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7 Mostly Legal Ways To Save On Rent

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Written by Jackie Marchildon

As rent prices continue to soar across Canada, here are a few ways you can take matters into your own hands and minimize your rent in the city -- legally.

1. Live in a 'unique' room*


Does your rental unit have a large storage room, closet or cupboard under the stairs? Could a person live in it? My sister lived in a big closet in my apartment for almost a year to save on rent. Sure it was tiny, but it fit a mattress and small side table, and for her birthday that year my roommate and I bought her a push lamp that hung on the wall. We split rent three ways (don't worry, my sister paid less than us) and this arrangement made living downtown more affordable for all of us.

2. Move in with your significant other


What used to seem like a big commitment is now just a good idea financially. It's common sense -- splitting rent, utilities and general living costs between two people is better than paying it all as one. For some people, moving in with a boyfriend or girlfriend is a huge deal, but if you're not one of those people, why not take the leap and take advantage of the savings? Another option is to have your significant other move in with you and your roommates, or vice versa.

3. Turn a one-bedroom apartment into a two-bedroom apartment**


One of my best friends lived in a one-bedroom apartment with her friend for two years of university. One of them took the living room, and the other took the bedroom and they still retained a common area (the kitchen). I also lived in a duplex with three roommates and we turned the living room into a bedroom -- there was a door on it and plenty of leftover space in the house, so it just made sense.

4. Rent out your parking spot or storage locker


If you're renting a condo unit with a parking spot that you don't need, why not rent it out? If you have more storage space than you can fill up, do the same. You will likely need to rent these areas out to tenants in your building to keep things secure and accessible, but the savings can really add up -- especially in a city like Toronto, where parking spots and storage spaces are hot commodities.

5. Rent out your room or unit on Airbnb


This is a tricky one. If you have permission to sublet your apartment, then legally speaking you can rent out your apartment on AirBnB. That said, it is illegal to sublet your place for an amount that is larger than what your landlord charges (unless you have an agreement with your landlord). Charging for a night here and there seems to fall into a legal grey zone -- technically you aren't charging more than your monthly rent (so it's legal) but someone, say your landlord, might argue that if you are posting your apartment on AirBnB with the possibility to make more than the month's rent, you are in violation of the Residencies Act. Another might argue that the AirBnB fee takes into consideration that you're not just renting out a space but also renting out the use of your furnishings, possessions, cable and Internet -- things the landlord does not provide.

6. Get invited to Bunz Housing Zone


Decent rental units and prices do still exist -- they are just hard to find. A friend of mine currently lives in a single-detached family home in Toronto and pays $1,500 for the full house. Most people pay that for a nice one bedroom. Units like this are not rental folklore tales, they are just often passed secretly along to friends and family. Bunz Housing Zone expands your list of friends and family and gives you the deets on rentals that aren't always listed.

7. Check out community housing options


Organizations like Toronto Community Housing have helpful options for low-income renters. Subsidized housing provides rent that is geared to income, and while it is hard to get and can have a long wait list, other options like Toronto's affordable rent units are a little more attainable. Especially in recent years, TCH has built some great buildings with beautiful units. 

Unfortunately it doesn't seem like rent prices are expected to decrease anytime soon, but if you're in a bind and need a place in the city, these options can help!


*There are different rules for different municipalities.

According to the Toronto Municipal Code Chapter 629, Property Standards; 629-25. Occupancy standards:

A. A room designed and intended for use as a non-habitable area shall not be used as a habitable area.

B. No basement or cellar space shall be used as a dwelling unit or as a habitable room unless this use is otherwise permitted by law and complies with the other occupancy provisions in this chapter.

**Make sure there is nothing in your lease that limits the number of occupants allowed in your unit and check your municipal bylaws before creating a unique bedroom or adding an extra roommate.

According to the Toronto Municipal Code Chapter 629, Property Standards; 629-25. Occupancy standards:

C. The maximum number of persons living in a habitable room shall not exceed one person for each nine square metres of habitable room floor area.

D. For the purposes of this section, the minimum height of a habitable room shall be 1.95 metres over at least 1/2 the floor area, and, for the purposes of Subsections E and F, any floor area under a ceiling that is less than 1.4 metres in height shall not be counted in computing the required minimum floor area of a room used for sleeping.

E. The minimum floor area of a room used by only one person for sleeping shall be six square metres with the room having a minimum dimension on one side of two metres.

F. The minimum floor area of a room used by two or more persons for sleeping shall be four square metres for each person so using the room.

Should your landlord claim an overcrowding issue, he/she can take it up with the Landlord and Tenant Board and you can be forced to reduce the number of persons occupying the unit.

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