’s not a very pleasant chore, but you can do it by yourself. Toss out the food that has outlived its shelf life, take out all the food in your refrigerator, and put it aside. Take out shelves and drawers and wash them in the kitchen sink. Wipe the inside of the fridge with an organic cleaner (such as baking soda + hot water). Dry the shelves and drawers, put them back into the fridge, and reintroduce the food.

Leave to the Pros: Electrical Wiring
Any work with electricity, other than replacing a light bulb, should be left to professional electricians. Working with the apartment’s electrical system can be very dangerous and it doesn’t matter if you are fixing a problematic circuit or installing new wiring – you are at risk of electrical shock in both situations. Also, installing new wiring is determined by the local codes, so you need to know all about them, have a permit and be prepared for your work to be inspected.

Maintaining the apartment includes a lot of chores. Some, like dusting, are basic day-to-day actions, while others are monthly or seasonal duties. There are also unexpected repairs and home-improvement projects that may seem overwhelming to you, but in time you get used to them. However, it’s still important to distinguish the ones within your power from the ones that should be left to the professionals.

This article was contributed by guest author Chloe Taylor.

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Everything You Need for a Comfortable First Apartment

Image courtesy of the author.

Getting your first apartment is an exciting experience, but it can also be a little overwhelming. Most people think about the bigger things they need, like a couch, bedroom furniture, or a television. But many don’t stop to consider some of the other things that will make them feel happy and secure in their new place. Below is a list of four things you may want to consider before moving into your own place.

Kitchen Items
So you have the plates, the silverware, and the glasses. You may even have a few pots and pans and that’s a great start! But there may be a few things you will want to consider purchasing before you move in because it’s no fun not to have things when you need them. Some to consider would be a wine and bottle opener, hot pads, a can opener, and any other kitchen tools you think you might need. It may help to take a trip to the store and peruse the kitchen utensil aisle and pick up anything you didn’t consider when first making your lists.

Cleaning Supplies
If you’re moving into an apartment that was previously occupied, you probably want to get some cleaning supplies before you move in so you can give it a once-over before moving your things in. Things that are often forgotten are mops, dust pans, scrub brushes, and different cleaners for different purposes around the house.

Organizational Tools
It’s always great to get off on the right foot by organizing your first place from the beginning. Purchasing (or making) some easy organizational features such as shoe shelves, spice racks, and a mail center can help prevent your place from getting cluttered. Items such as a silverware drawer organizer are often forgotten but end up making a big difference.

Home Security and Rental Insurance
Moving into your own place after having lived with someone your whole life can be scary. It is also a big financial responsibility. You don’t want anything to happen to you or to your belongings, so it is a good idea to look into rental insurance, which can help replace your items in case of a loss. Without rental insurance, if there is a fire or other catastrophic event and your belongings are destroyed, you will most likely have to replace them on your own. If your safety is a concern to you, you might also want to look into getting an affordable home security system.

Moving on your own doesn’t have to be an intimidating experience. With the right tools, you can make it an exciting and easy transition to life on your own.

This article was contributed by guest author Eileen O’Shanassy.

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How to Search for Off-Campus Housing

Image by Terrah Holly, Unsplash.com

Image by Terrah Holly, Unsplash.com

Finding the right off-campus housing is an additional challenge to the transition period of a freshman in college. To help ensure you make the right decision, here are some guidelines to make the search easier:

Start early
Although more rentals become available within the university area in June and September, keep in mind that more people will also be searching for housing at this time. You may begin your search about 4 to 6 weeks prior to your move-in date. The earlier you start your search for a place, the higher your chances of finding one that meets your needs. It helps to contact the residential services department of your university so they can provide information on off-campus housing – most departments have a database of room providers to help you find a suitable place to stay.

Ask for details
When you find a place you like, take the time to ask important questions to the landlord first. You should settle and clarify the rental rate, what it covers, the deposit, and utility fees. Before you sign anything make sure you understand what you’re signing. You can also consult an expert to evaluate the lease or contract of the unit. Inquire if you can sublet the unit for the summer, if you take a leave, or what happens if you leave early to study abroad.

Inspect the unit
Set an appointment with the landlord for a day to visit the unit. You might want to bring a tenant’s resume along for an easier transaction. Personally visiting the unit will help you assess its safety and accessibility. Check if the unit has been properly inspected by asking to see a copy of the certificate of occupancy.

Find a roommate
A roommate will help curb your rental expenses, but keep in mind it will affect your happiness in your living environment. You’re lucky if you already have people who’ll move in with you whom you trust and get along with. But if you are still searching for roommates, social media is a great way to connect with potential roommates. You can also check out www.roomdock.com, whose security features and matchmaking system make them one of the safest, most reliable ways to help you connect with room providers that match your lifestyle.

