Back to School Shopping (The Smart Way)

If you flip through flyers or watch commercials on TV during the few weeks leading up to September, you’d likely think that some major holiday was on its way. Print ads double in size, your weekly local newspaper is suddenly jammed full with 15 page flyers and massive packs of coupons, and there’s an onslaught of commercials all with a festive vibe to them- parents dancing around with joy as they celebrate their freedom, or kids running up and down aisles in a frenzy, grabbing school supplies in every colour while some upbeat tune plays in the back.

As parents or students (of any age) shopping for back to school supplies, it’s easy to get caught up and think that we need ditch everything from last year and start off the year with all new everything- but by October when the glitz of a new school year is gone, you’re going to look at that credit card bill and wonder if you really needed 7 pairs of new jeans (one for everyday of the week), or that state of the art scientific calculator that cost more than you’d like to admit to anyone.

Here are a 3 of the most common back to school purchases (for all different age groups) that actually make more sense purchasing gently used (or in some cases, not at all.)

Back to School Shopping with Kijiji

Technology

We get it. Times are changing and kids feel the need to get hooked up to the virtual world at a much earlier age than before, but that’s not a reason to go ahead and dish out a few hundred dollars for a new cellphone, or spend over a grand on a new laptop. At that age, they simply need something functional and sturdy, (emphasis on sturdy), so why not buy second-hand for that first big-ticket piece of technology? There are so many different types of electronics put up on Kijiji everyday, and usually they are still in amazing condition- the seller just wants to upgrade or maybe the device did not suit the seller’s particular needs. Take it from us- your 9 year old or your 15 year old isn’t going to ultimately care if that iPad you got them came from someone else as long as they can install Candy Crush on it ASAP. And if you’re a student at the university or college level looking to purchase a new gadget for your studies, look into buying second-hand as well. Everything about post-secondary education is expensive enough. Find ways to cut unnecessary costs and you’ll thank yourself later when those savings translate to much lower debt levels.

Clothes

It’s not that college or university students don’t need clothes, or parents shouldn’t buy any new clothes for their kids. It’s just that the myth we’re sold is that students have grown and changed so much over the year that they now need an entirely new wardrobe to suit their new identities. Everything must be replaced! A smarter way of buying back to school clothes is to do an inventory of what fits and doesn’t fit. Whatever clothing has been outgrown, donate or sell! Then, once you’ve figured out what exactly they is needed and how many, go out and only buy those pieces. You’re going to end up with much less clothing only being worn once or in some cases, not at all, because you forgot it was purchased and it ends up hiding in the corner of the closet with the price tags still on.

Books

This applies to reading and reference books for elementary to high school students as well as university and college textbooks. Novels and textbooks are often items you can and should purchase used. For the elementary and high school set, if the goal is just to provide them with a hefty stack of books to read at home to boost their reading comprehension, then consider scouring garage sales for collections of paperbacks. They go as low as fifty cents a book and chances are, they’ll be read once and then tossed away. For the university and college group, your textbooks are so expensive and you’ll go through so many of them that it just doesn’t make sense to buy a brand new one unless you can’t find a functional used copy. Most college and university campuses have their own used textbook stores or websites, but if you can buy direct from another student from a site like Kijiji, you will likely save yourself some cash (and help out another student). Be sure to ask the seller about the condition of the book and ask for close-up pictures of the covers and a few select pages. Also, don’t forget to ask the seller how much the book has been written in or highlighted. Depending on your preferences (and the highlighting skills of the prior owner), highlighted text books can make skimming much faster and more efficient, or, they could be a distraction and take away from the value of the book.

Categories:Back to School, Students

The rights and responsibilities of a landlord in Ontario

Being a landlord can be an attractive investment, but it can also be a lot of work. With the role comes a lot of responsibilities and potential risks, which can vary from province to province across Canada. It’s important to do your research and know your rights before delving into the venture. In Ontario, landlords should be knowledgeable with the Residential Tenancies Act, which outlines lease agreements, landlords and tenants responsibilities, and other rights, rules and responsibilities relating to rental properties. Some of the responsibilities include providing a rental unit that complies with health, safety, housing and maintenance standards as well as keeping the home in good repair and providing access to vital services like hot and cold water, electricity, heat and fuel (e.g. natural gas). Taking ownership and pride in your investment will only help you reap the rewards and attract the right tenants. You must also provide your tenant with an information package outlining the basic rights and responsibilities.

