How hard is it to rent with bad credit in Toronto?
January 6, 2013 12:35 PM   Subscribe

I've got poor credit, a cat, and some questions about renting in the Toronto area.

My SO and I will be moving in together sometime this year. If it's at all relevant we are looking at Dundas/Kipling area but we are flexible.

I've lived with my mother on and off (mostly on) for the past 10 years. And so I'm not so sure what renting with bad credit is like in Toronto. I understand credit checks are normal, should I offer a guarantor? My boyfriend's credit is fine. How is this usually done? Is my credit going to significantly limit our options?

As well, many listings mention "no pets". Is it still the norm to ignore this assuming that it is a building and not a house that you are sharing with a landlord?

Bonus question: We both work in Brampton, are there any areas in Mississauga/Etobicoke that are especially conducive to commuting to the Brampton area or are we more or less screwed in that regard?

Thanks so much, Mefites.
posted by heavenstobetsy to Home & Garden (12 answers total)
As well, many listings mention "no pets". Is it still the norm to ignore this assuming that it is a building and not a house that you are sharing with a landlord?

It may be negotiable if you put down an additional deposit to cover damage. I don't think you can just ignore it, no.
posted by atrazine at 1:09 PM on January 6, 2013

> As well, many listings mention "no pets". Is it still the norm to ignore this assuming that it is a building and not a house that you are sharing with a landlord?

AFAIK, it is completely safe to ignore this, since all such clauses are void in Ontario per the Residential Tenancies Act (s. 14): "A provision in a tenancy agreement prohibiting the presence of animals in or about the residential complex is void."

On the other hand, you may want to consider what the presence of such a clause implies about (a) the landlord's knowledge of landlord-tenant law and/or (b) their willingness to follow it. And one thing to note about the above section of the RTA is that it doesn't prohibit a landlord denying you a unit in the first place because you mention a pet: it only prevents them from doing anything about it once a lease is signed.

As for the credit part, if your boyfriend's credit is fine, he will in effect be your guarantor if you apply together. And, as far as I understand it, proof of steady monthly income is just as important as good credit when it comes to applying for an apartment in Toronto. I'm not sure how much your having no/poor credit will affect things, though.
posted by matlock expressway at 1:15 PM on January 6, 2013 [6 favorites]

As well, many listings mention "no pets". Is it still the norm to ignore this assuming that it is a building and not a house that you are sharing with a landlord?

Yup, you can ignore it unless you're looking at a unit in a condo development that places restrictions on pet ownership. Usually this is a weight restriction (which isn't normally an issue unless you have a 25lb cat), but sometimes there's a ban on all pets.
posted by thisjax at 1:35 PM on January 6, 2013

My husband and I got two apartments in toronto with no credit check at all. They just wanted to see paystubs. That was renting from individual landlords, not a company.
posted by Melsky at 2:15 PM on January 6, 2013

I wouldn't risk renting somewhere that isn't cat-friendly. Cats are not always quiet, and landlords may end up being in your apartment unexpectedly on occasion (checking the fire alarm, surprise flood, toilet malfunction, whatever), and ah...there is cat smell to give you away at times. Wouldn't you rather live somewhere where you weren't always worried about hiding your pet, anyway? Having a cat does limit your options a lot, but there will still be *some* places that will take you. I don't think it's worth the possible trouble to just ignore it, even if technically legally you could get away with it in Canada.

JMO, though.
posted by jenfullmoon at 3:31 PM on January 6, 2013

Since you both work in Brampton why aren't you considering it? (It isnt my favourite place but there are good parts about Brampton). Brampton is a big place, if your job is in Mount Pleasent I would have different suggestions to a job located in Castlemore.

Besides your jobs where else do you often go/what activites do you do/where are the people you will be visiting? And what type of commuting are you planning? I would suggest different areas based on whether you are car-based, using local public transit or GO transit. Even if you are planning on driving, research what a commute via public transit would be like, just in case.
posted by saucysault at 3:47 PM on January 6, 2013

We aren't considering Brampton because it's important to my SO (who does not drive) to be able to get downtown easily.

