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?
In Toronto, the monthly fee for a bachelor in 2014 was $896, a one bedroom apartment - $1067, two bedroom - $ 1251, and three bedroom - $1458. 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 2015, the rent guidelines increased by 1.5%. 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. In different provinces, the cost of facilities included in the rent fee can vary. Usually, the rent fee can be raised no earlier than 12 months after you have moved in. If you lease an apartment, the fee can be increased only by signing a new agreement.
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/Residential/Resource/en-CA/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.
• Personal references.
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.
8. What rights do tenants have?
When renting an apartment you have to sign a contract in the English language. You must have a good understanding of all the provisions of the contract, so you may ask for a copy to be translated into your native language. If you do not understand something, ask for a translation from relatives, friends, or someone you trust. You have the right to make a few copies of keys for apartments and front doors, or to ask the landlord for extra keys, though you may be required to pay a deposit for them. When you leave your home you can return the keys and get back your deposit. The owner must have a copy of the keys to the apartment to get into it in the event of an emergency, such as fire or water leakage. You cannot change or install an additional lock without the consent of the owner. You can ask the owner to make the necessary repairs in the apartment or even in the house (for example, in case of failure of the elevator, or your mailbox) or obtain consent for self repairs, which will be paid for by the owner. The superintendent must respond to your request if other tenants violate the rules of living together, for example, if they smoke outside the designated areas, or engage in discrimination. Be advised that many landlord and tenant rules vary from one province to another, so be sure to become familiar with the rules in your province of residence.
9. Who carries out repairs on a rented apartment?
As a rule, for new tenants the apartment should be completely renovated and the kitchen must be equipped with a serviceable refrigerator and electric stove. Most modern homes have central air conditioning, but if the house is old and there is no air conditioning, most likely, you'll have to buy it by yourself. In this case, the air conditioner is usually installed in the window. All problems related to living in a house, for example, repairing plumbing or electrical systems or complaints about neighbours, have to be solved by the superintendent, or if you feel it is necessary, you can contact the landlord. Applications for repairs must be submitted in writing and, if the repairs are not done, you can repeat your written request a second time, and then refer to the Landlord and Tenant Board.
10. How can I avoid conflict with the landlord?
Sometimes there are conflicts that happen between landlords and tenants. The conflict may involve, for example, the reluctance of the owner to carry out repairs to the apartment, or a long delay in the repair of elevators, or an increase in rent that is too quick, or an apartment that is too cold. As a rule, from September 1 to June 15, central heating in an apartment must provide a temperature of 20 degrees Celsius. Or maybe you are forced to leave, or you do not want to let the landlord enter your apartment, etc. In order to avoid conflicts with the landlord or superintendent, get to know both the rights and responsibilities of tenants, which are governed by the Canada Residential Tenancies Act. If you believe that the landlord has violated your rights, you can complain to the Landlord and Tenant Board.
11. In what case can I be evicted?
The landlord can evict you from the apartment if you:
• Do not pay your rental fee.
• Disturb other tenants.
• Damage house property. You have to repair house property if you caused the damage.
• Allow too many people to live in your apartment.
• Keep unauthorized animals in your apartment.
• Need special medical care that is not available in your unit.
• Do not report your income (if you live in subsidized house).
Sometimes a landlord needs to use the apartment for themselves or his (her) relatives or the unit needs to be vacated because of repairs. If the owner decides to evict you, he must first apply to the Landlord and Tenant Board, which will consider the reasons for your eviction. If the reasons are found to be persuasive, you will have to leave.
12. What problems can newcomers have when renting an apartment?
Renting the first apartment after arriving in Canada is associated with certain difficulties. Some owners are reluctant to rent apartments to immigrants, and this is understandable. Nobody knows you and you do not have any references from your previous place of residence. Immigrants may be unemployed for a long time, do not speak English and cannot communicate properly with the superintendent. Some ethnic food odours, cultural habits and customs of immigrants disturb other tenants. Try to solve conflicts with patience and a positive attitude.
13. How can I buy an apartment or a house?
About 40% of Canadians live in their own homes, and soon you may find yourself among them! The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation recommends (in eight languages) the following five steps to buying a home.
1. Think carefully about your decision. Buying a home has a lot of pluses and minuses. Of course, it's nice to have your own home, where you can live with a whole big family, raise children, and perhaps grandchildren. But your assessment should include many considerations: do you have enough money; will you be able to take care of the home in winter and summer and make the necessary repairs?
2. Do you have money for a down payment? Are you ready to take a loan and pay a monthly amount and interest? Do you know what costs are associated with the use of the home? Maybe you have to pay old debts, for example, children's education or buy a car? Making the necessary calculations will help you.
3. When choosing a home, consider not only your current needs, but also the future. How many children do you plan to have? Do you want to eventually bring your children or parents from abroad? Maybe you would like to use the home for your own business? Or do you want to buy a home as an investment and offer renting?
4. Buying a house is a complex process, especially for immigrants who buy their first home in Canada. Have you decided what kind of home you want: old or new, and how much you can afford to pay. Can you find a lender? Now you have to enter the real estate market and see what you can buy today. This can be done in many ways: by yourself through the Internet, using other media, consulting family and friends, or hiring a real estate agent, who will help you to find an appropriate house and draw up an acceptable Agreement of Purchase and Sale.
5. On the closing date, you have to make a down payment minus the deposit, pay for a lawyer, government fees and charges, etc. After that the act of transfer of property rights will be issued by the Registry or the Land Titles Office. It is called a Transfer/Deed of Land. Then the home is yours.
14. Who can help me find a house to buy?
Homes for sale with photographs, brief descriptions and prices are available on the Canadian website "Multiple Listing System” www.mls.ca. Specify the area that you are interested in, the kind of home, and your financial capabilities: the lower and upper price limit. Further, you will need to specify the number of rooms and washrooms, and even select the desired view from the windows. You will receive a detailed description of the home, and such homes in your chosen area may be several dozen. How realistic the price is can be roughly set by comparing the price of the home you like with similar homes in the same area. If you already have a real estate agent, he or she will show you the home you are interested in; you can walk around the rooms and pretend that you live in this home. Home buyers in Canada generally do not pay realtors for the services in advance because the price of the work is already included in the price of home. The realtor will take off an agreed upon percentage.
(To be continued)