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

Here are some common 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; also called open concept.

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 a bedroom and living space. 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 legally 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 newcomers, find housing. In Ontario, most major cities have a housing help agency, and 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 agreement or 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 or meet certain eligibility criteria. 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 a room, apartment or house.

Rent Deposit

Money paid to a landlord before the start of a tenancy as a deposit to cover any future arrears, but generally the last month's rent. The amount of the deposit cannot be greater than one month's rent (or one week's rent, if you are renting weekly). A damage or security deposit is not legal in Ontario.

Semi-Detached House

A single house that is joined to another house with a common wall; sometimes called a duplex.

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 or people that live in a rental apartment or house and are named on a lease. 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: January 16, 2024 4001278