What words do I need to know about renting a home?

Here are some of the words and phrases that you might hear when you start looking for a place to rent:


Unpaid rent that a tenant owes to the landlord.

Bachelor / Studio Apartment

A small apartment with only 1 room used as both bedroom and living space.

Credit Check

Many landlords make an application to a credit bureau to check a potential tenant's record of paying bills. Usually, landlords believe that a good credit rating means that a tenant will pay the rent on time.


A small room, in addition to the bedroom and living room. Often used as a home office or TV room.

Detached House

A single house that is owned by 1 or more persons. Owners may rent 1 or more rooms or the whole house.


To force a tenant to move out of a rental home.

Guarantor / Co-Signer

Someone who signs a lease along with the tenant and agrees to be responsible for paying rent if the tenant does not pay it.

Housing Help Agency / Centre

A non-profit organization that helps people, including new immigrants, find housing. In Ontario, most major cities have a housing help agency, and its services are usually free.


A person or company who owns apartments or houses and rents them to people to live in. A landlord can also be called a lessor.


A legal contract between a landlord and tenant. A rental contract can also be called a tenancy agreementor a rental agreement. It can be a spoken (verbal) agreement or a written agreement.

Legal Aid Clinic / Community Legal Clinic

An agency that provides free legal advice to people with low income. Most cities have at least one legal aid clinic.


A tenancy where the tenant rents one month at a time.


A small, somewhat distinct area that is part of a larger city or town.


Someone who can tell a landlord about a potential tenant's employment, character or ability to pay rent. A reference is not responsible for paying the rent if the tenant does not.


The payment a tenant makes to the landlord, usually each month, for the right to live in that apartment or house.

Rent Deposit

Money paid to a landlord before the start of a tenancy as a deposit to cover any future arrears. The amount of the deposit cannot be greater than one month's rent (or one week's rent, if you are renting weekly).

Semi-Detached House

A single house that is joined to another house with a common wall.

Social Housing

Government-subsidized, non-profit housing that is managed either by municipalities or community/religious groups. This is sometimes also called subsidized housing. Some non-profit housing organizations are also co-operatives. Co-operatives are managed by their residents.

Tenancy Period

The period of renting a house or apartment. It is usually specified in a rental contract, lease or tenancy agreement. Most tenancies last for one year at first, although month-to-month tenancies are also common.


A person who lives in a rental apartment or house. A tenant can also be called a lessee.

Townhouse / Row House

A small house that is joined to a row of other small houses.

Vacancy Rate

The percentage of rental apartments that are available in a community.

Vital Services

Services that are essential. These include heat, hot and cold water, electricity and fuel (such as natural gas).

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Last updated: March 17, 2015 4001278