How to rent your first apartment in Canada

Julia Hornstein
Published: June 11, 2023

Many newcomers to Canada choose to rent accommodations versus buying property upon their arrival. Finding a new home can be stressful, so this article will provide the basics for you to understand the process of renting in Canada.

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How to find your rental

You can search for rentals on your own through various online and in person methods. Sites like Condos.ca, Padmapper and Zumper will show you the available accommodations available in different neighbourhoods and at what price. You can also hire a realtor or real estate agent that will support you in finding a place.

One of the easiest ways to find rental housing is to visit the area you would like to live and look for “For Rent” signs on houses or buildings. You can then call the phone number provided or ask the building manager about the rental options.

It is important to consider where you want to live. Some factors worth considering in this process are the average costs of rentals in a particular area, public transportation options, commute times, proximity to schools, your work, grocery stores, etc., parking and crime rates.

Organize essential documents

To be able to rent a place in Canada, you will have to provide certain documents to prove you can afford rent and will pay on time. Landlords may ask for:

  • An employment letter with your salary details
  • A credit report
  • References (i.e. from previous landlords)
  • Bank statements
  • Photocopies of IDs

It may be difficult to meet these requirements after just moving to Canada. However, there are a few options or tips to help you find a rental unit without credit history or a job letter.

Tips for finding a rental

If you have yet to find a job, showing sufficient funds that will cover more than a few months of rent will likely help your case. This will demonstrate your reliability as a tenant. You can speak with your bank who may be able to provide a letter indicating that you have the required funds to pay rent.

Another option is to find a guarantor or co-signer. A guarantor or co-signer is someone who agrees to pay rent on your behalf if you are unable to. Being a guarantor or co-signer is legally binding, and they are usually family or close friends.

Each province has legal guidelines about rent deposits that a tenant is required to pay before moving in. For example, in Ontario, renters are required to pay first and last month's rent. If you are missing important documents like an employment letter, you can offer a few more months of rent upfront, which can incentivize a landlord to accept your rental application over another person. However, landlord’s are not allowed to ask for this kind of money up front and it is entirely up to you to offer it if you are comfortable with it.

It is important to note that landlords are not allowed to ask you for your Social Insurance Number (SIN). In addition, they cannot inquire about your ethic background, religion, marital status, or sexual preferences.

You can also look for individually owned or basement apartment rentals. Apartments that are owned by an individual landlord versus a property management company may have a much simpler application process. For apartments located in large rental buildings, the process can be very strict in terms of credit and employment verification. Individual landlords may be more flexible when it comes to your situation.

Signing the lease agreement

The lease is the legal document that describes the terms that you and your landlord have agreed to. It will likely indicate:

  • The amount of rent you are required to pay each month
  • How you are to pay rent each month (i.e. by cheque, direct deposit)
  • The dates of your lease
  • Rules about the rental (i.e. smoking, pets)
  • The conditions for ending or cancelling your lease
  • The conditions about subleasing
  • What repairs are your responsibility
  • What happens at the end of your lease
  • Since a lease is a legally binding document, you should make sure you understand it in its entirety before signing.

Once you have signed the lease, you may need to transfer utilities like hydro to your name from the past tenants or from the landlord. Finally, upon receiving the keys, you can move in to your new home.

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