How to Rent an Apartment

By Bruce Firestone | Uncategorized

Mar 11

How to rent an apartment, a room, a house…

I wrote this list some time ago; today, while I was sweeping the path to an apartment we manage (as a new tenant moves in–a nice lady with a terrible disease, MS, and a guide dog that is like a human being in terms of what she knows/understands/can do for her master), I had another thought. 

I’d bet the housing stock would radically improve if a landlord/property manager/owner had to live at least one month in each of his/her apartments or projects.

Not just because then they’d be embarrassed/shamed into improving them, but because they’ll see/recognize a zillion ways to animate them/add value/reduce costs so that tenants will have a better experience living there plus they, as landlords, will, happily, make an even higher ROI.

Walk a mile in someone else’s shoes… amazing what you might learn*.


At least, that’s my theory.

(*Brian, a landlord friend of mine told me after he’d read this, “I agree with you, Prof Bruce. I’ve lived in every one of my buildings except two. I just did a showing, and told a prospective
tenant that I wouldn’t offer any unit I wouldn’t be comfortable living
in myself.”)

OKAY, back to my list…


When you are trying to rent an apartment/room/house, do something to stand out from the crowd.


Differentiate yourself by adding some of these attributes:

-close to big employment generators (like a hospital, tech park, government buildings, university or college…)

-free parking

-including lawn maintenance, snow and garbage removal

-offering a tech package (Netflix, basic cable, high speed Internet/wi-fi, large wall-mounted TV)


Be Different!


-list what attractions are nearby (beach, park, schools, arenas, stadiums, shopping centers, theaters…)

-offer other services if required: cleaning, meals, etc

-make it accessible (0-step entry, walk-in or roll-in shower, main floor bedroom…)

-give good directions

-let people know if smoking or pets are allowed

-is storage available

-is there a workshop

-is there in-home laundry

-is there a powder room/½ bathroom

-does the unit have its own private entry/direct access to street/yard/patio/deck/outdoor space

-is it newly renovated

-is your property management and administration top notch

-do you have any testimonials from tenants that say how great you are as a landlord and can you use them on your website or in your marketing

-is the unit available short term/long term

-can a person rent a room or do they have to rent the whole apartment

-does everything work in the unit

-is it clean/tidy/freshly painted/

grass cut/smell nice/litter picked up

-organize a community event/BBQ

-organize a street party/block party/sports day/garage sale community wide

-be a community activist/liaise with your local councilor/community association/business association/BIA 

-organize street tree planting

-add street furniture

-add community signage

-embrace neo-urbanist principles 

-outdoor kitchen

-raised garden beds

-great kitchen for foodies

-green for real,

-great pro pics/photos/images

-super storytelling/talk about how good/attentive you are as a landlord as well as the history of the building, whether it is furnished/unfurnished, how having a tech package and utilities saves each tenant time and also the cost (sometimes) of having to post security deposits with utility companies or telecoms, the neighborhood, neighbors, the attractions, shopping, learning, entertainment, major employment generators, landmarks, parks, arenas/stadiums… what great shape the place is in (eg, recently renovated or recently painted etc)

-offer to swap follows on social media

-have a list of moving companies/packaging suppliers/U-Haul available 

-if you are on airbnb, actually offer a breakfast/offer to curate your guests’ visit/offer them something you made yourself–in my case, one of my books, for an artist friend of mine, she gives every guest a limited edition signed print of one of her works

-think about theming your place; maybe, if you are looking for students, you decide you’ll become “engineer house” or “travel and tourism house” or “entrepreneur house” or “architect house” or “intrnational house”… anything except ANIMAL HOUSE

Marketing Channels

Once you have established your value proposition, you are ready to market your unit. 

Here are a few channels we use:


It’s a Multi-Channel Universe!

-facebook page

-facebook groups like university or college forums looking for housing


-personal website

-street/property sign

-tumblr blog






-stupeflix (create video ads–1 landlord I know did a 1 minute video in Swedish with subtitles; he also did a happy dance; hey, it’s different)

-university or college online bulletin boards/forums

-roommate sites like

-word of mouth

Don’t forget to ask each contact, how they heard about your rental. Marketing is still more of an art than a science. At a minimum test and track each marketing channel–do more of what works, less of others…

How to find roommates

One of the young people I coach in real estate added five roommates to his house this way (and now lives in his own property for $400 a month):

-using roommate sites like 

You run ads looking for roommates on these sites then interview people yourself. They should each of them fill in a rental application. Then you check out their references, credit score etc…

When you find someone you like, get their name, cell # and email address and prepare a lease for them to sign. Have them sign one joint lease so you don’t run the risk of becoming a rooming house…

How to Establish a Functional Program for a Rental

is a functional program for rental? How do you establish that? 

