It’s nearing the end of the school year and you might be looking ahead to the next year.
If you’ll be staying in Peterborough, where will you live? Who will you live with? You might find yourself dreaming of big windows, kind roommates who do their dishes, on-site laundry, living in a neighbourhood where you feel safe walking at night and not having to take the bus to do groceries.
We all need dreams, and dreaming up a new home can be exciting! But it can also be daunting. It’s a big world out there, with some awful landlords, sketchy neighbourhoods, poorly maintained places and roommates who may mean well but may not mesh with your particular way of living.
But fear not, friends. With the right skills and knowledge you will be well on your way to finding a nice place to live and protecting your rights as a tenant.
Having a good dynamic with your roommates is key to having a comfortable living situation.
There are both benefits and downfalls of living with friends, acquaintances and strangers. You really don’t know how it will be living with someone until you are actually living with them and you can see clearly the way your living styles fit together.
Still, there are some things to consider that might give you insight.
Living with close friends can sometimes put a strain on your relationships with them, because you are no longer relating to them solely as a friend, but as a roommate and there are sources of conflict particular to living with people.
It can be really nice to have your close friends’ houses as places to visit outside of your home and to keep those relationships somewhat separate from your everyday life, and it can also be nice to have roommates that are not a part of other parts of your life.
Your roommates may move in the same circles as you, or not, but you can have surprisingly good experiences living with roommates you didn’t know very well going into your housing situation, or who you don’t see outside of your home often.
Peterborough is a small place and having your home life somewhat separate from the rest of it can be comforting.
“Don’t be afraid of randoms! [I] lived with new randoms every year of my university experience and I’m really glad I did,” Joel Vaughn, a Trent alumnus, said of his housing while at Trent
At the same time, it can be really nice to live with your close friends, and works out quite well for some people.
There are obvious risks to living with people you don’t know, and at least with friends you have some ideas of their quirks, personalities and beliefs.
“Take lots of time meeting the roommates. Make sure your general views and politics somewhat match. If you’re queer, make sure it’s queer-friendly. I was naive thinking that all student tenants were queer friendly. Hah!” cautioned Lynea Aboumrad, a current Trent student.
You might also want to think of logistical concerns with the people you live with, such as the level of tidiness and quiet you need, whether you like sharing groceries and/or cooking together, what your sleep schedules are like, how you prefer to communicate with roommates, how frequently you’re comfortable with having people over and how you like to distribute housework.
Another big determinant of whether you will have a positive housing experience is the condition of the place and your landlord.
The space you rent might be beautiful, but not having repairs done promptly or properly, or having other difficulties with your landlord can add a lot of unnecessary stress to your life.
Tenants can experience many forms of harassment from their landlords, such as cutting off important services, coming to your door at unreasonable times, entering your home without 24 hours notice and sexual harassment and threats.
All of these things are illegal and you can make a complaint to the Investigation and Enforcement Unit or apply to the Landlord and Tenant Board.
If you are having any of these types of issues in your current living situation, you can contact the Peterborough Student Co-op or the Community Legal Centre. Ideally though, you won’t have to do any of things and you will have a good experience with your landlord.
Always go to viewings with at least one other person, and ideally with someone who has some experience looking for places to live.
A representative from the Peterborough Student Co-op is willing to accompany students or community members on viewings. It is always helpful to have an extra perspective.
When you meet the landlord, listen to your gut. If you get a bad feeling or something feels off, that’s an important thing to pay attention to!
Think about what you want in your space. Is it important to you to have a large kitchen? Is the ratio of private to common space suitable to your needs? Do you need to have on-site laundry? Are you ok with living in a smaller space?
Think about how you want to feel in your living space, and when looking at listings ask yourself how you think that particular space would feel.
Location is also an important element, and you might want to consider proximity to groceries, to downtown and to campus. Are you comfortable living right downtown? How important is it to you to have green space nearby where you live? All of these things can come into play when thinking about location.
Also think about what you can afford for rent, and if it is not inclusive of utilities or Internet, find out how much these typically cost.
In the end, you probably won’t be able to find a place that fits every one of your parameters, but if you know which ones are most important to you, you can make your decision based on those factors.
While all this advice is good as a guideline, don’t worry too much about finding the perfect combination of all of these factors. Every housing situation is a learning experience about what you need in roommates, your landlord and your space.
Good luck, brave home-searchers!
If you have any housing-related questions, or need help in your housing search, feel free to contact the Peterborough Student Co-op at [email protected] or come to our office hours which are posted on our website, ptbocoop.org. Also, check out our Zine Making Night this week, listed at the back of this paper!