If you’re moving to Canada, your first or second choice would have been Toronto. There’s a reason why people all over the world, and even Americans, are moving to Toronto in record numbers.
Toronto is the most multicultural city in North America. Maybe even the world.
It has the professional and business advantages of being the commercial capital of Canada, while also being a very livable city with Canadian healthcare and family benefits.
Before starting your search on where to live in Ontario’s capital, let’s look at some important considerations — to begin with, where in the city do you want to live?
The rental market is huge, with many apartments being listed every day and being snapped up every day. This guide will help you find an apartment in the Greater Toronto Area that you can enjoy for 12 months and more.
Neighbourhoods of Toronto
This is at best a very brief neighbourhood overview of Toronto, arranged in circles: downtown core, the city, the suburbs
The downtown Toronto area is marked by the tallest buildings and offices in the city. With many shops, bars, restaurants, and offices, this part of Toronto is what you could call the business centre of Toronto. You will find the national headquarters of major banks and other large Canadian companies. The University of Toronto, one of Canada’s oldest universities, has its main campus in downtown Toronto.
Downtown is also home to a large number of educational institutions. The Ontario College of Art and Design University (OCAD University), Ryerson University and George Brown College are both located downtown.
The downtown core is well connected with a system of the Toronto Transit Commission’s subway system, with stops every 2-3 blocks. Above ground street cars will help you get from west to east or the other way around.
Finally, the underground PATH system is almost an entire city in itself. With direct connections to the TTC, office buildings, and shops and services, the PATH helps downtown dwellers survive Toronto winters by keeping everything connected underground. There are buildings in downtown Toronto that are connected to the PATH system.
Ideal for: students, singles, families without kids
With open spaces and a generally more relaxed approach to life, the city of Toronto extends from Trinity Bellwoods Park to High Park in the West to GreekTown all the way to The Beaches. There are many immigrant neighbourhoods here, and the names of some of these areas reflect this diverse background. For example, Little Italy is known for an excellent food scene, bars, and cafes.
This broad region, outside downtown, within the suburbs, is a true testament to Toronto being the most multicultural city in North America, perhaps the world.
The transportation options here are excellent, with the TTC Subway’s Line 2 connecting you to Line 1 at Bloor-Yonge and St George Stations.
Ideal for: single professionals, young families
Despite it being called the suburbs, with the rapid growth of Toronto, suburbs have become legitimate cities. Brampton and Mississauga, for example, are in the top 10 cities of Canada by population.
The advantage of living in the suburbs is that it is cheaper with more space. Transportation may require the use of a GO train, which is like a commuter train. If you have or intend on getting a car, Toronto’s excellent highway system will get you from point A to point B in no time.
Ideal for: young families
Because Toronto has grown so much, no matter which of the three options you pick, you will find grocery stores, transit options, and other necessary services near you.
If you want to learn more about your options, BlogTO carries a comprehensive list of neighbourhoods and their details.
What kind of accommodation can I expect?
There are three broad options to choose from when it comes to Toronto rentals: apartments, condos, and houses. Before deciding on which of the three you want to go with, your situation could influence your decision. Here are some questions to consider:
- What is your monthly budget? Consider an extra 10-20% for utilities such as internet, electricity, heating, laundry, etc.
- Are you moving by yourself or with a significant other? Any children?
- How okay are you with room-sharing?
- Do you plan on getting a pet dog or a cat?
- How many bedrooms and bathrooms are you looking for?
The first thing most people think about when looking for rentals is to rent an apartment.
And for good reason. Apartments are an excellent combination of good value and professional management. Apartments are typically older and have fewer amenities, so getting a swimming pool in your building is quite unlikely.
On the plus side, apartments have strict legal regulations they must follow, and in most cases, apartment companies follow the rules.
The challenge with apartments? Because apartments are managed by professional organizations, the rules for renting are the strictest. There are specific credit scores, employment history documents, or proof of funds that may be required — sometimes, even more challenging than paperwork you fill out to get a Canadian visa!
If you think paperwork could become challenging, consider the next two options.
Ideal for: new families, couples, singles
Privacy: high. Typically, older buildings have thicker walls.
Pets: Depends on apartments. Note that pet friendly apartments tend to cost $20-$200 more per month.
