Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism.
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](,dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); } //

The difficulties Michele Yeo experienced trying to find suitable accommodations in Toronto are par for the course in one of the world’s most expensive cities where the vacancy rate for one-bedroom apartments hovers around 1 per cent..

Marcus Oleniuk/The Globe and Mail

Michele Yeo has been through the wringer in Toronto's rental market. In the past five years, she's had to take a landlord to court after he unlawfully withheld her last month's rent, been evicted from two condos because the landlord claimed to be moving in and faced steep rent hikes that forced her to move.

"There were times when I was losing sleep, night after night, worried about my housing," the 39-year-old says.

And although the general rule in personal finance is that rent should account for no more than 30 per cent of gross pay, it now eats up 46 per cent of Ms. Yeo's income. "I'm a responsible, single, professional person, but people like me are getting priced right out of the city," she says.

Story continues below advertisement

Stories such as Ms. Yeo's are increasingly common among young urban professionals and students looking to rent in Toronto. With few properties to choose from and rents rising, many are digging deeper than ever or settling for places in less-desirable areas.

The numbers paint a troubling picture. The average rent for a one-bedroom condominium apartment in Toronto jumped 8.8 per cent year over year in the second quarter of 2017 to $1,861 a month, according to the Toronto Real Estate Board.

Meanwhile, the vacancy rate in Toronto on bachelor apartments dropped to 1.4 per cent in 2016 from 1.9 per cent in 2015, and on one-bedroom apartments to 1.3 per cent from 1.7 per cent.

In Ontario, landlords are legally allowed to evict tenants if they want the apartment for their personal use. A recent analysis conducted by The Globe and Mail found that the number of applications for these kind of evictions has shot up 23 per cent since 2013, with advocates saying at least some landlords are doing it to hike rents.

When her landlord served her notice in July that she wanted to move into her condo in Toronto's Queen West neighbourhood, Ms. Yeo thought she was prepared for what lay ahead. "I was open to [the Roncesvalles area], Little Italy and even the East End, but I was having zero luck," she says.

"I once hiked all the way to High Park for a place that was taken by the time I got there," Ms. Yeo says. "It had no storage locker, no parking, hydro not included and it was $1,950 per month. At that viewing, I actually started to cry."

"The rental market has gone bonkers in the past three-and-a-half years."

Story continues below advertisement

Ms. Yeo finally found a place and is set to move in October, but will be paying more than for her previous condos – and she had to forgo a parking spot and locker.

Katrina Persad, an off-campus-housing facilitator at Ryerson University in Toronto, says she has heard of landlords who offer their rental apartments in the same way they would sell a home in Toronto's overheated property market – by soliciting multiple bids. She says some of her clients have been "outbid multiple times."

Many of her students are shocked by the rental environment – particularly if they are from overseas.

"A lot of our students are overwhelmed by Toronto's housing market," she says. "It comes as an unpleasant shock when they find out that the average cost of a one-bedroom is $1,800 a month."

International students face additional hurdles. "You need a guarantor – someone to co-sign the lease," Ms. Persad says. Many landlords do not want to wait while prospective tenants go through this additional step – and they don't have to when they have a line-up at their door. Plus, the guarantor must have a Canadian credit history, which can be tough for a newcomer with few connections.

Jen Radley, manager of housing services at the University of Toronto, says a lack of income history can also be a problem. "We are seeing many landlords requesting a credit report and/or guarantor for students who do not have a regular salary or past renting experience."

Story continues below advertisement

Alex Lawson, 25, is well acquainted with landlords dictating the terms. She braved crowded showings for four months this year.

"Every place that we went to there were tons of people. You're always nervous," says Ms. Lawson, who works in sales in downtown Toronto. "And things are crazy expensive."

After countless hours online, phone calls to landlords who often cited different prices than the ones advertised, Ms. Lawson and her boyfriend secured a place.

"We recently found a one-bedroom, she says. "The rent is $1,500." The apartment is farther afield than the couple wanted. It's a 15-minute bus ride from the subway and northeast of downtown.

Since then, Ms. Lawson has noticed the rent has gone up to $1,800 a month for a similar unit in her building.

Breaking the rules

Story continues below advertisement

Ms. Persad says that in a market that does not favour tenants, she has had to remind some landlords of the law. One refused to give rent receipts – which is legally required. Some charge fees to hold an apartment before the rental period starts.

In this environment, many apartment hunters are getting more creative or making compromises. Some are looking beyond Toronto's core – or opting for communal living, Ms. Persad says.

She counsels would-be renters to have paperwork – such as cheques or money orders, job information and deposits – with them when they go to see a place and have references listed.

Ms. Persad also advises renters to think about ways they can add value for the landlord. For example, when competition for a property is high, she suggests they propose to mow the lawn once a month for a reduction in rent.

But she cautions that inspecting the units before signing anything is crucial, as is familiarity with the Residential Tenancies Act, which outlines landlord and tenant rights and responsibilities.

Regardless, Ms. Yeo feels it is "buyer beware" in Toronto's market. And she worries about the future. "I don't think it's too much to ask that I be able to [find an affordable place] in the city in which I live."

Story continues below advertisement

Are you a Canadian family that has made a financial decision to remain lifelong renters? If you would like to share your story, please send us an email.

Personal finance editor Roma Luciw tells you what you should be doing with your money if you're never going to be a homeowner.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies