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Citizenship and Immigration Canada


What should you consider when looking for a place to live?

When you first arrive in Canada, you will probably be living in temporary accommodation. You will soon be looking for a permanent place to live. The cost of setting up your first home may be more expensive than you expected.

Finding a place to live can take several weeks. Think of the search as three separate tasks:

  1. Deciding how much you can afford to pay, how many rooms you need and where you want to live.
  2. Finding the apartment or house you want.
  3. Completing the legal contract to rent or buy.

Will finding a place to live be the same everywhere in Canada?

Not entirely. Prices are different from city to city, and each province has slightly different laws on renting and buying. However, the process is the same everywhere in Canada.

How much do houses and apartments cost?

Prices depend on the location, age and condition of the apartment or house, and the local housing market. Some cities and provinces control how much landlords can charge for rent.

When you are budgeting for your housing costs, you may have to allow as much as 35 to 50 per cent of your income. This should include the costs for such things as heating, utilities and laundry.

The table below gives a good idea of average costs for a particular year.

Many houses are bought and sold in the spring and early summer, and prices might be higher then, although there will probably be a greater choice.

Housing Price Comparisons


Average Price*

Calgary, Alberta


Edmonton, Alberta


Halifax-Dartmouth, Nova Scotia


Montreal, Quebec


Ottawa-Carleton, Ontario


Outaouais-Hull, Québec


Regina, Saskatchewan


Saskatoon, Saskatchewan


St. John's, Newfoundland


Toronto, Ontario


Vancouver, British Columbia


Victoria, British Columbia


Winnipeg, Manitoba


* Based on a February 1998 survey of MLS residential average prices by the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA).

How do you find an apartment to rent?

Your main sources of information are the classified advertisements in local newspapers and what you hear from other people. Some agencies which advertise apartments may charge a fee. This does not mean they will find a home for you, but they may show you more of what is available. Be careful before you sign any type of contract.

Once you decide on a price range, size, and preferred location, you should be able to identify several possible apartments. Normally, you telephone for an appointment to see the apartments.

Look for convenient parking, nearby bus routes, shopping, schools, and laundry facilities (washing machines) in or near the building.

Ask the landlord or the person renting the apartment what facilities are included in the rent, such as parking, whether or not you can keep a pet and how many people can live in the apartment.

The landlord will hold the apartment for you after you pay a deposit (which will be applied to the rent) and you both sign an offer to rent the apartment.

What can you expect in a rented apartment?

Every apartment should have:

  • its own door, which can be locked, to a common hallway or to the street;
  • a kitchen with a sink and hot and cold water, countertop, shelves or cupboards and appliances such as a stove and a refrigerator;
  • closets and storage space;
  • a private bathroom with a sink, toilet and bath or shower.

Your apartment will be equipped with several essential utilities, including:

  • a heating system;
  • light and electricity;
  • hot and cold water;
  • telephone lines; and
  • sewage pipes.

You should find out if the costs of electricity, gas, heat and water are included in the rent, or whether you will be charged directly by the utility companies.

Property taxes are paid by the landlord. You must pay the costs of telephone and cable television connection and the monthly bills for those services.

Furnished apartments should include beds, chairs, tables, floor covering, light fixtures, curtains, basic kitchen equipment in addition to utilities, a stove and a refrigerator.

What legal arrangements are involved in renting?

In many cities there is a standard rental agreement, or lease, that both you and your landlord sign. This is a printed document of one or two pages which specifies the number of rooms, utilities and options such as parking or storage space.

Read it carefully before signing. Be sure you understand which utilities you will pay, which will be paid by the landlord and what penalty you may have to pay if you leave before the lease is over. An immigrant-serving agency will be able to help you understand exactly what is expected of you.

The lease will most likely be for at least one year, and you will have to make an initial payment, possibly the first and last month's rent. You may also be asked for a damage deposit, which will be returned to you when you leave if you have not caused any damage to the property beyond normal use. For this reason it is important to note any damage and tell your landlord before you move in.

How do you rent a house?

Renting a house is the same process as renting an apartment. There may be more appliances, such as a clothes washer and dryer. The tenant usually pays for utilities and heat.

How do you buy a house?

Your main sources of information are friends and neighbours, real estate agents and classified advertisements in the local newspapers. A real estate agent is a member of a licensed real estate firm, who can show you several different homes and describe what various areas are like to live in.

What can you expect when you buy a house?

You can expect that the central heating, hot water heater and all built-in furniture such as cupboards will be included in the price. You may be able to buy the curtains, stove, refrigerator, washer and dryer from the previous owner of the house.

What legal arrangements are involved in buying a house?

Property law is complicated. You should hire a lawyer (or in the Province of Quebec, a notary).

When you have decided on which house you wish to buy, you usually make a legal written offer, often with the condition that the house passes a professional inspection of its condition and structure. The offer normally includes a deposit. Usually, the buyer and the seller will bargain on price, in writing. If the seller accepts an offer, the offer becomes an agreement to purchase.

You will probably want to arrange financing (a mortgage) with a bank or trust company. The down payment is usually at least 10 per cent of the total price, although first-time home buyers may be eligible for a five per cent downpayment. Mortgages can be paid over a period as long as 25 years, with interest rates fixed for terms varying from one to five years.

Are there other types of accommodation?

Yes. In addition to furnished and unfurnished apartments, furnished bedrooms to rent, and houses for rent or for sale, there are also condominiums.

What is a condominium?

Condominiums are apartments or townhouses that are individually owned, while the common areas (gardens, playground, walkways) are owned together. As well as the mortgage payment and taxes, you will make a monthly payment, the condominium fee, to the manager of the condominium for common maintenance and repairs.

Sources of information and advice

Immigrant-serving agencies, reception houses and national associations can give you advice on renting an apartment, as well as other useful information.

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms protects you from unfair discrimination (See Fact Sheet #8, Rights and Responsibilities). The provincial department (or ministry) of housing administers a landlord and tenant act that governs renting. You will find the information you need in the federal or provincial government listings of the telephone book.


Please Note
This fact sheet contains information that was current at the time of publication. It is, however, a digest from many sources, and should not be confused with official statements of policy or programming. The Government of Canada is not responsible for information that changes between printings.

November 1998


©2002-2007 All Rights Reserved.
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