Housing Options for International Students in Toronto​

We are exploring housing options available to international students studying at a university or college at the 6ix.  From furnished room rentals to fully furnished private apartments, Toronto has it all!  We’ll explore these options, share some information to help you find the best option for your situation, and some tips to get started.

On Campus Housing

Living in residence is an immersive experience in university life.  Each school will have a range of housing options that will help you integrate into a fun, supportive, and close-knit community.  This option allows you to walk to classes, on-campus events, athletic facilities and libraries.  Take part in movie nights, recreational sports events, study groups and club activities.  And find convenient and helpful services, from healthy dining options and laundry facilities, to city tours and academic mentorships.  

Here are Universities and Colleges on campus housing sites in Toronto:

On campus housing options to consider: 

  • Dorm style vs. Apartment style
  • Common kitchen or private kitchen
  • Co-ed or Non-coed
  • Meal plans

Off-campus Student Residence Buildings in Toronto

These are privately owned (not affiliated with universities or colleges) that provide similar ‘student residences’ experience with similar residences accommodation arrangements.  These buildings are in downtown Toronto.  

Furnished/Unfurnished Rental Condominiums

Realtor.ca is Canada’s MLS system where you can find the majority of the properties that are available for lease.  These range from renting a condominium unit which ranges from studios to 3 bedroom suites, to townhouses and full size detached homes.  

Condominium in Toronto gets you a proper apartment instead of the shared facilities typically seen in residences.  Most places will have condo amenities that include concierge, security systems, party rooms, gyms, pools, etc. that will be available to you as part of your lease.  Most modern suites will have a full kitchen and on-suite laundry facilities.  Check out the Rental Market Reports (2019) for the Greater Toronto Area.

If you need assistance with narrowing your search, booking showings, and negotiating your lease, reach out to a local Realtor and they should be able to help you with this.  Contact us if you’d like some referrals, including if you’d like someone who speaks your native language.  

Managing Cost vs. Convenience

Amenities and Commute

Living downtown Toronto gives you similar conveniences like walking to class and staying late in campus to participate in extracurricular activities with the bonus of a private (or semi-private if you have a roommate) Condominium suite and common elements that are far superior compared to On Campus residences.  Of course, this is the most expensive option.

If you like a larger living space, would like more privacy, are price continuous, or would like to explore living in other Toronto Neighbourhoods instead of the downtown core, there are plenty of neighbourhoods that are 30 to 45 min. commute through public transit (TTC or Go train) – Yonge and Finch, Yonge and Eglinton, King West, Liberty Village, Distillery District, and suburbs like Scarborough, Richmond Hill, Markham, Vaughan Metropolitan Centre, St. Clair West Village, etc. 

Buying Furniture

Most of these properties are unfurnished (i.e. it doesn’t come with furniture).  You can buy starter furniture at Ikea, buy some supplies in Amazon.ca, check out this FB group  UofT Free and For Sale, and/or browse for some deals at Kijiji.  Some suites do come fully furnished which are typically more expensive than a similar suite that is not furnished.  

Internet Providers

The two main ISPs are Rogers and Bell. There are cheaper providers like Teksavvy.  There are always promotions happening before school starts.  It’s good to do a bit of shopping and find a reliable and well-priced ISP.

Room Rentals – HomeShare and HomeStay

Toronto HomeShare Program

Toronto HomeShare is a City of Toronto program run by the National INitiative for the Care of Elderly (NICE) that matches older adults (55+) with a spare room in their home who would benefit from receiving additional income and/or help around the home with university and college students seeking affordable housing.   In exchange for reduced rent, the student provides hours of companionship and/or assistance with light household tasks.

Homestay

A popular choice of accommodation if you are from outside Toronto — or Canada — Homestay users enjoy the hospitality of a host family and often get help adjusting to a new lifestyle, a new neighbourhood, transit system and more.

With homestay, students have choices – be as independent as you like, or become a member of the family you live with.  Homestay fees are generally less expensive than most on-campus options and include a private, furnished room, meal plans, and amenities like onsite laundry and WiFi.   

Homestay accommodations typically will include a furnished room with a window, a bed with clean linens (sheets, pillow, and blankets), a private storage for your belongings like a closet or drawers, access to a shared bathroom and a place to study, typically within your own room.  

