I'm moving to Vancouver soon and would like to rent an apartment in the downtown area. Since I have no idea about how the Canadian rental system works, I'd like to prepare in advance so that I don't enter into a bad long term contract.

What are the things that a foreign renter should be aware of before signing a contract? E.g. what documents do house owners usually ask from people to prove their trustworthiness? Is there something specific I should always check, such as the heating system?

  • Also, if there are differences between renting in Vancouver/BC and in other Canadian cities/provinces, I'd like to know that as well. Dec 8 '17 at 17:03

Like in other cities, the principal issues will be cost and location. With respect to location, the major issues will be crime rate, the proximity to public transit, commute times (if relevant) and proximity to amenities that you will regularly use.

Vancouver, as Canadian cities go, is among the warmest. Heating will not be as huge an issue as it will be in most of the rest of Canada. Electric heating is more common in areas in less intense winter cold, but is the most expensive heating source. Natural gas heating is much more common in the colder regions, and has much lower costs. In Vancouver and suburbs you are likely to find both.

Many landlords are now doing credit checks. If you are new to Canada, you will not have a Canadian credit rating, so do not be surprised if you get questions about your situation as a result.

Look online to get reviews of landlords. There are some very large landlords in most Canadian cities, that own significant stocks of apartments. Some of these landlords are good; some are bad.

A written lease is a must (even though, by default, a standard lease applies). Oral leases are hard to enforce - who knows what was said?

  • Any advice on how I can verify the person showing me the apartment is who he says he is? E.g. is there a public registry I can check to see who is the actual owner of the place? Dec 26 '17 at 20:18
  • @JonathanReez Not to my knowledge, but you can ask a potential landlord for tenant references if you like. Dec 26 '17 at 20:23

Now that I've rented one, here's some basic advice:

  • Ignore posts on the Internet which say it's hard to find a place, it's actually pretty easy if you have a reasonable budget. You can get a 1 bedroom in Yaletown for $1800-$2000 without issues. If you want to save money, a 1 bedroom near Metrotown train station is around $1000.

  • Credit and references checks are no big deal if you're an employed immigrant. You don't actually need references from past landlords or credit checks - that stuff is for locals only.

  • Get a local number as soon as you can as agents still prefer to text for some reason and a lot won't reply if they don't see a local phone to call.

  • Before signing a contract make sure to see proof of ownership and a piece of ID . It's recommended that you pay by cheque or Interac for the first month but cash is also okay if you get a receipt.

  • When signing up for a bank, get yourself checks even though they cost extra. Many landlords want you to pay with post-dated checks and won't accept interac payments.

  • If possible, don't rent anywhere near East Hastings as that's the most rundown area of the city. Nothing serious by American standards but also not the nicest area to live in.

  • Just some FYIs here. Cash is okay as long as you get a receipt for it. Get an account with one of the online banks like Tangerine or Simplii. They offer free cheques (there is a limit to the number of free cheques). Also the method of paying rent has to be something that is acceptable by both the landlord and the tenant and not necessarily what the landlord insists. It can be cheques, interac, cash, etc
    – Dipen Shah
    Jan 16 '18 at 15:06
  • @DipenShah something like 50% of the places I've seen would only take cheques. I don't see the point of avoiding them as you would severely limit your options. But I agree that the whole concept of post dated cheques is kind of dumb if you have Interac. Jan 16 '18 at 15:25
  • @DipenShah Tangerine and Simplii are not without drawbacks. Whether or not free chequing makes it worth it to use them is up to a different discussion. Jan 16 '18 at 15:32
  • what people like me do here is maintain two bank accounts. One with a physical bank like the big 5 (TD,CIBC, RBC, BMO, BNS) for regular requirements and one with the online banks to get all the free stuff and high interest rates on savings. I find paying for day to day banking at physical banks just so you can give them money to hold your money beyond stupid.
    – Dipen Shah
    Jan 16 '18 at 15:40
  • @DipenShah that makes sense. I will probably keep three - a big-5 account, a Revolut card for all non-Canadian payments, and a third account for stuff like cheques and interest rates. Jan 16 '18 at 18:07

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