Keep in mind that maintaining open communication with your roommate is important. This will help set rules on chores, payments, visits, and even the borrowing of things; you can also address other concerns regarding your set-up freely. Lack of open communication could lead to resentment, which might destroy relationships and affect your living conditions.

Below is a list of reliable websites where you can search for safe off-campus housing. You can also read the comments and testimonials on each site to help with your decision. Some of these websites will even assist you in looking for a roommate within your area.

This article was contributed by guest author Smith Tanny, a founder at Roomdock.com.

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Living in Residence vs. Living at Home: A Guide

Image by Toms Bauģis, Flickr

Image by Toms Bauģis, Flickr

The 2014-15 school year is already underway, so most of you may have already established your living situation, whether you’re staying near or in residence, or living at home. For those of you who are still in the process of deciding where to stay, or future post-secondary students looking for advice, this article is for you. There are positives and negatives to both living at home and away from it, and hopefully most of them will be detailed here:

1. Money
There is no question about it, living away from home is much more expensive than staying at home. If you’re tight on money or don’t want to spend too much, try not to move out. However, you may not have a say in the matter depending on your location and school of choice.

2. Location
If you’re living in Edmonton and you want to attend OCAD in Ontario, your ability to move closer to school is the main factor you want to consider. If you’re not extremely far from your future school, you won’t have to move. Nonetheless, consider how far and long you will have to commute to and from school. Waking up two and a half hours before class to commute as opposed to waking with 20 minutes to spare can put a damper on your health, motivation, and attitude toward school. If you’re concerned about this, you may want to consider moving.

3. Desire for Independence or New Experiences
By staying at home, there can be fewer opportunities to socialize and get out on your own. If you move near your school, it is much easier to meet new people and separation from your family provides a good learning experience. If you have roommates or live in residence, bonds can develop quickly with other first year students or those in the same situation as you. No matter what you choose to do, keep in mind that there are always chances to make new friends if you look for them: clubs, classes, and school events like Frosh Week are all hubs for getting to know potential friends.

4. Other Options
If you don’t fancy living at home or in residence, look into renting or buying an apartment near your school. Try splitting the cost with friends and living with them, or look into classified ads for anyone looking for a roommate. You might not have the opportunity to socialize as much as you would in residence, but if you prefer to live alone and desire independence, moving into an apartment may be the way to go.

As is the case with everything, circumstance is key. Factor in your options, your school location, your budget, and what you want when making your decision, and chances are you’ll be satisfied regardless of what you choose.

Your First Apartment: The Basics

Image by Jeff Croft, Flickr

Image by Jeff Croft, Flickr

Everyone has their “first apartment” story, usually embellished with cockroaches, mice, nasty landlords, or other foul creatures. Avoid the typical mistakes students make with their first apartment by observing these tips:

1. Scout out multiple places

Even though the first apartment you see seems wonderful, and it seems like nothing could be better, give yourself options. View at least three places. While you’re hunting, be wary of irritable landlords. If the landlord shows you the apartment and is aggressive, irritable, or unpleasant while doing so, you would have to deal with the same attitude throughout your entire stay.

2. Don’t sign on the spot

Even after looking at multiple locations and narrowing it down to one, do not sign anything on the spot. Ask for the paperwork and read it over on your own time. Envision yourself living in the apartment and compose a list of questions to ask your landlord based on what you might need, or be concerned about. Even if it wounds your independence, show the contract to your parents along with pictures of the apartment. They could know something about old, leaky radiators that you don’t, or could catch something in the contract that could have ripped you off.

3. Protect yourself with paperwork

Congrats! You were meticulous about the apartment, the landlord, and the paperwork. Now you have to protect yourself by keeping copies of everything you sign, and making sure the copies are signed and dated by the landlord as well. This way, if the landlord claims you owe them money, or some other recompense, you can back up your protests with documentation and the exact date on which it was made legitimate by your signature.

4. Avoid infestation

Apartments, especially when it comes to student housing, are notorious for insect and rodent infestations. Protect yourself by buying a can of Raid and spraying the apartment before you move in. By spraying before you move in, you can get into all those tricky corners, and none of your stuff comes into contact with the poison. Spraying for bugs is especially crucial during or directly after the summer months.

5. Remember to pay rent

Forgetting to pay rent is a lot easier to do than it seems. The next month can sneak up on you. Set an alarm on your phone for the last day of each month to remind yourself. You can also give your landlord post-dated cheques to save yourself multiple trips to their office.

6. Know your rights

Sometimes you do all the right things, and sign on to what seems like a good, clean apartment with a reasonable landlord, and it still goes wrong. If you’re stuck with a year’s lease and a bad situation – your landlord could be refusing to help you deal with an infestation, which you don’t have enough money to take care of yourself – don’t be afraid to wield the appropriate paperwork and force them to help.

