Renting in Toronto - Deciding Whether or Not to Live with a Roommate

Friday Mar 10th, 2017


Looking at the housing market in Toronto can be stressful for a Millennial. The average cost to buy a home in the Toronto area rose to $730,000 in 2016 and continues to rise. This leaves a large percentage of the millennial population looking to lease over the coming years, rather than buy. Even leasing is a lucrative market in Toronto, with the average rent for a 1 bedroom apartment being around $1700.  It is easy to see why so many Millennial's are concerned about their housing future.

So how can you live in Toronto while maintaining a low enough cost of living so that you can also put money aside to pay off student debt, plan for life events, and potentially buy a house in the future?


One way is to move in with a roommate(s).


Moving in with a roommate will help to offset the cost of living, while also providing a potentially nicer place to call home. Choosing to live with a roommate can mean the difference between living in a dark basement apartment with 5’10’’ ceilings, versus living above ground with natural light and 9' ceilings.

Since moving away from home, I have lived with many different roommates, some good and some bad. For me, a 25 year old young professional looking to move into a nicer apartment, choosing to add another roommate to my next apartment could potentially save me about $275 per month (compared to living alone).

But before rushing to find a roommate, it is important to make sure you will enjoy living with someone else, as you don't want your home to be a source of stress. Ask yourself the following questions:


Can you spend quality time with one another?


It is a great sign if you and your proposed roommate can spend time together, whatever it may be. Being able to get along and engage in activities together will create a much stronger relationship; developing trust, empathy, and understanding for one another. 

Not quite there.

Living with a stranger or casual acquaintance and not having a pre-existing relationship with your roommate can lead to issues down the road. Although at first not spending time together may not cause problems, the lack of communication and feelings of awkwardness when you do have to talk could increase over time. In addition, if you have an issue with your roommate's behaviour or habits, it will be much harder to effectively communicate this to them without creating conflict.


Do you share similar interests?


Sharing similar interests is a positive when deciding on a roommate, as you will have more in common for bonding. This said, having different interests and being open to sharing them with you roommate could lead to a likewise positive experience.

Not quite there.

It's okay, and probably good, to have your own interests. It's challenging to find someone who shares similar interests, especially if you are limited to a few choices for a roommate. Spending time with your roommate and getting to know their interests while also sharing yours will help to develop a relationship and may even bring to light an interest you didn't know you had. Spending time concentrating on your individual interests, away from your roommate, is also part of developing a healthy relationship.


Do your job/school hours conflict?


Depending on the time of day, it may be hardly noticeable, especially when you and your roommate are able to leave the work at work/school. When the work schedules are opposite however and there are disturbances and disruptions to routine, it can lead to problems between roommates. Working nights and having to sleep through the day, or staying up late while your roommate has to get up early are some examples that can cause frustration and conflict.

Not right now.

It is good when roommates are on similar schedules. It allows you to spend more time together, or at least have a routine in the apartment. Knowing approximately when each other will be home as well as not home, allows you to develop some form of schedule so there are fewer conflicts over routines such as cooking, cleaning, and showering. That said, be prepared for changes to both of your schedules. A new job or new class schedule could change these patterns and you will both need to be willing to communicate and adapt to the changes.


Are you comfortable with your roommate dating?


Roommates have every right to have a relationship.  It may be advisable, however, to agree on some 'ground rules' for bringing dates or friends to the apartment.


It is important to remember that when signing a lease with a roommate, you are not in control of their personal lives. Your personal beliefs and opinions should not impede on your roommate’s choices. If your roommate’s dating or friendship patterns may be a barrier to your happiness, you should re-consider moving in with a roommate. 


Are you confident in your roommate’s ability to pay rent/ fees?


It is important that you can trust your roommate to pay their debts fully and on time.

Not quire sure.

If you can't be sure that your proposed roommate will be able to afford their rent and additional fees, such as internet, this could become a problem. Not only will this cause unwanted conflict between your landlord and your roommate, but it could cause stress for you if it is a reoccurring issue.  If unresolved and left too long, you could be expected to cover their missing rent or other costs (if they do not have a co-signer for their part of the lease).


Have you considered what you will do in the case that it doesn't work out/ there is conflict?


It is important to have a plan in place for conflict with your roommate. Many things ranging from leaving dishes in the sink, leaving their garbage around the apartment, or too many loud and late nights, can lead to conflicts. Knowing how you will approach the problem before it arises will help to secure a positive outcome where both roommates are able to cooperate and walk away happy. It is important to keep in mind your roommate's personal life is important too. Sometimes there are things going on in their lives which causes them to project their frustrations on you. Open communication can be the difference between walking away happy and storming off upset. Considering an 'action plan' for conflict is important when it comes to developing a lasting relationship.

No, we won’t have conflict.

It is naïve to think that there will be no conflicts.  If you have not pre-considered how you will handle an issue, you may end up creating a larger issue between you and your roommate. It is important to keep in mind that creating conflict is a choice - remembering this is just one helpful strategy when approaching issues. If you are not able to consider solutions to conflict, having a roommate will not likely work out for you.


Have you considered a sublet could take your roommate’s place?


It is important to consider what may happen in the future and being prepared for this will make any surprises or transitions easier. It is also helpful to agree that in the case of requiring a sublet, you and your roommate will screen potential applicants together to find a suitable fit. 

No, it won't happen.

It is good to think about potentials when it comes to renting an apartment with a roommate, as you can't guarantee you will both be in the same situation at the end of the lease term. New jobs, family emergencies, and lifestyle changes could all result in your or your roommate needing to move out and replace the space with a sublet. If the landlord did not specify in your lease agreement that sublets are not permitted, your roommate has every right to find a sublet for their room, with or without your approval (however it is common practice and courtesy to have approval from the roommate staying in the unit).  If sublets are not permitted, a discussion with the landlord will need to occur.


So… Roommate?


There is no one answer; some people are able to live well with others, while some don't seem able to. Choosing a roommate to save money, only to have it create stress and impact your mental health is hardly a good trade off, and only you can make the decision. There are some other options for saving money on the rental market, such as choosing to live further away from the downtown core, or looking into qualifying for Ontario Subsidized Housing to help you get on your feet.


Do you have any additional suggestions when deciding whether or not to live with a roommate? Why did you (or didn't you) decide to live with one?

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