Before becoming a landlord, you should also check to make sure your unit is legal. Some municipalities don’t issue permits for secondary suites like, for instance, basement apartments. If you build one anyhow and it is discovered, you could be forced to pay fines and take down the rental property. If you want to rent out a space that doesn’t meet the legal requirements, you will not have the same protections that a legally rented suite will have. If you want to rent out a space that does not meet safety code restrictions, do your renovations before renting to save yourself the potential liability nightmare.

Rights-Resp-Landlord

Finding the right tenant

It’s no secret every landlord wants someone who will pay the rent on time and respect the rental property and a good way to achieve this is to create a screening process that will allow you to weed out the bad apples that may have a history of not paying the bills. A rental application is often used to ensure the same information is collected from all prospective tenants. It allows landlords to make direct comparisons between applications and also verify the information that was given to them.

Landlords have the right to use income information, credit checks, credit references, rental history, employment history, personal references and other similar business practices to help them make their decision on which tenant would be best suited for the rental property. They cannot however, select or refuse tenants based on race, place of origin, ethnic origin, religion, sex, age, sexual orientation, marital status, family status (e.g. children) or disability. Familiarizing yourself with the Ontario Human Rights Code to learn about your own rights and that of a prospective tenant when it comes to choosing the right person to rent to will go a long way in helping you become a successful landlord.

Sealing the deal

Although landlords and tenants don’t necessarily need to have a written tenancy agreement or lease (a verbal agreement could be made), it’s in the best interest of both the landlord and tenant if there is one because it will act as a record should there be any kind of dispute later on that needs to be settled. You can also collect a rent deposit that is no more than one month’s rent. It must be requested on or before the day the tenant moves in and is solely used for last month’s rent before the lease ends.

Landlords also have the right to collect rent in full on the day it is due and increase the rent once during a 12-month period. If you need to complete maintenance or repairs or show the unit to a potential tenant you must let your tenant know 24 hours before you enter and send a note as to why you want to enter. It must also be between the hours of 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. If there is an emergency however, you can enter the unit without necessarily needing permission (but it’s always a good idea to let the tenant know as soon as possible for good relations).

Other rights

One of the most difficult parts about being a landlord is exercising your right to evict a tenant. It’s never easy, but it’s sometimes necessary, especially if you have a tenant who isn’t paying their bills or has damaged your property. In most situations you have to issue a termination notice before taking other measures to get the tenant out of your rental suite. If you want to rent your unit to another person (or even a relative) or have decided to use the unit yourself, you need to give the tenant a notice of termination outlining the reason why. If you have a problem tenant however, the process can take a little longer. The termination notice you issue must state the number of days the tenant has to correct the perceived problem. You must then wait the set number of days to see if the issue has been resolved. If it hasn’t you can file an application with the Landlord and Tenant Board, which is responsible for settling landlord and tenant problems. A hearing will be held for the application where a member of the Board will make a decision based on the evidence presented by the landlord and tenant. Landlords and tenants also have the option of having a mediator from the Board step in to help them reach their own agreement.

If a tenant refused to move out even with an eviction order issued, you can contact the Court Enforcement Office to carry out the eviction.

Things to consider
As a tenant, it might seem like landlords have an easy job, but there is a lot more to being a good landlord than collecting cheques every month. Not every property owner makes money on their rental apartments. Even with a good location and properly vetted tenants, many landlords have gaps between tenants, which makes making money difficult. If you are thinking of buying an investment property, make sure you can afford to carry it even if you aren’t able to keep the unit full at all times. Remember, appliances, decks, and roofs need servicing and replacing every so often. If you aren’t able to make fixes on the fly, consider hiring a property manager or keeping a trusted handy man (or woman) on speed dial. Issues with maintenance and long lags between a complaint and a fix can easily drive away the tenants you took so long to vet.

