Guest Post by: Canadian Mental Health Association – Edmonton Region 

Finding a rental can be a time-consuming and sometimes overwhelming task. The Advocacy and Wayfinding team at CMHA-ER has some steps you can take during your search to make the process less stressful.

Calculating Costs

It’s recommended that housing costs shouldn’t be higher than 30% of your gross income (income before taxes). Depending on the city or town you live in, this may be difficult. To get an idea of average rental costs, go to a rental board listing such as rentfaster.ca or padmapper.com.

Consider other costs that may or may not be included in your rent such as utilities, internet, cable, and phone.

If you are looking for resources to help create a budget, contact 211.

Assessing Needs and Wants

You may not be able to find housing that has everything you’d like. Before you start your search, make a list of what would be a must have and what would be nice to have. These can be different for everyone, such as:

  • Smoking vs. non-smoking building
  • Pet-friendly
  • Accessibility (how many stairs, having elevator access, etc)
  • Amenities close by including access to transportation, groceries, or supports
  • Building amenities (laundry rooms, parking, shared spaces, etc)
  • Level of noise (a certain level of noise can be expected in multi-unit housing; if you have a sensitivity to noise, look for a concrete building)

Shared Housing

A shared living arrangement with a family member, friend, or roommate is a great way to bring your rent down by sharing costs. Other benefits may include additional safety, having company, and the sharing of household chores and supplies.

Roommate situations aren’t addressed the same legally. For additional information about roommate agreements and tips, find information published by the Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta.

Before choosing a roommate, have a conversation around expectations and responsibilities with potential roommates. After choosing a roommate, put all decisions in writing so they can be referred to on a later date if need be. You can find a sample roommate agreement from Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta here.

The Viewing

  • Bring a friend or support with you
  • Stay organized. Bring a list of questions and a pen to record the answers. If you’re looking at multiple units, it will be helpful to refer back to your notes.
  • Ask about the facilities and security of the building. If there are laundry facilities or common areas for tenants of the building, ask to see these too.
  • Check the security on windows and doors in the unit.
  • Check inside cupboards and closets for any sign of pests or mould.
  • Ask about the heating and air conditioning in the building. Look for an adjustable thermostat in your unit.
  • Pay attention to how much noise you can hear from neighbors when viewing the unit.
  • Explore the neighbourhood at different times of the day or night to get an idea of what services are near and what the volume level of the neighbourhood is like. If the building is close to a busy road or business, there may be more noise at certain times of the day or night.

Applying

When applying, there is some information that you should have ready to provide. It is common to be asked for proof of income, landlord references, and identification. Try to have a response ready for information you may not be able to provide. For example, if you are unable to provide a landlord reference, ask if a reference from a community support worker or employer could work instead and have this ready.

If you’re applying for any waitlisted units, make sure you keep your contact information up-to-date and provide any updates that apply to your application.

These are a few helpful tips, but if you need additional housing resources, please call 2-1-1, text INFO to 2-1-1, or chat online at www.ab.211.ca.

This article was published with the permission of Canadian Mental Health Association – Edmonton Region.