The commute would likely be done by car, though checking out public transit options is a good idea as well, depending on the area.
posted by heavenstobetsy at 3:52 PM on January 6, 2013

pets: any no pets clause is unenforceable as per the RTA s.14. If you move into a place that has a 'no pets' rule and you bring your cat, the landlord cannot evict you because of the cat.

credit: it's not the landlord's business how you pay your rent, so long as you are able to do so. So you don't have to comply with a credit check if they ask you for one. However, if they ask you for one, you say no, and they rent to someone else, there's not a whole lot you can do about that. If a potential landlord asks you for a credit check, I would suggest you offer them other means of proving you can pay: pay stubs, a guarantor, etc. Another option would be for your boyfriend to be the only person on the lease, since he has good credit. Once he's signed the lease, you can move in and pay your share of the rent directly to him. A landlord cannot evict a tenant for letting people not on the lease stay in the unit (unless there are so many people living there that it violates health or safety standards, but that is unlikely with just the two of you)
posted by iona at 4:11 PM on January 6, 2013

Unless it's a basement or unit in a house where the owners/tenants have an allergy, I have generally found that in Toronto, more often than not 'no pets' actually means 'no dogs'. As others have said, they can't stop you anyway, but who wants to move in already fighting with your landlord.

The best advice I ever received regarding credit checks was to order an equifax/transunion report yourself and provide copies, rather than giving the potential landlord the information to run one themselves. It protects you, it prevents having repeated inquiries recorded on your credit report, and most landlords will accept this. You could then print your SO's and use that one. The only landlords that I've ever had insist on running them themselves are larger apartment complexes under the management of corporate property management companies.
posted by scrute at 4:16 PM on January 6, 2013

Okay, but commuting by car in the Northwest part of the GTA SUCKS. There is no longer the grace of the reverse commute. : (

Assuming that Downtown is the Eaton Centre, his commute from Bloor/Kipling will be about 40 mins via the subway, 25-35 mins by car outside of rush hour. If you rent one of the new condos in downtown Brampton your commute to work (20-30 mins to most corners of Brampton) should be less than living at Bloor/Kipling (I'd allow an hour in rush hour unless you work off the 427 north of the Airport) and getting downtown outside of rush hour by car is about 30-40 mins (less if you to tend to hang in Parkdale) and via GO is 40-50 mins to Union.

I guess it is a philosophy of choosing where to live. If you have two places you regularly need to be I would choose to live near one and endure the commute to the other rather than splitting the distance and having a crappy commute regardless of which way you are going. To me, I would choose to either live downtown near whatever your boyfriend likes (galleries, bars, friends) and commute to work or live near work and commute to the trips downtown. For splitting the distance the Bloor/Kipling area is a good compromise (although I would probably nudge closer to High Park or Parkdale personally).

When you are looking at public transit options don't forget Zum, it is really good, cheap service connecting Brampton and Missisauga along Hurontario and then North York and Brampton along Hwy 7 and Steeles. (But the GO is still my favourite intercity transportation option). If you are sharing one car there WILL be a time when the car has to be in the shop, guaranteed. : (
posted by saucysault at 4:18 PM on January 6, 2013

I hear you on location and access to downtown. For location, consider Mississauga City Centre. Decent transit up Hurontario into Brampton and 7 day/week GO bus service to downtown.

Also an option if you will be commuting to Brampton is Mimico. Probably 20-25 minutes to Brampton depending on traffic, and minimum hourly GO train service and streetcar service to downtown. You have some options to rent in either a home or apartment building and it's a walkable area. But really Dundas/Kipling works just as well at that point.

As for pets, just don't mention them when applying, and make sure they don't bother anyone once you move in. Landlords are most focused on rental history.
posted by dry white toast at 8:20 PM on January 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

For commuting, that bit of Etobicoke sounds like a good compromise: he can get to the subway easily, you can get west out of the city (relatively) easily. If you aren't finding what you want in the Dundas/Kipling area, I might broaden the search to include Dundas & Burnamthorpe, Islington at Dundas or Bloor (both near to Islington Subway), maybe even Dundas and Royal York (about 10-15 minute walk to Royal York subway, but I saw a 2 bedroom in a nice looking low-rise advertised for $1000 a month at Dundas and Royal York - this was in May/June 2012). I wouldn't go south to Lakeshore at all (unless you really want the lake) - Mimico is a friendly neighbourhood but it's a very awkward commute downtown by TTC (you have to come all the way up to Bloor). New Toronto (Islington & Lakeshore) is at least an hour or more from downtown, and Long Branch is even worse (as expressed in a recent short film).

For cats: as everyone has said, a landlord does not have the right to evict you for a cat, but can deny the apartment on a whim. Don't mention the cat - it's none of their business. Depending on the size of the building, they may never notice. But even in a small building, they might not notice - we live in a 4 unit building and no one has said anything.

For credit: every landlord will be a bit different, but most seemed more interested in my income than my credit when I was apartment hunting earlier this year.
posted by jb at 8:36 AM on January 7, 2013

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