It's always a good idea to start with these things before you move out into your own place and to get a general understanding of the industry. You can find more specific articles on the subject by searching for "what you should know when renting an apartment", which will bring up numerous details on what you need to know before renting an apartment.

Still, there are some things that should at least be mentioned. Since it is important for potential renters to have knowledge of their options before signing any documents or handing over an application, this article will cover what aspects of an apartment lease are included, plus offer advice on how one can avoid being scammed by shady landlords. This guide will cover where to start looking for an apartment.

If you are planning on renting a property or apartment, you may need help finding insurance that meets your needs — thankfully, you can find tenant insurance brokers in Alberta at a brokerage like Surex that can guide you in the right direction.

1. Obtain an Agent Assistance with Your Search

If you're a first-time renter moving to a major city with a competitive housing market, you might want to consider hiring a rental agent to assist you to identify suitable apartments. If you're unfamiliar with the area, an agent who knows the city's geography and neighbourhoods might be extremely helpful.

Keep in mind that the agency will charge you for their service, which varies by city. If the rental market you're looking at has a high vacancy rate and a lot of possibilities, you are most likely going to pay less for the service. But in order to save yourself from stress, an agency will be the best option to help you through.

2. Make a Financial Plan

Setting a budget is required before even considering renting an apartment for the first time.

The sooner you figure out your budget, the sooner you'll know what possibilities are available to you. In general, people spend roughly 25% to 30% of their monthly income on rent. There are a variety of other living expenditures to consider before deciding how much you're willing to pay. When renting an apartment for the first time, there are a few extra costs to consider:
Tips for Renting an Apartment for the First Time in Canada

Try these useful tips:
  • Decide what expenses you'll have every month and make sure they're covered. Things like food, gas and medical bills should be added to your monthly expense budget.
  • Don't forget the extras. Remember to save extra cash for your home appliances and other subscriptions like your TV and internet service.
  • Consider starting a nest egg in case of an emergency or job loss (and don't forget about saving for retirement!).

3. Find a Place to Live

Your first step in finding an apartment should be to decide what kind of lifestyle you're looking for. If you're into the nightlife scene, it's probably best to find a location that is close to your favourite bars and clubs. Or if you like some peace and quiet, look for a place that is close to nature.
What You Should Consider?

Be sure to consider these things before committing to a final decision:
  • Where will your commute be? If your commute is long every day, try and find a place close to work or public transportation.
  • What's the weather like? If you don't want to be stuck inside your apartment for 6 months of the year, try and find a place near nature.
  • Do you enjoy meeting new people? Look for an apartment that is close to local hangouts.
After finding your location, do some research to see what's available in that area.

4. Consider the Size

Generally, people will rent a 1 bedroom apartment or studio. That said, you should be aware that this is not always the case.

For example, some people prefer to rent a 2 or 3-bedroom place so that they'll have more space to work on their computer and relax at home. Also, consider the number of roommates if you're planning on sharing an apartment with another person/s.

5. Understand the Cost

There is generally less competition for larger apartments. More than two bedrooms obviously increase your costs by quite a bit due to higher rental rates and maintenance fees for larger buildings/complexes.

You should also consider extra fees that may or may not be included in the listed rent, such as maintenance fees and utilities. You can find some good advice from an insurance broker.

6. Understand What you're Signing

You want to be sure you understand the rental agreement or lease document before signing it. In most cases, this will be a standard document provided to you by the landlord or rental agent that is already filled in with terms and conditions. However, it's helpful to take the time and read through it. If there are blank spaces that need your attention, make sure you write your name and sign it where required.
  • Make sure you understand what is included in the monthly rent (e.g., laundry and water utilities, heating and air conditioning costs, etc.).
  • Make sure you understand what the lease or rental agreement says about maintenance of the apartment (e.g., painting walls or carpet replacement).
  • As well, make sure to read the section that deals with other issues such as pet policies, parking requirements and what utilities you will be charged for.

7. Research if There Are Any Opportunities for Tenant Rights

Before signing your lease contract or rental agreement, it's important to check if your city or province has any tenant protection legislation. This legislation could help you if you are indeed having a problem in your relationship with your landlord or the landlord is not covering their financial obligation (e.g., rent increases etc.).

8. Secure Yourself an Apartment

Once you've found a place that you like, the next step is to secure it. Before applying for the apartment, make sure all your paperwork is in order. You'll need proof of income, such as pay stubs or a recent tax filing. Also make sure you have all your identification ready: driver's license, credit cards and social security card. These are things that you should have on hand anyway when renting an apartment for the first time, so it won't be hard to find them just in case.

A letter of employment is also recommended. Along with your employment letter, ask a co-worker or employer to write a recommendation on your behalf if possible (but only if the person knows you well).

Once you have your paperwork in order and you've found the perfect place, it's time to apply for the apartment.