Renting in Canada: Essential Information for Newcomers
Successfully navigate the rental process in Canada as a newcomer.Discover essential information on finding a rental property, understanding lease agreements, tenants' rights, and obligations, to ensure a smooth transition to your new home.
Table of Contents
- How does the rental market in Canada work?
- What types of rental properties are available in Canada?
- What rights and responsibilities do tenants have in Canada?
- What rights and responsibilities do landlords have in Canada?
- How can I choose the right place to live in Canada?
- What are the best tools for finding a rental property in my desired location?
- Should I consider long or short-term rentals, and what are the pros and cons?
- Should I consider furnished or unfurnished rentals, and what are the pros and cons?
- How can I recognise and avoid rental scams and fraud in Canada?
- What documents and requirements are typically expected for a rental application?
- How can I understand and navigate lease agreements as a newcomer?
- Who is responsible for paying utilities, internet, cable, and telephone services in a rental property?
- How are rent increases regulated in Canada, and what should I be aware of?
- Is rental insurance necessary, and what does it cover?
- What should I know about moving into (and out of) a new property in Canada?
- What are the common methods of paying rent in Canada, and how can I ensure proper documentation and proof of payment?
- What happens if I pay my rent late in Canada?
- Contact CanadaVisa and Cohen Immigration Law for Assistance
This comprehensive guide provides essential information for newcomers looking to rent in Canada. Gain insights into the rental market, various types of properties, and the process of finding and securing a rental home. Learn about rental applications, lease agreements, and tenants' and landlords' rights and responsibilities. This guide also covers rental insurance, moving in and out, associated costs, utilities, and how to avoid rental scams—so you can be better informed when navigating the Canadian rental market.
How does the rental market in Canada work?
Like in many other places in the world, the rental market in Canada operates on a system of landlords and tenants, with regulation coming from the Landlord and Tenant Board of the province in which you reside and interpreted through each province or territory’s Residential Tenancies Act.
As someone who occupies a home that you pay a monthly rent on, you are a tenant in this context (or a prospective tenant to be more exact).
The person who owns the house or building that you live in is called your landlord. In bigger buildings, they may employ a property manager or superintendent to collect rent and maintain the building.
Every province or territory has different laws regarding renting, responsibilities of the landlord and tenant, and more. The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) has Provincial and Territorial Fact Sheets that explain the laws in each province or territory, how to rent, and contact information for local rental authorities. In general, the landlord collects rent and keeps the building safe and in good condition. They must provide everything that is included in the rent, like a stove, heating, and refrigerator.
What types of rental properties are available in Canada?
Canada offers a variety of rental and permanent housing options for newcomers, including apartments, single-family detached homes, duplexes or triplexes, townhouses, and individual rooms:
- Apartments, typically found in buildings or houses, are single-family units that usually have one, two, or three bedrooms. "Bachelor" units consist of a combined bedroom and living area;
- Single-family detached homes are standalone properties on their own lot, while duplexes or triplexes are houses divided into two or three units. It is common for the owner of the house to live in one unit and rent out the others;
- Townhouses are constructed with three or more units that share adjoining walls and can be stacked, resulting in separated top and bottom floors; and
- Finally, homes can be partitioned into separate bedrooms, which are rented to individuals who share common spaces such as kitchens and bathrooms.
What rights and responsibilities do tenants have in Canada?
Tenants’ rights can vary slightly depending on province and territory in Canada, but largely cover the right to privacy in your new home, the need for proper notice of visit from your landlord, and the right to escalate any matter between themselves and their landlord to the relevant government residential authority). Newcomers are advised to look for their province’s tenant’s rights page, or to consult their province or territory’s Residential Tenancies Act, to know their rights further.
Tenants in Canada must:
- Pay the rent on time;
- Behave appropriately, keep the rental premises clean, and repair any damage caused by their own or someone else's wilful or negligent act;
- Not harass, get in the way of, force, threaten, or interfere with the landlord;
- Contact the landlord immediately if there is a serious issue that needs to be fixed or serviced; and
- Allow entry (with proper notice) for repairs or for the purpose of showing the premises to the next tenant or buyer.
Newcomers to Canada are also advised to contact their local provincial or territorial consumer affairs office, to receive free consultations, and better understand their tenant’s rights in their specific province or territories.
What rights and responsibilities do landlords have in Canada?
As with tenant’s rights, landlord rights can also vary between province and territory within Canada, but generally encompass the right to choose a tenant, to collect monthly rent, to have reasonable entry to the rental property (after giving proper notice), to increase the rent once annually, and to evict tenants if lawful reasons are found.
