Moving house or apartment is difficult at the best of times without the added complication of being in a new and unfamiliar country. Renting before buying is always recommended as it will allow you to find your feet and to find out what type of property and area suits your lifestyle before making such a substantial financial commitment.
If you are planning to rent a home in Canada, a useful Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) publication to look at is Renting Your First Home in Canada: What Newcomers Need to Know. This product is available in eight different languages. The information below is based on this publication and other CMHC guides for newcomers.
Finding a Property to Rent
Location and cost are often important things to think about when you are looking for a place to live. Neighbourhoods that are close to work, schools, public transit and other services might cost more, but they can also save you time and money in commuting to work or school.
Once you have chosen a neighbourhood where you would like to live, there are many ways you can search for houses or apartments that are available to rent. One option is to visit the neighbourhoods and look for “For Rent” signs on houses or buildings. You can also check the classified ads in newspapers, bulletin boards in shops and community centres, and search the Internet for rental lists or ask your friends. You can also ask for help at an immigrant-serving organization (consult www.cic.gc.ca/english/newcomers/map/services.asp). Finally, you can also pay a rental agency (see the Yellow Pages or search the Internet) to help you find a rental home.
Remember to look at a few different houses or apartments before you decide. That way, you can compare the rent being charged and make sure the place you choose is right for you and your family.
Before you go to look at a place you might want to rent, prepare a checklist of questions to ask the landlord or superintendent (see Box 10.1). Writing down the answers will help you compare all the houses or apartments that you visited and compare the advantages and disadvantages of each one. While you are there, check to make sure everything works as it should.
Tenants and Landlords
Your “landlord” is the person who owns the house or building you live in. For larger buildings, the landlord may hire a “property manager” or “superintendent” to collect rent and manage the building. Landlord and tenant responsibilities can vary in different provinces or territories. CMHC provides fact sheets that describe aspects of the rental process and related laws in each province and territory. The fact sheets also include contact information for provincial and territorial rental authorities and related links. You should read the fact sheet related to the province or territory where you live if you plan to rent a home. You can find the fact sheets at www.cmhc-schl.gc.ca/en/co/reho.
In general, your landlord is responsible for:
• Collecting the rent;
• Keeping your building safe and in good condition;
• Providing everything that comes with the apartment and that is included in your rent (such as the refrigerator, stove, heating); and
• Handling and paying for repairs when something in your home stops working.
As a tenant, you are generally responsible for:
• Paying your rent in full and on time;
• Keeping your home clean and well maintained;
• Contacting the landlord whenever anything needs to be serviced or repaired; and
• Allowing the landlord or manager to enter your home to carry out repairs, or to show the apartment to other tenants if you are moving out. Your landlord must provide you with proper notice before entering your apartment.
If a landlord is not meeting his or her responsibilities, you can contact the rental authority in the province or territory where you live for assistance.
Moving in and Signing a Lease
When you agree to rent a place, you and your landlord should sign a lease. A lease is a written rental agreement that outlines all the terms you and your landlord have agreed to. It is a legal document, so make sure you read and understand every word. You may choose to ask someone to go over it with you, such as a relative, a friend, a staff member at an immigrant-serving organization or even a lawyer.
For more details, read the fact sheet for the province or territory where you live, available at www.cmhc.ca.
Paying the rent
You will usually have to pay rent to your landlord, superintendent or property manager on the first day of every month. In most cases, you can pay your rent in one of three ways:
1. Cash. Make sure you get a receipt for the full amount.
2. Post-dated cheques. These are cheques that have a future date written on them. For example, many landlords will want you to give them 12 cheques, dated for the first day of each month for the next 12 months. Post-dated cheques cannot be cashed until the date that is written on them, and you can cancel cheques that have not been cashed by calling your bank.
3. Certified cheques. These are cheques that have been guaranteed by your bank. Many landlords ask for a certified cheque for your first and last month’s rent.
In some places, your rent may include some or all of your utilities, such as the electricity, heat and water. If they are not included in your rent, you are responsible for paying these utility bills yourself. If you pay for your utilities, always pay your bills by the due date written on your bill or the company will charge you interest. If you miss several payments, the company may cut off your service.
The law regulates how often and by how much your landlord can increase your rent. The law is different in each province and territory. In most areas, your landlord must give you a 90-day notice before increasing your rent. In some parts of Canada, your landlord can increase your rent only on the anniversary of the date you first moved in. Usually, landlords can increase your rent only once each year and can increase it only by a maximum amount set by your provincial or territorial government. If your landlord has not given you proper notice, you may be able to refuse to pay the rent increase until the landlord gives you the proper notice. Different provinces and territories have different rules about rent increases. For more details, read the fact sheet for the province or territory where you live, available at www.cmhc-schl.gc.ca/en/co/reho.
Before moving out of a rental unit, you must give written notice to your landlord that you will be leaving. You must give one, two or three months’ notice depending on the province or territory where you live (check the provincial or territorial fact sheets available at www.cmhcschl.gc.ca/en/co/reho). If you have a lease, the law may not allow you to end the lease early. In these cases, you must come to an arrangement with the landlord or pay an amount determined by law in your province.
Source: Welcome to Canada: What you should know
www.cic.gc.ca, Citizenship and Immigration Canada. Reproduced with the permission of the Minister of Public Works and Government Services Canada, 2013.