There are laws that require a landlord to provide a safe, clean space for their tenants. A lot of the laws that ensure tenant rights are available online, as are the processes and accompanying documents to enforce observation of these laws. Google “rental tenant’s laws,” and your area, to find out what laws apply to rentals in your region. You can even try asking a student housing advisor at your school for help if you’re having real trouble.

7. Move out properly

Some year-long leases turn over automatically unless you give your landlord proper notification that you are moving out. Go to your landlord and ask for the proper documentation for notification of termination of lease. In Ontario, this form is called an N9 form, and can be found on the Landlord and Tenant Board’s site.

Usually the tenant is supposed to give two months (60 days) notice before they move out, even if their lease is only for a year (remember, automatic turnover). If you do not give proper notice that you are moving out, the landlord might hold you responsible for rent until you do. This means you might have to pay three full months of extra rent! Again, be sure to date your documents when you sign them.

How to Visit a Property

Image by gardener41, Flickr

Image by gardener41, Flickr

After a long and laborious housing hunt, the time has finally come for you to tour a prospective home. You’ve scheduled a visit with the property owner, and you’re ready to go! Here is a list of things to keep in mind when touring a property:

  1. Take a friend or family member with you. 
    It’s always helpful to have a second opinion! They might notice things that you otherwise would have missed. Also, if you have arranged the tour appointment online and are not personally acquainted with the person who is showing you around the property, it’s wise not to go alone.

  2. Bring a camera, cell phone, notebook, and pen.
    You want to be able to take pictures and record all the details about the property. You won’t remember all of it later!

  3. Bring a list of questions to ask while you tour the unit.
    Don’t be shy! This is your opportunity to ensure that there won’t be any unpleasant surprises for the duration of your lease.

    • Which utilities are included in the rent? Are Internet, hydro, and electricity included?
    • Do I have to pay a security deposit?
    • What is the method of rent payment?
    • Are the building tenants mostly families, students, or retirees?
    • How safe/quiet is the building? Are there security cameras or personnel?
    • Do I have to pay for parking?
    • Where do I dispose of my garbage and recycling?
    • Who is responsible for apartment maintenance and repairs?
    • How old is the property/when was the building constructed? Have there been any major changes or renovations? (The older the building, the more likely maintenance problems are to result from old ceilings, windows, plumbing, or flooring.)
  4. Examine the property.
    Take your time, and do not hesitate to really scrutinize the space when you’re looking around – this is your potential home. Take pictures of each room. Check the doors, windows, and locks. Flush the toilet, run the water in the sinks and showers, check the water pressure and temperature. Take note of (and photograph) any damaged walls or carpeting, as well as any broken fixtures or appliances. Look in the cupboards and the corners under the sink – this is where the insects tend to hang out. It hadn’t occurred to me or my roommates to check those spaces for evidence of any gnarly sort of infestation, and we were not exactly thrilled to discover a whole bunch of tiny new multiple-legged friends doing the congo in the back of our spice cupboard shortly after we moved in.

  5. Be polite. 
    At the end of your visit, thank the landlord or property manager for showing you around. Be cautious when it comes to making a snap decision or signing the lease on the spot – if you are interested in the property, you can tell the landlord that you are interested, and will be calling him or her soon.

  6. Speak to current tenants in the building.
    Trust me, it’s not weird, and it’s a wise thing to do. If you don’t know any of the tenants personally, hang out in the lobby and see if anyone passes by. Explain that you’re thinking of moving in and ask if they have a minute to answer a few questions. Ask if they feel safe living in the building. Ask if they enjoy living there. Ask if they have had any problems with the building or building management. Ask if the landlord or building manager are dependable and responsive to repair requests. The building tenants do not care if you move in or not, and might be more honest as a result. You won’t regret it!

  7. Visit as many properties as you like.
    It’s good to have a number of options to compare. Once you decide which property best suits your needs, make sure you know everything you need to know before you sign the lease.

    Good luck!

10 Things To Know Before Signing a Lease

Image by jk5854, flickr

Image by jk5854, flickr

Congratulations! You’ve finally found a property that suits your needs, and you’re ready to make it official. Between the dense language of a legal contract and the pressure of an impatient landlord, it can be easy to feel as if you only have enough time and patience to quickly skim the lease before you sign, but remember – your lease is a binding contract. Once inked, you’ve committed yourself to its many rules and obligations. You need to be familiar with each responsibility that you and your landlord will be legally obligated to uphold for the duration of your lease. Here is a list of things you should know before you sign:

  1. What is a lease, exactly?
    A lease is a legal contract which requires you (the lessee or tenant) to pay the owner (the lessor or landlord) for the use of a property over a defined period of time. The lease comprises several numbered sections which outline all of the terms and rules by which you and your landlord must abide for the duration of the lease.