Size: Most options are 1 bedroom apartments, studio / bachelor apartments, and the occasional 2 bedroom.
A condo is like a house in a building. It is the short form for ‘condominium’. On the first look, these are quite similar to apartments.
The advantage of renting a condo is that condos are typically newer than apartments, and have better facilities like a swimming pool and lounge. Also, since you are typically dealing with an individual owner for a condo as opposed to an apartment building company, you may have a bit more flexibility in terms of rent and deposit payments and documents
One challenge you might face with renting a condo is that the owner of the condo could decide to sell their condo. This may random (but accompanied) people could come into your living space to check out your home.
Ideal for: new families, couples, singles
Privacy: Security-wise, condos have excellent security, usually with a dedicated security card and an electronic fob required to get in. Note that some condos’ walls are thin, so you may occasionally hear your upcoming neighbour’s band practice at 2am on a Wednesday night. Check this carefully!
Pets: Depends on the building. Buildings are generally friendlier towards cats than dogs.
Size: Newer condos are typically smaller.
A room, basement, or a floor of a house is typically the cheapest option. In this setup, you rent out a part of the house, or even the whole house, from the owner.
The advantage of renting a house as opposed to a condo or apartment is the space. For the same price, you can expect a lot more space by renting a part of a house. In addition, you may have access to a lawn or a yard.
Houses, particularly in residential neighbourhoods, are typically quieter than in apartments or condos. That said, there is less privacy with the other residents of the house, so you may want to keep this in mind.
Ideal for: new families
Privacy: As far as quiet neighbourhoods go, this is ideal. However, privacy can be quite limited. Most houses aren’t built with soundproofing in mind.
Pets: Depends on the house’s owner.
Size: Usually the largest offerings. If you are looking for 3 or more bedrooms, or you have a child, you may want to consider renting in a house.
The Best Rental sites for Toronto
Now that you have a much better idea of what you’re looking for and where you will be looking, how do you search for an apartment for rent in Toronto? Driving around looking for vacancies is one option to get an idea of the neighbourhood, but given the huge size of Toronto, is there a more effective way?
Yes! There are tons of websites that list rentals. Here are some options.
While the website looks outdated, the listings are not. This website has been the go-to options for many people new to Toronto. It will take a few clicks to get to a list of apartments in a neighbourhood, but once you do, the options are friendly. You can choose furnished or unfurnished, number of bedrooms, price ranges, and even room share options.
The advantage of this site is that because it is Canadian-focused and established, you can expect most Toronto landlords to list their rentals on this site, simply by habit.
The site Padmapper covers rental options across the United States and Canada. With a modern look to the website and a very useful map, you can easily filter the units you want by your budget for rent, short term or long term, and a number of bedrooms.
The best part of Padmapper is that the listings get updated in real time, so you can immediately begin to shortlist the places you want to go see.
Two challenges with Padmapper are that
- it also lists Airbnb listings, which are much higher in price, and
- not as many listings as other websites
Padmapper is still an excellent choice and starting point to get a feel for prices within a neighbourhood.
Kijiji and Craigslist
That’s not a typo, this website really is called K-I-J-I-J-I, and is pronounced ki-JEE-jee. Kijiji is likely the most popular listings website for everything in Toronto, be it short term jobs, selling or buying stuff, and of course, rentals.
Kijiji usually features listings that are more friendly and personal. If you are having a difficult time with an apartment building because of a lack of credit history or employment records, Kijiji would be a good place to look.
Do note that Kijiji has had some horror stories in the past. Play safe, and for any visits listed on Kijiji, go with a friend if possible.
Craigslist is quite similar to Kijiji but is not as often used. Craigslist, however, is the go-to website for apartment rentals in Vancouver in British Columbia.
Facebook Marketplace and Groups
Facebook marketplace is growing rapidly in popularity. No surprises here, Facebook Marketplace is an easy-to-use platform like Kijiji and Craigslist, but with the advantage that you get to see the landlord and they get to see you.
There are fewer listings here than the other websites, but there are some Facebook-exclusives that aren’t listed anywhere else. Do yourself a favour and make sure to check it out!
