Renting a Home as a Newcomer

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Swapna Katram moved to Canada in 2019. After staying at a friend’s house in the initial months, Swapna booked a large room with a private bathroom that has a jacuzzi, as shown in the advert on Airbnb. “I had messaged the host and asked to see the room in person. Strangely, the host claimed that no tenant had ever made such a request and denied it. On the day of my check-in, I was shocked. It was nothing like the room that was posted in the ad. It was just one fourth of the room as compared to the ad picture”, lamented Swapna. Swapna confronted the owner who was rude to her. She felt cheated for renting the room for a hefty price of $1,800 per month. “When I rechecked the ad, the pictures in the ad had changed”, she added.

Swapna’s problem didn’t end here. She discovered that there were cameras in the living room and kitchen. “I double-checked my room and bathroom to ensure that there were no cameras” she added.

Swapna advises newcomers to “know their landlords, go see the property and be aware of the rules and regulations of their provincial tenant board.” She also encourages newcomers to contact the rental authority in their province or territory if they have a problem with their landlord.

Before worrying about finding a job in Canada, it is important to have a roof over your head once you land. While you may be able to switch jobs, that’s not the case with a house, as Swapna’s experience shows. Take the time to find the right home before landing or post-landing.

Rental application form pictured by Raw Pixel

Tips to find a rental home

Use your network

Find and join social media rental groups in your city. You will find several location-specific groups on social media. Joining these groups can make your life easier by easily connecting you to homeowners and property managers in your city.

Ask your friends to help you find a home by asking around and recommending you to a landlord or recommending a landlord to you. This will help with your rental references as well, if the landlord already knows and trusts the person recommending you.

Rental Websites

With the influx of immigrants, the demand for rental properties has grown in the last few years. Several websites make it easy to find a rental home in various locations.

There is Kijiji, Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, Rentals.ca, Condos.ca, and others. These websites not only help you to rent but also to list your home for rental or sublease. So, it’s a win-win situation.

If you are looking for tons of options, with these websites you can adjust your search according to your budget, location and amenities. It will filter out and offer the best options to you. If you are looking for short-term rentals, go for Airbnb or book a hotel room after reading the reviews.

Hiring a real estate agent

If your budget allows and wants to focus on other areas of settlement rather than a house-hunting, you may want to hire a real estate agent to help you find rental l accommodation. The realtor would know about listings in the area, look for places that best suits your needs and deal directly with the landlord. However, the real estate agents will expect commission in return from the landlord, which will add up to your rent.

Factors to consider before deciding on your rental home

Budget

The quality of the rental home you get is largely dependent on your budget. Decide how much you can afford to spend on housing and narrow your search based on that. Keep in mind that you may need to adjust your budget or your requirements if you do not find a suitable house that fits the bill.

Research the neighbourhood

Before finalizing your rental agreements, make sure your rental home is close to the amenities that are important to you. It is of utmost importance to find the crime rate in that neighbourhood. A Google search, the city’s crime index or asking around will definitely help. You can also find the time to visit the neighbourhood at different time of the day.

Inspection

Do not decide based on photos shared in with you or video call, as these can be deceptive and not representative of the property. It is recommended you inspect the house in person or ask someone who knows what you want to help you inspect the place before making a decision. Remember to check for bed bugs, as this can be a big issue in Canada!

House rules

House rules change with each landlord. Confirm all the house rules and get them written in the lease agreement to avoid future inconveniences and inconsistencies. Confirm with the landlord if the place is guest friendly and pet friendly, if parties or smoking is allowed or not etc. Also confirm if your rent includes utilities and get a sense of the average cost of utilities to avoid surprises.

Documentation

You will need to keep certain documents ready before renting. The landlord or property manager may ask for an employment letter with your salary details or pay stubs, credit report, bank statements and references from your employer or previous landlords. If you’re a newcomer without these documents, explain to your landlord and offer your bank statement in addition with your references as proof that you can afford the rent.

Understand your lease

Read the fine prints of your lease before signing it to fully understand the terms. How long is the lease for? What happens if you need to vacate the house before the end of your lease? Who repairs damages? What happens if you’re unable to pay rent for a while? What’s the procedure for laying complains about the house, other tenants or the landlord? What are your rights? What are your responsibilities? These are some questions you need to ask your landlord and ensure are included in the lease. Ask your friends to help you check the lease agreement and ensure that it follows the provincial tenancy law. Clarify all the rules and instructions before signing the lease.

Rental insurance

Consider getting rental insurance even if your landlord does not make it mandatory. This covers losses to personal property that may be due to fire, natural calamity, theft, vandalism, and even flooring damage caused by plumbing issues. It also covers your additional living g expenses; in case you are forced to leave your rental unit while it is under repair. Rental insurance is quite affordable and ranges between $10 to $25 per month, depending on your location and the coverage you require.

Did you know?

The federal government has a dedicated information page on renting a home in Canada that contains everything you need to know as an immigrant.

Harita Dave
Harita Dave

A newbie in Canada, who couldn’t forgo the love for writing even in a new country. A journalist at heart, who has ventured into the world of finance. I don’t wish to be #justanotherimmigrant in Canada. An ardent animal lover who would choose dogs over men any day!

Have a story for Harita, email her at harita@immigrantmuse.ca

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