Answer these questions and you will have your answer:

  1. is the apartment/home furnished?
  2. is it available short term/longterm?
  3. does it come with a tech package?
  4. if so, how much will you charge?
  5. does it having parking?
  6. if so, how much will you charge?
  7. does it having storage sheds?
  8. if so, how much will you charge?
  9. does it having workshops?
  10. if so, how much will you charge?
  11. who is paying for snow removal, lawn maintenance, hot water tank rental, landlord insurance, property taxes, and property management?
  12. who is responsible for replacing and the cost of light bulbs and furnace filters?
  13. how much are you charging for lost keys?
  14. how much are you charging for lock-outs?
  15. how much are you charging for NSF cheques/checks?
  16. are you going to get a copy of  tenant insurance policy binder?
  17. do you have an in-home apartment?
  18. if so, does it have its own entrance?
  19. can you add a coach house?
  20. can you add a tiny house?
  21. who pays for gas, electricity, water and sewer charges?
  22. how often will you inspect the unit per year?
  23. is the property visitable/elder friendly?
  24. do you allow pets?
  25. do you allow smoking?
  26. will you offer other services like cleaning service, home security monitoring, health monitoring/fall alert, lock it and leave it service, meal service, excursion service, shopping/personal shopper, personal care worker, nurse visit, tutoring/coaching/computer tutorials, event management and what do these services cost?
  27. what steps did you take to be more “green”, like installing an all-off switch or LED lighting?
  28. what else differentiates it from every other property?
  29. did you give your property a meaningful, easy-to-spell name like “Robertson House” instead of 123 anyplace street?
  30. who is your target demographic (family, tech, roommates, students, elders, executives, other)?
  31. what type of marketing are you going to use like Facebook, google adwords, Kijiji, craigslist, padlister, blog etc?
  32. what platforms will you use like airbnb, MLS, flipkey, other website(s)?
  33. will you use a realtor to help you market your property?
  34. are you doing your own property management?
  35. do you have a good quality lease form?
  36. are you asking your tenants for their credit report, employment history/letter, background check, police report and references (
  37. did you remember to google prospective tenants?
  38. will you allow tenants to pay 2x per month?

Sample Rental Clauses

Here are a few sample rental clauses. They are examples only.

Please note these are not legal clauses, and you should check them with your own realtor or lawyer. They are here for educational purposes only…

agreement to lease, once executed by all parties, shall constitute the lease
agreement; there shall be no other agreement.

may elect to pay landlord half monthly rent on the 1st day of each month of
occupancy and the balance on the 15th of each month or, in the alternative,
full monthly rent on the 1st day of each month of occupancy.

may elect to pay by a series of post dated cheques/checks, e-transfer or credit card.

shall arrange for and pay for tenant’s insurance naming landlord, and tenant
shall provide landlord with a copy of tenant insurance binder.

shall provide landlord with copy of tenant credit rating from a recognized
credit agency and the names and contact information (phone numbers/email
addresses) of three personal references. Landlord shall have right to do separate
credit check/employment check/background check if landlord so chooses.

shall provide tenant with one wall mounted TV with basic cable, Netflix.

shall provide tenant with access to high speed Internet and wi-fi.

to provide free parking, snow removal, lawn maintenance, garbage removal.

to provide utilities including gas, water/sewer, electricity.

to provide washer/dryer, stove, fridge, dishwasher, microwave.

to pay for replacement light bulbs during occupancy, and shall ensure that all
light bulbs are present and in good working order on last day of occupancy, and
that all such bulbs are replaced with ones that are equivalent in terms of
light output (wattage) and type (incandescent, fluorescent, LED or other).

acknowledges landlord may perform quarterly physical inspections of the unit,
and that landlord may elect to inspect more frequently if such need arises to
prevent damage to unit or to conduct any repairs or maintenance required to
maintain the unit in good working order.

further covenants to immediately notify landlord of any needed repairs or items
that need to be addressed such as water infiltration or flooding. Failure to
report damage such as broken appliance, leaky faucet, window not closing
properly, door not locking etc may result in tenant being responsible for full
cost of repair.

to known health risks of exposure to second-hand smoke, increased risk of fire
and increased maintenance costs, no tenant, resident, guest or visitor shall
smoke cigarettes, cigars, or any similar product whose use generates smoke
within the building or within 9-meters of doorways, operable windows and air

charge of $50 shall be levied for all NSF cheques/checks or late payments.

is responsible for lock out of premises fee of $50 per occasion.

tenant requires additional outdoor storage space, such space shall be subject
to separate agreement.

tenant requires additional services such as cleaning by landlord’s cleaners,
such service shall be subject to separate agreement.

Bruce M Firestone, PhD 

ROYAL LePAGE Performance Realty broker

613-762-8884 @

@ profbruce

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About the Author

Bruce is an entrepreneur/real estate broker/developer/coach/urban guru/keynote speaker/Sens founder/novelist/columnist/peerless husband/dad.