Facebook groups are another excellent, private place for people to post and search rent listings. A search on Facebook for “rent toronto” will give you a few results. Our recommendation is to join a few of these groups. These groups are particularly useful if you are looking for a room share.
Rentals.ca likely has the most listings of all websites. With a mix of realtor-managed properties and individually posted listings, rentals.ca provides you with a friendly interface to narrow down on your dream apartment.
An interactive map gives you four options right away:
- rent range
- type – condo, house, room share, apartment
- number of bedrooms
It’s quite clear that rentals.ca is one of the top choices in Toronto and the rest of Canada for rental listings. By being focused on units for rent and not including for-sale units, this website should be on your list for when you start looking for an apartment.
If you thought rentals.ca was amazing, try torontorentals.
This website is designed specifically for people looking to rent in Toronto. What’s the big deal?
You can overlay TTC routes directly on the map. No more figuring out how long it’s going to take to get to the closest TTC stop. You can now visually see how close the places are to the closest TTC stop.
A quick search for Toronto rentals will show you just how many rental listings are available in Toronto.
If you’re set on renting a condo and generally enjoy the North American cosmopolitan ideal of a maintenance-free, all-amenities included lifestyle, it doesn’t get better than Condos.ca.
With an exclusive focus on condos, this website sets itself apart from the others by providing you with valuable info about the historical pricing trends, locker and parking fees, and all available amenities. The photos of the units are also detailed and beautiful to look at, with many realtors investing in professional photography to show you the very best condos the city of Toronto has to offer.
For condo-lovers, this is a must visit website.
If you’re looking at apartments of over $1500, this is quite likely your best bet. These listings are often professionally maintained, and you may have to use a real estate agent (a realtor) to get access.
This is actually a good thing. See the next section for why you may want to consider using a realtor, especially if you’re new to Toronto or Canada.
Many choices to view apartment listings
Some will tell you walk score.
What is the best website to find an apartment?
Of the apartment rental websites above and other websites not listed, we would recommend the following
- looking to share? Facebook groups might be your best bet. You’ll know who you’re renting from, or at least be able to see the profile of the person you will be working with.
- looking for your own place on a budget? TorontoRentals, Viewit and Kijiji are reliable bets and have lots of options
- looking for a nice apartment with location as a priority? At these price points, condos and realtor may be best.
- looking for something short term? Padmapper is good, and Realtor might be able to help as well.
How to improve your chances when apartment hunting?
Competition for Toronto Rentals is intense, and being a newcomer in a new environment makes things even more challenging. Reading this will give you a better chance of getting the apartment you are looking for.
Do I need a Real Estate Agent?
Real estate agents are not required, but can certainly help. This is particularly true when you’re going for more desirable locations within the city, where there are multiple people that are interested in the rental that you’re looking at.
As a person new to Canada, you do not have a credit history, nor do you have a Canadian employment record. When a rental unit is in heavy demand, the landlord can afford to choose, and becomes more selective.
This has less to do with who you are, and more to do with the question in their heads: “is this renter someone I could trust? Would they stay on for a long time? Will they keep my place clean? Will they pay rent on time?”
When you show up with a real estate agent, some of the trust that a landlord has to place a 100% on you is taken care of by the agent. Landlords are comforted by knowing that you are serious about the renting their place, and by working with a licensed real estate agent, they can speak to someone who also deals with the rental business on a daily basis.
You must also consider that a good, professional real estate agent isn’t expecting a huge profit from helping you find a place. Most real estate agents make profits when they sell places.
For rentals, their best interests are in finding you a good, comfortable place to live within your price range. Your real estate agent gets a positive reputation when you tell your friends, and one day, when you want to buy a house, you may turn to them.
We encourage working with a real estate agent who is seeking to be a long-term, friendly advisor to you, instead of someone who is trying to make a small, quick profit off of your search.
Documents you need for a rental
For many places, you will need the three documents:
- employment letter / pay stubs
- references from previous landlords, professional, and personal
- credit report, or the landlord will run a credit check
…which of course, as a newcomer, is a chicken-and-egg problem. How do you establish a credit score or get a job without a place to live?!
Here’s the thing: some places are welcoming of newcomers, and understand the difficulties new immigrants face when they move to Toronto. The challenge is in finding these places, and you may have to search more than the average Toronto renter.
