By Lubaba Hoque
Starting school in a new place is always daunting.
For those of you who are living the anti-rez life, camping out in some off-campus corner for the term or planning to for a future term, you might feel a bit overwhelmed by all the housing jargon, the prospect of finding roommates, or navigating legal issues. Living by yourself is tricky, but staying afloat isn’t impossible.
“Being aware of your rights is the first step to feeling empowered in the process,” Allison Keyes a Housing Services advisor at UW’s Off-campus Housing Office, said.
In a nutshell, the Off-Campus Housing Office helps on and off campus students find the right accommodations for their needs. Students can speak with staff to better understand their rights as tenants, seek consultations for housing concerns and have their leases reviewed.
“We work to help students feel empowered in the choices that they make off-campus, leading up to finding a place to live, we help them sort of navigate our off campus housing listing service,” Keyes said.
A lot of times, students may go their entire undergrad without fully understanding what tenant rights are. Common everyday requests or practices from landlords might actually violate your rights. Key deposits are one of the first things students are asked to pay when they move in and the prices for those deposits can cost hundreds.
“Key deposits are something that landlords can legally ask for,” Keyes said. “But sometimes they will try to jack up the price of those deposits. So [if] a landlord charges $200, for example, for a key deposit, that deposit should be a reflection of how much it costs to replace that key.”
Keyes added that sometimes hearing from other off campus students, is the best and most honest way to review a place.
Keyes emphasized the importance of off-campus students being aware of their rights as tenants.
“Know your rights. Do your research and don’t find anything or put money down before you can fully commit and agree with and understand all of your rights,” Keyes said.
Keyes also said that students with questions about landlord-tenant dynamics could seek help at the Off-Campus Housing Office.
“You do have rights as a student, even though it may not feel that way,” Keyes said. “You still have basic rights as a person to navigate these sorts of new waters. You should be able to do so comfortably and if that takes referring to the resources that were mentioned, that’s perfectly normal. Being aware of your rights is the first step to feeling empowered in the process.”
House hunting is a tedious process for students, and at times, it might feel a little impossible to find that one perfect accommodation.
“[Students] can’t find a place that suits their needs. For others it might be, ‘I can’t find anything within my price point’ or ‘I can’t find anything with other people’ or ‘I can’t find people to live with.’” Allison Keyes, a Housing Services advisor at UW Off-campus Housing Office said.
Fortunately, many of those worries or questions can be answered simply by visiting the University of Waterloo Off Campus Housing website which can direct students to a classified listing.
Through these listings, students can learn more about residences and how to find roommates.
Maintaining and repairing damages is, in part, both the tenant’s responsibility and the landlords.
“If it’s something that you or your guest did, that would be up to you and it would be your responsibility to cover the cost of replacing or repairing it,” Keyes said.
Tenants don’t have to take responsibility for any damages caused by natural circumstances. In those situations, it would be up to the landlord to repair the damages. For tenants that deal with cases such as mold, cockroaches or bedbugs, Keyes specified that it is still the landlord’s responsibility to fix it regardless of whether or not the tenant signed the lease being aware of the issue.
Students should be aware that as of April 30, 2018, all leases must be based off of a standardized lease provided by the Ontario government. This new document includes mandatory information which clarifies the names of the landlord and tenant, the tenancy term, rent amount and services included. It also provides information on common concerns such as ending a tenancy, subletting, illegal charges, pets, guests, and landlord entry. This and other information regarding leases can be found on the Government of Ontario’s website.