Finding accommodation and housing in Canada: A guide for international students

Julia Hornstein
Published: November 7, 2023

The number of internationals students in Canada has increased in recent years and the demand for student housing has never been greater.

Discover your options to study in Canada

In 2022, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) welcomed a record of 551,405 international students from 184 countries. In addition, as of the end of 2022, there were 807,750 international students with valid study permits in Canada, another all-time high number.

Many international students are facing difficulties finding housing due to housing shortages, a lack of knowledge about the area or vulnerability to rental scams. They may be forced to dip into family savings, are facing rejections from landlords and dealing with unanswered rental applications.

This article will provide a guide for international students on the types of student accommodation and housing available and provide guidance on how to find these options.

Types of accommodation in Canada

There are many times of housing options for students looking to study in Canada, which can be categorized as on campus and off campus accommodations.

On campus accommodations

Most educational institutions will provide on-campus student accommodation, which is essentially renting on-campus housing that is owned by the school. Usually, these on-campus housing options are called dormitories or residences.

Campus dormitories and residences have many benefits as they are close to classes so they allow for savings on transportation costs that will otherwise be spent on travelling to and from campus. In addition, it is a way to meet other students and access the student community and network.

Most of the time, on-campus living options are relatively less expensive and come with access to amenities and support services provided by the school.

Most on campus residences and dormitories consist of single rooms with one bed or a double dorm room with two beds. These rooms usually come furnished with a bed frame, mattress, desk, chair, and closet space. Most of the time living facilities like kitchens, washrooms and lounges are shared with other students on your floor or in your building.

Another type of on-campus accommodations is an apartment or suite, which usually offers more independence but have similar social benefits as a dormitory. Students can live with up to five other students in one apartment or suite, which includes a kitchen, washrooms and living rooms.

Similar to dormitories, these apartments or suites can have basic furniture and appliances, basic utilities, like laundry and internet access.

Off-campus student accommodations

Many students choose to live off campus, especially after their first year of school. Depending on the length of your stay, you can rent, sublet or live with a host family.

Students can choose to rent a house, condo or apartment with a number of other students, depending on their budget and desired living arrangements.

Subletting means to take over another student’s lease, usually because they are away from school for some time. Sublets can vary from a couple months to a year. The space often comes furnished and utilities may be included.

International students may also choose to live as part of a homestay, in which the student will live with a host family. This can be a more affordable option as students will pay a fee for meals and a room within that family’s home that is usually much less than renting or subletting an apartment.

How to find accommodation in Canada

As an international student looking for housing, the first place to go is to the housing office of the educational institution you plan to attend. They will provide you with the housing options and services they offer and the cost of these options. They can also help you find the right location for housing and help you understand rental agreements.

The student union and student association on campus is another great source of information that can provide you with an online list of housing near campus. Contacting other students is a great way to learn how they secured their housing and can provide you with useful knowledge about the housing process.

There are many valuable online resources such as:

There are also community platforms directed at students that connect students with local housing:

Housing and accommodation tips

When looking for housing, it is important to keep some things in mind to make sure you are not being scammed and you are avoiding any extra costs. Things to consider include:

  • Canadian provinces have different rules and regulations for tenants, but it is important to make sure you know your rights, duties and responsibilities are
  • Many rentals require the first and last month’s rent before moving in, so you should budget appropriately for this
  • Remember to also budget for utilities, some off-campus rentals do not include them or will only include basic utilities like power and water
  • Know the length and conditions of your rental contract or lease. If you break a lease, you could be charged extra
  • Have someone you trust read your rental contract. If there is anything in it that doesn’t make sense to you, ask about it before you sign
  • Before signing any contract or lease, make sure you or a friend or family member visit the place to ensure it is as advertised
  • In order to avoid falling victims to scams, never transfer money online to a “landlord” without first viewing the property

Discover your options to study in Canada

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