Homestay locations are in safe neighborhoods with easy access to public transportation to your school. Typically, homestays are no longer than 30 to 60 minutes of travel using public transit from colleges and universities.  Stay durations can be a semester or full academic years. 

There are various sites you can check out that provide homestay accommodations – here are some of the sites – 

Room rentals – Facebook Groups

How to Get Started with your Student Accommodations Search in Toronto

When to Start Looking?

  • Are you planning on moving in August/September?
  • If you are looking to rent a house or apartment or share accommodation with other students, you should likely start your search safely in late June/early July.
  • Landlords normally advertise accommodation four to six weeks prior to the intended move-in date.
  • Tenants are required to give 60 days notice of move-out.
  • If you are looking for residence-style accommodation, please note that some of them may offer a waiting list up to a year in advance, which will limit immediate availability.

How to start your search?

  • Determine your price range.
  • Decide where you want to live.
  • Map it out. Consider transportation, shopping and other nearby amenities.
  • Decide how you want to live (shared, residence-style experience, room and board).
  • Set aside two or three days to come to Toronto to look.
  • NEVER rent a space without seeing it first.

What to do next?

  • Make a list of questions to ask (about rent, services, amenities), either on the phone or in-person.
  • Make appointments with landlords to view the space.
  • If the space meets your needs, submit a rental/lease application and first and last month’s rent.
  • Upon renting a space, don’t be afraid to ask for receipts for rent/utility payments.

Things to consider with Shared Accommodations

Sharing can make your costs more affordable, offers security and can lead to opportunities for socializing and making new friends. If you don’t know anyone, or don’t have a roommate in mind, some places (such as places4students.com) offer free matching services. Things to keep in mind:

  • What are the house rules?
  • Who will take care of collecting money from all roommates for rent, bills, utilities, phone, cable?
  • Communicate/ask about living arrangements and expectations.
  • How do your roommates/landlord view additional roommates, overnight guests, smoking, food, sharing internet?
  • Whose name(s) is/are on the lease?

Things you should know before renting a place in Toronto

Renting Rights in Ontario

Familiarize yourself with this for your destination province – particularly as an international student. You should receive the treatment and conditions you deserve as a tenant, and you should be confident that your landlord is fulfilling their responsibilities. You should also be aware of your own responsibilities and duties as a tenant.

Deposits

Landlords may require you to pay first and last month’s rent and/or a security deposit when you sign a lease.   Some landlords may also require key deposits that are refundable at the end of your lease.

References

Landlords may also require references or a credit report to make sure you can pay the rent. Don’t be discouraged if at first it seems landlords will only accept Canadian references – many landlords welcome international students, and you can also try teaming up with Canadian roommates if you’re having trouble finding a place.

Tenant Insurance

Tenant insurance (also called renter’s insurance or content insurance) is very similar to a home insurance policy. Coverage for renters is specifically designed to protect your personal property, liability and additional living expenses in the event of a claim

Tenant insurance coverage includes three main components:

1) Contents coverage for your possessions

Consider the implications of someone breaking into your home and stealing your most cherished possessions, or the potential damage caused by a flood or a fire in your unit. Could you afford to replace everything? Most people couldn’t. That’s why tenant insurance provides coverage for the things you own. It extends beyond your home, so if your bike is stolen from outside of your office, or you leave your laptop in the back of a cab, tenant insurance will help with replacement cost.

2) Personal liability if you’re sued for property damage or personal injury

Liability coverage helps cover costs associated with lawsuits resulting from accidental damage to someone’s property, or if someone gets hurt in your home. For example, if you forget to turn off a tap and the overflowing water floods the apartment below, your downstairs neighbour could sue you for the damage caused. Or, if a visitor slips and gets hurt in your home, they could sue for the cost of rehabilitation, loss of earnings, and anything else resulting from the accident. These lawsuits can cost thousands, even millions of dollars, and can easily bankrupt individuals who don’t have personal liability insurance.

3) Reimbursement for living expenses 

If there is a problem with your unit caused by an insured peril, you may have to leave until the matter is resolved. If you are lucky, you could stay with friends or family, but this aspect of tenant insurance helps with temporary accommodation, transportation, and even the cost of meals until you can return home.

Utilities

Utilities – gas, electricity, and water – may or may not be included (although water is usually included) if you are renting an off-campus condominium. If utilities are not included, you will likely need to set up an account with the provincial utilities provider. 

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