Sources and more information:
Landlord and Tenant Board
Human Rights Code
Landlord’s Self-Help Centre

Categories:Kijiji Real Estate

Back to School Scams to Watch Out For

With the beginning of the school year right around the corner, students are facing many transitions. Many will be looking for a part time job that will be flexible enough to hold through the rigors of exam writing, and many post-secondary students are seeking affordable housing close to campus. The urgency of the situation can make you an easy target for those looking to victimize. Here are some tips from our resident fraud experts on how to avoid falling for fraud when you are heading back to school.

Avoiding back to school scams

Securing a Back to School Job
For most students in college or university (or who aspire to go), securing an income source is a big part of what will enable the budget to balance. Finding a job close to campus with flexible hours is a popular way to add some cash flow during the year. Working in retail, finding work in hospitality, babysitting on the side, or cleaning houses for money are all options that can supplement incomes part time that work with student schedules. Here is how to stay safe while looking for work:

Guard your personal information until you know who you are dealing with. Sending a resume to a legitimate company is no problem, but avoid sending out a resume with all your contact details and address to every ad you see. When dealing with anonymous ads, have a version of your resume that doesn’t give too much about yourself away. Wait until you get a reply from someone with a company name (if applicable) before sharing your contact details. Never share your social insurance number online.

Know the average wages for the field. Job scams generally will advertise a wage that is much higher than average for positions that don’t require much (if at all) in the way of specialized skills or training. Drivers, assistants, data entry, and secret shoppers are especially popular targets for fraud. Frequently, scam artists will post ads for positions at much higher pay than average, and will be in a rush to hire without an interview.

Never pay for a job. If the “job” involves start up costs, refunding “over paid” cheques, wiring money, or anything else that involves you sending or spending money, stay away! A real job will pay you, and won’t make you foot the bill for your own training or pay up front for a uniform or kit.

Check out more job ad red flags, or learn how students can improve their resume for more information on getting a part time position.

Finding Student Accommodations
With over 2 million unique monthly visitors, the Real Estate category on Kijiji has become an immensely popular destination for those seeking short-term or long-term rentals. It can be very difficult to secure accommodations in a new city, but don’t let panic get the best of you and allow yourself to be victimized by a fraudulent landlord. Here are some tips to ensure that moving day doesn’t end in tears:

Only deal with local landlords. The majority of scam artists operate out of foreign countries. The poster behind the ad might say they’re out of the country indefinitely, or that they won’t return until after you would need to agree to the rental (and pay up).

Never wire funds. As a prospective tenant, you should never be expected to send money in advance without having met the landlord or seen the rental unit. It’s crucial to physically visit any place you’re considering renting, rather than relying on scanned photos or website links – even if the apartment is real, there can be major shortcomings that are not clear without checking out the space.

Be skeptical of especially low rental prices. Check rental rates in the same area. Often, fraudsters will try to entice their victims with low prices. If the apartment you are looking at seems to have no flaws but is considerably under the median asking price for apartments of a similar size nearby, be on the alert, as it could be fraud.

Never share personal financial information. Some may be tricked by deceptive offers into sharing social insurance information, credit card and bank account numbers. Personal information can then be used by scam artists to open new bank or credit card accounts in your name. Legitimate landlords don’t need any of this information to do a credit check.

Trust your instincts. If a situation makes you feel uncomfortable or strange, the circumstances are more than likely too good to be true. Go with your gut and steer clear.

Check out more tips on identifying real estate rental fraud, how to land an apartment when vacancies are low, and how to budget for your first apartment for more information on student housing.

Guide to Buying Car Seats for Your Baby

For parents to be, one of the most stressful parts of your new life happens before your baby even arrives. The amount of research you need to do, as well as the money and time that goes into figuring out the hundreds of things you’re going to need to prepare for your new little bundle of joy is enough to overwhelm anyone.

As we’ve all been told, babies go through things quickly and they grow out of them even quicker. For this reason, a lot of new parents opt towards purchasing some gently used items for their baby, especially the bigger-ticket, more expensive things your baby needs. Of the many baby essentials you’ll have to have, one of the more complicated items is the baby seat. Seems simple enough- get a car seat, put it in the back, stick the baby in until it’s old enough to wear a seatbelt – not too difficult, right?

