Your First Year in Canada
1. How can I rent an apartment?
If you are looking for an apartment for permanent living you can get it by rent or lease. In the case that you rent an apartment you will have to pay rent for the first and last months. When you decide to leave a rental apartment you will have to notify the landlord or superintendent within two months and will not have to pay for the last month, as you already paid when you moved in. In the case of a lease you are renting an apartment for a certain period, for example, for a year. The landlord cannot evict you or raise the price during that period, but you also cannot leave before the end of the contract. If you still need to leave, you may have to find another tenant. Sometimes you are able to leave without finding another tenant if the landlord agrees. Before you rent an apartment, find out what utilities are included in the payment: electricity, heat, water, parking, etc.
If you are renting a house, you need to discuss snow removal, grass cutting, garbage collection, etc. Before signing the contract for rental apartments you will discuss the amount of the rent, the lease term and other information related to the residence and maintenance of the apartment, for example, how much the rent for the apartment will increase in the future. With the landlord you will stipulate how many tenants will live in the apartment. For a large family the better choice is to rent a house.
If you are eligible, you can apply for a subsidized apartment immediately after arriving in Canada. Be advised that there are often long waiting lists for subsidized housing, so it is always better to apply as soon as possible.
2. What types of housing are there in Canada?
In Canada the most common types of housing are:
•Apartments - places with one or more bedrooms, a kitchen and a bathroom, usually combined with a toilet. The apartment where the bedroom is combined with a living room in a single room is called a bachelor. Some apartments are located in basements, where windows are fully or partially located below ground level.
•Condominiums - apartments, which are rented or sold mostly in high-rise buildings. Most condominiums have gyms and swimming pools, and a room for celebrations and holidays. Such houses are usually built in the city centre, close to shopping centres, parks and subway stations. The houses have underground garages, and apartments are sometimes located on two or three levels. Here, the rent will include the maintenance of the building.
•Detached house – a separate building with a built-in or a separate garage for one or two cars, which usually has a front yard and backyard.
•Townhouse - a house that has two or three levels and is attached to a similar house by a shared wall.
3. How much does it cost to rent an apartment?
To find the average monthly cost of renting an apartment in major cities of the province of Ontario in many languages go to https://settlement.org/translated-information. In Toronto, the monthly fee for a bachelor in 2020 was $894, a one bedroom apartment - $1374, two bedroom - $1591, and three bedroom - $1766. Each year, depending on inflation, the landlord can raise the renting fee by up to 3%. Even if in the previous year, rents did not rise, the next year they cannot raise the rent more than 3%. In 2020, the rent guidelines increased by 2,2%. When you sign an agreement for an apartment, you should discuss with the landlord what facilities will be included in this amount, for example, parking, cable TV, heating and others.
4. What criteria should I use while searching for an apartment?
After choosing a place to live: city, town or village, you can start to find a district and street. Do you want to live in a quiet location in the suburbs of the city, or do you prefer the bustling centre, where housing, of course, is more expensive? Do you want to live close to relatives or friends or next to the school for your children? Close to a public transportation stop? Close to a mall, shops or a park? Then choose the type of accommodation based on these criteria. When choosing an apartment, decide how many bedrooms you need, and in an apartment, which floor you prefer to live on. What do you want to see from the window? What do you want the rent fee to be today, and in the future? It is best if you get help with housing from your relatives or friends.
5. Where can I find an apartment to rent?
While walking in the area where you want to live, at the entrance of many buildings you will see ads offering apartments "For Rent". Also you can find ads for renting apartments in your community newspapers, in the local or city newspapers and in the library. Ads for renting apartments usually are located in the "Classified” section under Rentals or Apartments for Rent. From the ads, you will learn if the apartment for rent has furniture; also many of the ads contain prices. In Toronto, at many major intersections you can take a free guide called Renters News. This guide is well structured, and contains maps of the city, and you can immediately find apartments, which are available for rent in your chosen area. You can consult help centres for newcomers, which can be found at www.211toronto.ca/index.jsp. Finally, you can contact the Real Estate Rental Service directly, which will help you find accommodation through agents. The addresses of these organizations are in the phonebook.
6. Are there any ways I can look over an apartment before renting?
Negotiations about renting an apartment are usually conducted with the superintendent. The superintendent will show you a vacant apartment and answer your questions related to living in this house. He (or she) will tell you:
•Are there such facilities as a parking lot, laundry, central air conditioning, etc?
•Does the rent fee include the cost of parking, heating, water supply, sewerage and electricity?
•Is it possible to keep cats or dogs in the unit?
Check whether the water supply has hot and cold water, look over the sewer, toilet, shower, lights, refrigerator, electric stove burners, electric and telephone sockets, fire detectors, and if you rent an apartment during the cold season, make sure that the heating system operates. Do not be in a hurry while renting an apartment. Take your time; look at several options before making a final choice. Consult the House hunting checklist at https://www.realtor.ca/resource/house_hunting_checklist.pdf.
7. Which documents may be asked for by a landlord?
The landlord must be sure that you will be able to pay rent and follow the rules of tenancy. Therefore, he (or she) may require you to show the following documents:
•Information about your immigration status.
•Reference from the previous landlord if you have changed apartments.
•Certificate from the employer about your salary.
•A bank statement indicating you have enough money to pay the rent.
•A guarantor form from another person, who guarantees your payment of rent.
•A credit report.
If you have any difficulties in providing these documents, please consult an organization serving immigrants. Be patient and ask the superintendent to help you to fill out the rental application. If you do not have a guarantor, try to convince the owner that you will regularly pay for an apartment and follow the rules of living together. When renting an apartment it can be helpful to provide references from people who have resided in Canada for a long time, for example, your English teacher, family doctor, some person from an immigrant-serving organization, or members of your community or religious group.
(To be continued)