  2. A lease is not the same thing as a rental application.
    If you had to fill out a rental application prior to signing a lease, be aware that the application alone may not be a binding agreement to lease. The rental application is designed to give your landlord some personal information so he or she can screen you and ensure that you are someone they can trust to lease their property (and pay the rent).

  3. Read the terms and conditions of the lease.
    A legal contract is not exactly what one might consider a beach read, but I can’t emphasize how important it is to actually read your lease before you sign it. If you are having trouble with it, sit with a friend or family member and go through each clause together. If anything is unclear, call your landlord. In order to prevent being taken advantage of in the future, you should be well acquainted with your rights and any obligations for which you may be held accountable.

  4. If you are a smoker or pet owner, make sure to be aware of any smoking or pet restrictions in your lease.
    I’m serious – read your lease carefully! My roommates and I had a cat for eight months before we re-signed our lease and discovered a clause which prevented the ownership of pets in the apartment. Oops.

  5. Ensure the full name, phone number, and address of your landlord is on the lease.
    In case of emergencies, or if you need to call someone for repairs or maintenance, it’s good to be able to get in touch with your landlord as quickly as possible.

  6. Visit the property and ask questions.
    Investigate any prospective home before you sign yourself to it. Find out which utilities and services (heat, water, electricity, parking, garbage collection, maintenance and repairs) are included in the rent, and which ones must be arranged or paid for separately. If you plan on subletting your property, written approval of the landlord is often required. Ensure all of these details are written in the lease.

  7. Do not sign a lease with provisions you disagree with, and get any verbal agreements in writing.
    If there is anything that you are uncomfortable with, bring it up with your landlord – legal provisions can be negotiable. If you get any concessions as a result of your negotiations, ensure that everything you agreed to is written in the lease.

  8. Know who is responsible for routine maintenance, pest control, and emergency repairs. Get that in writing, too.
    It’s never fun when the toilet floods the apartment in the middle of the night, and it’s even worse when you have to call a plumber and pay an expensive fee out of your own pocket. If your landlord or management company takes maintenance requests, ask about availability and response times.

  9. Check the termination clause of the lease.
    Your lease may specify the number of months prior to the end of the lease you must provide your landlord before giving notice of your intention to terminate the lease. Otherwise, your lease may be renewed automatically, leaving you with a plethora of undesirable options – being stuck with your lease for another year, having to pay a hefty fee to get out of it, or going through the hassle of finding a replacement lessee to whom you might be able to transfer your lease. Also, make sure your lease conforms with applicable laws regarding the minimum amount of notice you are entitled to before you can be evicted.

  10. Get a copy of your lease, and keep it in a safe place.
    Remember, your lease exists so that you have verifiable proof of the terms to which you and your landlord agreed regarding your tenancy. In case of any problems, it is wise to keep a copy of the lease for future reference. If you have roommates, make copies for them as well.

      

How To Find Your First Apartment

Image by sincerelyhiten, Flickr

Image by sincerelyhiten, Flickr

Finding your first apartment or house out of residence is an exciting albeit daunting task. Here are five basic considerations you should make before beginning your search:

  1. Budget. Figure out how much you want to spend on rent each month. Keep in mind that you might have to pay extra utility fees if hydro and Internet are not included!

  2. Location. Choose the general area or neighbourhood in which you wish to live. Important factors might include proximity to campus, grocery or convenience stores, public transportation (metro or bus stop), laundromat (if there isn’t a washer or dryer in the building), and neighborhood safety.

  3. Furnishings. Some properties come with furniture, some don’t. Decide if you want to find a house or apartment that is already furnished, or if you would prefer to furnish it yourself.

  4. Building facilities. Any apartment perks that might interest you, such as a swimming pool, exercise facility, parking access, rooftop access, or security personnel.

  5. Roommates. If you plan on living with other people, make sure you all agree on the considerations above when looking for a property!

Now that you have an idea of what you are looking for, here are some easy ways to start your search:

  • Classified advertisement websites like Craigslist or Kijiji have sections devoted to housing. Always be careful when setting up appointments over the Internet.
  • Your university website might have a similar classified advertisement page for off-campus student housing.
  • Ask around! Friends in upper years might be moving out of their apartments, or might be able to put you in touch with someone who is.
  • Take a walk in the neighbourhood you want to live in.
  • If you see an apartment building you like, either call or go in and inquire as to whether any units are free.

You are now ready to set up an appointment to visit any of the properties that caught your eye.

Good luck!