What some new parents may not know is that not all car seats were created equal. If you’re thinking about purchasing a used car seat, you have to be up to date on the new requirements that were put in place as of January, 2012. It is illegal to buy, sell, trade, or give away a car or booster seat that does not comply with the new regulations. Anyone who does could be held liable in civil court. Kijiji does not allow ads for car seats manufactured prior to January 1, 2012 as many of them do not comply with the new regulations.

Buying a Safe Car Seat

From the Ministry of Transportation website:
The major changes incorporated in the new Canadian regulations include:
• a lap/shoulder seat belt testing requirement for all types of car seats;
• changes to child seats’ dynamic testing to adopt most of the U.S. testing parameters;
• changing the definition of an infant from up to 9 kg, to up to 10 kg;
• increase in the maximum allowable weight limit of child seats from 22 kg to 30 kg;
• introduction of dynamic testing requirements for booster seats;
• extending the limitation on rebound to all rear facing child seats; and
• the allowance of harnesses to be certified for usage on school buses for special needs children.
New car seats you’re purchasing from a store now should all be in compliance, but don’t assume anything- always look for the National Safety Mark for assurance that you’ve indeed purchased a valid, safe car seat.

This goes for buying a used car seat as well – if the car seat was manufactured after January 2012, look for the National Safety Mark. It may sound scary and it may seem better to buy new from a store, but for some parents to be, money can be tight and these new laws shouldn’t intimidate you away from buying baby items off classifieds. When you’re going through the ads, make sure the seller has included the following information:

• the date which the product was manufactured
• the serial number and model number of the car seat
• a picture of the NSM/information label of the car seat

If you have any doubts still, you can always reach out directly to the manufacturer to ask questions before you make your purchase.
At the end of the day, these new rules and regulations are put in place to keep your new baby safe and to give you a little peace of mind too. New parents have enough things to worry about, the safety of your child in your vehicle shouldn’t be one of them.

Avoiding Contractor, Moving, and Other Service Scams

Whether you find a service off Kijiji or elsewhere, it is important to vet the quality of the work they do before you hire them. The costs of being defrauded by a fraudulent contractor or moving company can get quite high. Here are a few tips to ensure you are getting what you paid for.

Finding the right person: Avoiding moving and contractor scams

Search the company or individual’s name and see what comes up. Read review from other customers and request a list of references they have worked for before. Past customers are the best source of information on the quality of work.

Ask for recommendations. If a friend, colleague, or family member has recently had a good experience with a company, that is worth much more than a review from a stranger online.

Get multiple estimates. If one is far lower than the rest, that is a big red flag. Remember, if it seems to be too good to be true, it probably is!

When hiring a moving company, make sure you get a full written contract that includes the estimate, exactly what work you need to have done, and specifies that the price cannot be more than 10% more than the original quote. Also discuss insurance; even good movers may damage something. What sets the good ones apart is taking responsibility for damages incurred and having or helping you set up the appropriate insurance.

Be wary of up front deposits. Some services require deposits (for instance, renovation services that have to buy raw materials), but never give one without first drawing up a contract and checking their references. If possible, front any initial costs for materials yourself so you don’t have to give out a deposit. A post-dated cheque or a PayPal payment are good alternatives to cash as you have recourse if the services paid for do not materialize.

Specifically ask about other costs not mentioned in the quote, and read the fine print on a contract.

Stay away from companies with out any history. Non reputable companies will frequently change their name to avoid the bad reputation they have gained from past work. If you can’t find any information about the past jobs of the company, keep looking for a company that has a reputation they are invested in protecting. Look for markers of an established business – for instance, printed business cards, a website, an address listed. If looking for a moving service, the presence vans advertising the company name and contact information are also a good sign, as it shows that the owners have invested in their name and are thus more likely to want to protect their reputation.

Be skeptical; if it seems too good to be true, chances are, it is. Want to learn more about moving scams? The Financial Services Commission of Ontario is running a chat on how to identify and avoid moving scams today, Thursday August 14th at 1 PM EST. Follow the hashtag #FraudChat on Twitter and the FSCO Twitter account