Settling into a new country brings with it many challenges. While it’s an exciting time, it’s also a stressful one. Obviously, finding safe, appropriate and affordable housing will be one of your top priorities.
Luckily, we live in the information age. Much of what you need to know, can be found with just a bit of online research and a few calls.
While every immigrant’s situation and reason for moving to Canada is unique, I can offer general guidelines and advice on finding and securing housing. If you are from the U.S, the rental system will likely feel very familiar to you, as it shares many similarities.
Finding Housing In Canada
Canada is a huge country, and depending on where you decide to move, there are numerous options for housing. You’ll find every kind of home is available for rental on a long or short-term basis.
Typical types of rental housing include single-family homes, apartments and condominiums and “bachelor” housing, which is a one-room apartment. As a single person, you may also want to consider situations such as living with a roommate or renting a room.
From a budgetary standpoint, you will need to keep in mind that most rental properties in Canada are unfurnished. Landlords are, however, generally responsible for providing basic household appliances such as;
- the hot water system,
There may or may not be a clothing washer and/or dryer provided, either in the home. In an apartment, laundry facilities are sometimes provided in a shared area and may be used for a small fee.
Know The Renting Rules In Canada
It’s important to note that the laws, regulations, types of housing and costs will vary somewhat among the different provinces and territories. While this guide can give you a general idea of the housing hunt and rental process, ultimately you will also want to check out the specifics in your area of the country.
Renting a house as a new immigrant in Canada presents some unique challenges, in that you have not yet established a record of payments and credit there and you may not have established a network of references in the country. That said, it is entirely possible to rent as a new immigrant. Be prepared to reach out to those you know, ask for help or tips if needed and conduct some research into the rental process.
You can look for housing via an agency or on your own, through ads and guidebooks. First off, it’s a good idea to ask around within your own network – friends, caseworkers or other people you know may be able to refer you to a rental. Beyond that, additional resources include:
Immigrant outreach or resource organizations. Canada has numerous organizations that are dedicated to helping Canada’s newest residents. The Resettlement Assistance Program includes a consortium of service provider organizations who can assist with a variety of needs, including housing location and financial and practical assistance in finding housing in this link.
Visit Areas And Neighborhoods To Check For “For Rent” Signs.
Conduct internet searches for rental properties. Paying a real estate rental agency to help you locate housing. A quick google search for immigrant or foreigner-friendly real estate in your province will turn up a wealth of results.
Prices for housing vary greatly, depending on the type and size of housing and geographic location. It’s wise to check out the general cost of living in areas you are considering. Information on average rental prices in different areas of the country can be found at Canadian rent report JustLanded’s Canada page is another wonderful resource for all phases of finding and renting housing.
The Rental Process
When you have located properties you would like to see, you can contact the landlord or rental agency and schedule a time to tour the house. Many people find it helpful to bring along a list of questions specific to their situation. You may also wish to take pictures, as properties tend to blur together once you have visited a few in a row.
It can be hard to remember details later. This is the time to check out the size and condition of the home, the layout, storage, and all the details. But don’t forget to ask questions related to your specific circumstances. For example pet policies, handicapped accessibility, child-safe features, stairs or elevators, and storage.
The landlord should explain to you exactly what is included with the rent. In general, most landlords in Canada will request a deposit that is equal to at least half a month’s rent.
How can I Get My Money Deposit Back?
You will not get this deposit back until you move out and your landlord determines that there are no damages to the property that need to be paid for. Be sure that you enquire about the price of the deposit, as well as any other fees, such as parking, utilities, and trash services.
When you find a house that you are interested in, you will fill out a rental application. While everyone is a little bit different, you can expect to be asked to provide basic information. You will also have to provide proof of your ability to pay the rent for the agreed-upon term.
Landlords may request personal or rental references, identification, proof of income/employer letter or banking funds sufficient to cover rental period, a credit check or bank statements.
If you are new in Canada, obviously you will not have an established Canadian credit score, which puts you in a difficult situation. I recommend you bringing bank statements or something that demonstrates consistent payment histories from your former home if you have access to this information.
Some landlords will only rent to immigrants with the added security of a Canadian citizen guarantor. This person has to be willing to sign on and agree to take over payments if you should break the terms of your rental contract.
If you do not have someone who can serve as a guarantor, you can try to negotiate by offering additional rent paid upfront or shorter-term leases. If you are working with an immigrant outreach organization, they may have other suggestions or be able to help you negotiate favorable terms.
Signing A Contract
Once you have located rental housing, you will sign a rental lease. A lease is a legal contract that binds you to pay a set amount of rent for a specific period of time. Many rental agreements last for 12+ months but, in some cases, landlords may rent for shorter terms. Your rental agreement should spell out every aspect of the responsibilities of both landlord and tenant, including:
- Which party pays for which things. For example: Who pays for all the utilities? The landlord who is renting to you is always responsible for maintaining the housing and for making any repairs.
- What are the rules as to when your landlord can enter your property and under what conditions? There are laws that provide your landlord with the right to enter your rental property (which is actually owned by him or her), although they are generally required to provide notice and to enter only for specific purposes related to maintenance or reasonable entrance to show the rental when you are nearing the end of your rental term.
- Information about your deposit and any other fees, including the amount and the terms for return or what conditions would void your deposit.
It is advisable to consult with a legal professional if you do not understand any part of your contract.
Alternative Living Arrangements
If you are unable to locate a suitable long-term rental, there are numerous short-term options that may work for you as a stopgap measure while you better establish yourself in Canada.
Hostels, room-share/roommate situations, short term and private rentals (those that do not go through a real estate or management company) can all be good options for newcomers.
If funding is a problem, you can also look into Canada’s subsidized housing programs. This will provide financial assistance for housing for those with limited means. Ontario has a particularly immigrant-friendly housing program. Details can be found here in this link.
Emergency housing for individuals and families experiencing a housing crisis is another short-term option and is provided by many public agencies and private charities. You can find an extensive list of emergency and transitional housing resources in Canada at the Homeless Hub.
If you are arriving in Canada as a government-sponsored refugee, a representative from the IRIS, Immigrant Reception and Information Services will meet with you upon landing in the country and can serve as a great source of information and support.
Finding housing is challenging in the best of circumstances. Renting as an immigrant presents unique circumstances that can make it even more difficult. The world is getting smaller every day. We have access to information from around the globe at the touch of a button.
For this reason, it’s easier than ever to immigrate to another country, find housing and be settled. By doing some initial research online. You can narrow down your geographic and housing choices and get into your new home straight away! Happy Travels!