While again certain responsibilities may vary depending on province and territory of residence, in Canada all landlords must:
- Maintain the tenant’s home in a good state of repair, fit for habitation and in compliance with health, safety, housing and maintenance standards (at landlord's expense);
- Ensure a reasonable supply of fuel, electricity, hot and cold water, and other utility services (unless tenant has agreed to obtain and pay for these services) - Do not interfere with the reasonable enjoyment of the premises by the tenant and their household/guests;
- Not seize tenant’s property (without legal process) for rent default or breach of any other tenant obligation; and
- Not harass, obstruct, coerce, threaten, or interfere with the tenant.
How can I choose the right place to live in Canada?
Finding the right place to rent a property can be a tricky problem. If you are worried about distance to conveniences and essential services, Statistics Canada’s Index of Remoteness can be a great tool to determining where a city, town, suburb, etc. ranks in terms of closeness to these things.
Apart from this, it is always advisable to look at specific neighbourhoods in the area you are planning to move, and doing searches on free services like Google Maps, to get an idea of not just the general area, but also at your specific neighbourhood (and potentially new rental property). Other websites like Yelp and TripAdvisor can also be useful to look at wider amenities, attractions, and general lifestyle considerations.
Finally, you can also employ a real estate broker to aid in your search for a rental property. Real estate brokers can often be a great resource due to their familiarity with different neighbourhoods in an area, and can greatly help reduce your workload and stress during the house hunt.
What are the best tools for finding a rental property in my desired location?
Once you have decided what kind of place you want, where you want to live, and your budget, there are many resources you can use to find a place to rent.
For example, one of the easiest ways to search for housing is to walk around the neighbourhood you are interested in and look for "For Rent" signs. You can then ask the superintendent if there are any units available now or soon. You can also do this online through websites like Google Maps.
Other places to look for apartments or housing to rent include:
- Rental agencies: These are private brokerages that have access to special listings of properties both for sale and for rent. Note that real estate brokers (the agents who will help you find a home) only make money of commission from a successfully signed lease. This means that the only time you should pay a real estate agent is when you have found a home and signed your lease.
- Realtor.ca: A website that allows you to search for rental properties across Canada. You can use filters to narrow down the search by location, price, property type, etc.;
- Online rental listings platform: such as Zumper and PadMapper offer a convenient way to search for rental properties in Canada, allowing users to filter by location, price, number of bedrooms, and view apartment locations on a map;
- The classifieds section of the local newspaper, or online classifieds (such as Kijiji and Facebook Marketplace);
- Your local library: Some libraries offer resources and workshops on finding housing, such as how to search for apartments and how to read leases;
- Bulletin boards in grocery stores, laundromats, health clinics, community centres, service clubs, or real estate offices; and
- Your local immigrant settlement agency: Many agencies offer services related to housing, such as help with finding a place to live and understanding your rights and responsibilities as a tenant (note: these services are mainly for permanent residents, protected persons, and some temporary residents). You can also use government-funded websites like Compass to Connect to find settlement services across Canada.
Should I consider long or short-term rentals, and what are the pros and cons?
When looking for a place to rent, you may be considering whether a short-term or long-term rental is the right choice for you. Each option has its own unique benefits and drawbacks, so it’s important to carefully consider your needs before making a decision.
Short-term rentals are typically for periods of one month or less, and they are often more expensive than long-term rentals. They are popular among newcomers when they initially arrive, as they typically don’t require extended commitments and feature furnished rentals (more on this later). The main benefit of a short-term rental is that it provides flexibility and freedom. You can move out quickly if needed, and you don’t have to commit to a long-term lease. A disadvantage however can be higher monthly expenses, as short-term rentals are generally more expensive on a month-to-month basis.
Long-term rentals are usually for periods of one year or more, and they tend to be more affordable than short-term rentals on a month-to-month basis. They are ideal for those who want to stay in the same place for an extended period. The main advantages of a long-term rental are that it can provide stability and a sense of belonging, and it can be easier to negotiate the terms of the lease. Notable disadvantages however, include the possible need for a credit check, or (larger initial deposit if credit is not available) upon signing a lease. Additionally, long-term rentals require more of a commitment from the tenant, and it can be difficult to move out if needed.
The right option for you will ultimately depend on your specific needs and situation. Consider your budget, lifestyle, and long-term plans before making a decision.
Should I consider furnished or unfurnished rentals, and what are the pros and cons?
Another consideration that you may face when moving to Canada is choosing between furnished and unfurnished rentals. Both have unique pros and cons.
Furnished rentals can be advantageous as they:
- Often come with many essentials, such as furniture, appliances, and kitchenware, which can save time and money; and
- Can provide a sense of comfort and convenience, as you don’t have to worry about buying or moving furniture.