One thing that can help increase your chances when you find these places is to rely upon ‘Canadian ties’. To understand what these are, read on.
Pro tip: Establish Canadian ties
One tip that has helped our readers in finding their apartment, a job, or establish themselves into their local community, is to establish local, Canadian ties. If you are moving to Toronto, chances are that there are people you know who live in or around Toronto. Perhaps you have a job offer lined up. Even if none of these apply, the route of going with a real estate agent can help you get a better chance of landing your dream apartment.
You will hear about ‘Canadian experience’, ‘Canadian education’, and ‘Canadian references’ quite often for the first few months in Toronto, so be prepared! The more you can show that you’re established and have close ties to the community, the quicker you’ll be welcomed into the society, both professionally and personally
Questions to ask before renting
Before renting, you should run your own checks to make sure you have a good rental experience. It is best to ask some of the questions directly of the landlord, and for some questions, you may want to use the internet to make a few searches.
Here are sample questions you should ask your landlord directly.
- What does the rent include, and what is additional?
This would address questions related to utilities, parking, hydro, heating, internet, facility fees, any one-time charges, etc.
- When is rent due, and what payment methods are accepted?
- How much is the deposit?
Some rentals accept electronic transfers, while some are direct bank withdrawals.
- Are there curfew hours? What is the noise policy?
Loud neighbours can be terrible. On the other hand, if you like to throw parties, how long are you allowed to keep them going?
- What is the policy on decorations, repairs, and renovations?
Repairs and renovations are usually the landlord’s job. Decorations may be permitted within reason, and how much is allowed depends on the landlord. Best to ask before making a major change that costs you money to fix.
- What is the lease like?
Terms of payment, payment due dates, penalties on early termination
- For Condos: when do you see yourself selling this unit
Instead of yes or no, this question makes the owner answer either in terms of time or condition
A checklist for your internet searches
- Noise complaints
There is no real way to find out about noise, and most landlords will tell you there is no noise (yeah, right).
The two things to look out for are the people in the building and neighbourhood, and if there are any nightclubs and pubs in the area. If your neighbours are mostly families, you could expect that there’s a lot less noise at night. If the building mostly has professionals, it would be far more quiet during the day.
- Landlord check
It’s a good idea to do an online check on your landlord or the company that owns the unit you are thinking about renting. There was once a list on the 100 worst landlords of Toronto, but it has been taken down. Fortunately, the internet has a longer memory, and a quick search can save you from becoming a part of a horror story.
- Bedbugs report
Make sure your new place doesn’t have a history of bedbugs. Bedbugs cause diseases that are generally not nice, and even when you move places, you could end up moving with you. No fun! Check out the bedbugs registry for Toronto.
- Construction nearby
Do you see any ongoing construction or signs of construction that is about to start? You may want to think twice about the building, especially if you like your sleep. In addition to noise, construction can raise a lot of dust, which can cause breathing problems.
Know your legal rights as a tenant
Renters are well protected, but sometimes, things happen. Keep yourself protected. Here are the basics of tenancy law.
Here are your rights when searching for a place.
A landlord cannot discriminate against you because you are a newcomer to Canada. The Ontario Human Rights Code prohibits landlords from discriminating against you on the basis of your race, where you’re from, your religion, your sex and sexual orientation, marital status, or age. For more grounds that landlords cannot discriminate against you on, here’s a full list.
You also have rights and responsibilities once you move in. Here is the summary.
- you have a safe home
- the landlord cannot shut off your heat, electricity, or water unless for a short while to do repairs
- you can expect privacy in your home
- you have a legal right to your rental agreement and receipts
- you can only be evicted for certain reasons.
- rent can only be increased once in 12 months and within allowable limits.
For a list of exceptions, we recommend referring to Settlement.org’s excellent coverage of this topic.
The full list of your rights as a newcomer tenant is listed on OCASI’s website (Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants)
So here we have our final checklist
- Decide on your needs
- Decide on the neighbourhood
- Look up the best rental sites
- Go in prepared, make it easy for the landlord
- Ask good questions, get good answers
- Sign the contract!
Did you have an interesting experience with your apartment hunting? Did you find a site that lists rentals and isn’t on our list? Let us know in the comments below!