Furnished rentals can be disadvantageous as they:
- Can be more expensive than unfurnished rentals; and
- Can feature furniture may not fit your style or needs, and some landlords may impose on keeping furniture in the unit for short term rentals.
Unfurnished rentals can be advantageous as they:
- Often have cheaper monthly rent than furnished rentals; and
- You can customise the space to fit your style and needs, without any outside interference,
Unfurnished rentals can be disadvantageous as they:
- Can be time-consuming and expensive to furnish the space; and
- You may have to move your own furniture in, which can be difficult and costly.
How can I recognise and avoid rental scams and fraud in Canada?
Newcomers can be especially susceptible when renting properties in Canada. It can be important to thoroughly check the property listing and to meet your landlord before finalising on a lease agreement.
Some warning signs to look out for when shopping for a rental include:
- Monthly rent is lower than other similar places;
- Asked to leave a deposit without formal rental agreement or lease;
- Asked to send money to someone outside the country;
- Email sends you to website asking for personal/financial info; and
- Ads show pictures of outside of property or that don't match actual property/address.
To protect yourself against scams, you can:
- Schedule a showing with the landlord, at the address to make sure listing is truthful and accurate;
- Research address to ensure it is not a duplicate pos (can be done on Google Maps for example);
- Conduct a reverse image search to check if photos were used elsewhere;
- Schedule a showing and confirm that landlord will be present;
- Contact builder to confirm ownership if renting in new development;
- Request a lease/contract and review it thoroughly; and
- Know your rights as a tenant by consulting your provincial/territorial department or ministry of housing.
What documents and requirements are typically expected for a rental application?
In Canada, landlords may request references from you (such as a past landlord or employer) to confirm that you will be an ideal tenant. When submitting your tenant application landlords may also legally:
- Ask where you work;
- Check your credit history; and/or
- Inquire about your income.
This means that you will need documents to support these queries, when you submit your tenant application. These documents can include:
- Letter of employment/job offer, possibly showing income as well;
- Credit report from a Canadian credit agency;
- Pay stubs;
- Other personal references;
Likely the landlord of the property you are looking to rent will let you know what supporting documentation they are looking for, before you apply.
Additionally, landlord usually ask for a standard deposit of two months rent at the start of a lease agreement (usually accounting for the first and last month of the term)—however, if newcomers have a hard time producing credit checks (as they are new to Canada and may not have developed a credit history), landlords may choose to ask for a larger deposit (i.e.: 3-4 months of rent upfront).
How can I understand and navigate lease agreements as a newcomer?
Lease agreements vary from province to province, but have to be in accordance with the presiding Tenant and Landlord board in the province you are residing in. As a result, newcomers in many provinces can look at what lease agreements they will be signing even before they start to look for places.
In provinces where a standard lease agreement isn’t required, landlords and tenants are free to use any format of document that they are comfortable with—ensuring that it doesn’t infringe on any of the rights of tenants or landlords as prescribed by that province.
Below you can find standard lease agreements in all provinces and territories in Canada that use them. For provinces without a standard lease format (like Alberta for example), a link to their tenant and landlord rights is included so you can better understand what rights you have that must be protected:
- British Columbia
- Manitoba (note here there are two standard forms, depending on whether your rent includes tenant services or not);
- New Brunswick
- Newfoundland and Labrador
- Northwest Territories
- Nova Scotia
- Prince Edward Island
Additionally, the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation has an entire webpage dedicated to signing a lease, which includes what should be included in a lease agreement, and things that tenants should keep in mind when signing a lease.
Who is responsible for paying for utilities, internet, cable, and telephone services in a rental property?
Unless otherwise agreed by the landlord and signed into the formal lease agreement, internet, cable and telephone expenses are usually paid for by the tenant.
In addition, certain properties differ slightly into what utilities (electricity and water) are included. Electricity is referred to as “hydro” in Canada (short for hydroelectricity), due to a large amount of the country’s electricity being generated by hydro-electric dams. Properties can range from all-inclusive (both hydro and water), to neither being included, and the expense added to the tenant’s monthly rental bill. Again, this must be stated and agreed to, in the formal lease agreement that both you and your landlord sign.
How are rent increases regulated in Canada, and what should I be aware of?
In most areas in Canada, your landlord must give you 90 days' notice before increasing your rent. Generally, landlords can only do this once a year, and only when your lease comes to an end.
Each province and territory in Canada has slightly different rules on how yearly lease price increases are regulated, with some capping the annual increase anywhere between 1-2%, and others not placing limits on how much a landlord can increase rent annually. Below is the pricing guideline for each province and territory in Canada:
- British Columbia
- New Brunswick
- Newfoundland and Labrador
- Northwest Territories
- Nova Scotia
- Prince Edward Island
Is rental insurance necessary, and what does it cover?
Renter's insurance (or tenant insurance) is a type of policy designed to protect tenants from liability, loss or damage. It offers financial security in the event of an emergency or natural disaster in a rented accommodation.
In Canada, there is no legal requirement for tenants to get renter's insurance. However, many people choose to get it to feel secure and safe. Tenant insurance offers many benefits, so it is advisable to look into your options carefully before deciding if it is right for you.
However, it is important to note that a landlord may require you to have tenant insurance as part of your lease agreement (and are legally allowed to do so). They may even ask to see proof of purchase before you move in. This is because tenant insurance is beneficial to both tenants and landlords. Without it, the landlord will have to cover all damage to the rental property through their homeowner's policy. This policy will pay for the property, but not the tenant's personal belongings (tenants do of course have the option of buying insurance for their belongings as well).
Rental insurance (generally) covers the following things:
- Loss or damage to personal possessions inside your rental;
- Loss or damage to possessions outside your home;
- Accidental damage to your rental and surrounding building;
- Liability if other tenants or visitors are injured due to your accidental damage; and
- Cost of living expenses if your rental becomes uninhabitable due to a natural disaster.
Keep in mind however that renter’s insurance generally does not cover the following:
- Damage caused by sinkholes, flooding, sewage backups, and earthquakes may not be automatically covered (though you may be able to pay extra for this coverage);
- Damage caused by bugs and pests must be paid for from your own pocket; and
- Certain types of valuables (antiques, jewellery, gold coins, art, pricier electronics) may not be covered if their value is greater than what the insurance company can pay out.
Also noteworthy is that there may be some variation between various plans and providers in Canada.
What should I know about moving into (and out of) a new property in Canada?
Whether you are moving into a condo apartment or a villa, certain things about moving into your new home are constants:
- Make sure that you have agreed with your landlord on the moving date and time. Depending on whether there is a previous or new tenant at your new home you may be able to begin move in processes earlier than your lease, but not without your landlord’s permission;
- Make sure that any public services that may be impacted by your move are taken care of. For example, many condominium buildings require you to book a service elevator when moving in, so that no part of the building is damaged by bigger items. This process often requires a security deposit with the condominium building, which will be returned at the end of your move-in, provided that no damage was dealt to the building or elevator. Note that this is often the same for moving out as well. Other instances may exist, depending on the property you are moving to—it is advisable to speak with your landlord before move-in regarding these specifics; and
- Hiring professional movers is an option that many people use when moving-in, to save time, energy, and stress. Movers can help you pack, transport, and unpack your belongings in a safe and efficient manner. They also have the right tools and equipment to ensure that your items are handled safely and securely. When looking for a moving service, make sure to do your research. Look for companies that are licensed and insured and read reviews to get an idea of the quality of the services they provide. Ask for a quote and compare prices to find the best deal. If possible, try to get a few estimates so that you can compare and make the best decision for your budget.
What are the common methods of paying rent in Canada, and how can I ensure proper documentation and proof of payment?
In Canada rent can be paid by cheque, electronic bank transfer, or (in some cases) cash. Ask your landlord how they would prefer to receive payment. Although post-dated cheques are convenient, it may be illegal for the landlord to demand this form of payment in some provinces.
What happens if I pay my rent late in Canada?
In Canada, late payments are handled differently depending on your province or territory.
Your landlord may:
- Impose a reasonable penalty;
- Offer a grace period of up to 3 days; and/or
- Provide a notice to terminate the rental agreement due to money owed, the notice would be invalid as soon as you pay the rent owing.
Do you require Canadian immigration assistance?
Cohen Immigration Law is a leading Canadian immigration law firm with over 45 years of experience. Cohen Immigration Law is comprised of over 60 Canadian immigration lawyers, paralegals, and other professionals. We are dedicated to helping people achieve their Canadian immigration goals. We assist in areas including skilled worker and business immigration, family sponsorship, work permits, study permits, citizenship, and inadmissibility. CanadaVisa.com was founded in 1994 as the online presence of Cohen Immigration Law. CanadaVisa has since blossomed into the one of the world's most trusted resources on Canadian immigration. Please reach out for assistance. We're happy to help:
Skilled Worker Assistance
Find out if you are eligible to immigrate to Canada through one of the country's over 100 skilled worker options.
Family Sponsorship Assistance
See if you are eligible to sponsor a loved one, or be sponsored by a Canadian citizen or permanent resident.
Other Immigration Enquiries
Contact us about work permits, study permits, business immigration, citizenship, and inadmissibility.