Renting Property in Canada

It is most common to rent property in Canada directly through a landlord or property management company, rather than through a real estate agency. You can expect most landlords to speak English as a first language, except in Quebec and New Brunswick where most will speak French as a first language.

You can rent most any type of property in Canada, with flats, condominiums, and apartments in large blocks being most common, and houses more rare in urban centers. In urban areas you can expect rental properties to be smaller and more expensive, and vice versa in rural areas. In many cities companies, not individuals, own and rent blocks of property.

Find a property to rent in Canada

To find property to rent in Canada, consult online listings on web sites like Craigslist and Kijiji. You can also find listings in local newspapers, magazines, through university housing web sites, and through word of mouth.

Rental fees vary by city, size of property, property location, property age, amenities, and demand. In some cities rent is negotiable. However, in high-demand areas you have to compete with other renters, and may end up paying more than the listed rental fee to secure a property.

Demand for rental property in some cities can be very high, and tenants must search for and secure a property up to four months in advance of their lease start date.

Some rental fees include utilities, such as electricity, heat, water, gas, Internet, TV, and landline telephone. Some rental fees include extra amenities, such as security, cleaning, fitness facilities, pool facilities, and the use of common areas. Check with prospective landlords as to what is included in your rent. In some cases you may be able to negotiate the inclusion of some or all amenities and utilities, especially if you are renting for an extended term.

Most rent payments in Canada are made by post-dated cheque or bank transfer. You may also be able to pay by cash or credit card. In most provinces, late payment fees can be charged.

Security deposits, held against damage, are normally half a month’s rent, and are returned to the tenant at the end of the lease agreement, or applied against the last month’s rent.

In most provinces in Canada it is up to the discretion of the landlord to permit pets and smoking in rental properties, except in Ontario and Quebec, where pets are allowed in all rental properties.

Some properties or buildings have restrictions as to when and how you may move in. Inquire with your landlord or property manager for more information.

Some provinces require that property inspection reports and inventories be completed at the beginning and end of tenancies. If this is not required in your province, it is highly recommended to draft one anyway to protect both the landlord and tenant. The contents of the property, the condition of the property, and pre-existing damage should be noted.

In most provinces, permission and approval is required from the landlord before subletting or transferring the lease of a property. One to three months’ notice should be given before breaking a rental agreement.

In Canada landlords must provide at least 24 hours written notice before entering the premises, and may only enter the premises between 800hrs/8am and 2100hrs/9pm.

Except in Alberta, landlords cannot charge fees for keys. Except in British Columbia and Quebec, tenants may not withhold rent for repairs.

In most provinces, leases renew automatically or automatically convert to monthly leases at the end of the lease term, unless otherwise negotiated between landlord and tenant.

In almost all cases it is the landlords’ responsibility to effect maintenance and repairs to the property, unless otherwise stated in your rental agreement. Landlords are also responsible for pest control. Responsibilities for snow removal, lawn and garden care, and parking areas vary.

In almost all provinces it is the responsibility of the tenant to purchase tenant’s insurance, which covers against damage and liability for floods, fires, leaks, etc.

If you feel that you are being wrongly or unfairly treated when renting property in Canada, you are encouraged to contact your province’s tenant’s rights division, a lawyer or legal aid services.

Application process

When applying to lease a property you will be asked to provide your name, telephone number, email address, current mailing address, and social insurance number. In addition, you must indicate the number of potential occupants of the property and provide contact information for each occupant.

On your application you will also be asked to indicate your occupation. You may also be asked to provide your employer’s name, address, telephone number, and your annual income and expenses. You will also be asked to indicate previous rented/owned premises, for up to five years in the past.

You may have to provide up to three references, including contact information, with your lease application. These can be friends, co-workers, current/past employers, past landlords, etc. You will also be asked to provide banking information so your landlord can conduct a credit check on you. You may also be asked to provide proof of tenant’s insurance.

In many provinces you will also be asked to provide a deposit (commonly a cheque) with your application. This will be kept and applied towards your first month’s rent or security deposit if you lease the property, or destroyed if you are not a successful applicant. Some landlords and property management companies may also request the first and last month’s rent up front as a guarantee.

In most provinces, the landlord or company will contact you directly if you have been approved to rent a property. If you are not contacted within a few days or a week, another candidate has likely been chosen.

Rental Agreements or Leases

Some provinces allow for verbal lease agreements, however, it is highly recommended that you always receive, review, and sign a lease in writing. You and your landlord should both retain a copy of this lease. You should also obtain and review a copy of your provinces rental regulations, normally a Residential Tenancies Act.

Leases will clearly indicate the address of the property to be rented. Leases should also indicate the length of the lease term (weekly, monthly, yearly, or fixed term), the amount of rent in dollars, the date of rent payment, what services or amenities your rent payment includes, the responsibilities of the landlord and tenant(s) in terms of maintenance and repairs, contact information for the landlord and tenant(s), and renewal terms.

Renting through Real Estate Agencies

If you chose to rent property through a real estate agency, you may find many reputable agencies in your area online, in local newspapers, or through word of mouth.

Real estate agencies will charge you, and sometimes your landlord, commission fees for their services.

All real estate agencies in Canada use English as a first language, except in Quebec. Some real estate agencies may also have representatives who can communicate in other languages, such as Arabic, Mandarin, German, etc. If you do not speak English, and your real estate agency is unable to provide services in your first language, you may want to seek the assistance of a translator.

To rent property through a real estate agency, contact a real estate agency and provide them with your requirements (type of property, location, number of bedrooms, age of property, rental budget, amenities, etc).

A real estate agent will help familiarize you with various types of properties available and will then search for property to meet your criteria. A good real estate agent will search for a property until they find exactly what you need. You are not obligated to use the services of the first real estate agent you work with.

In most areas of Canada your real estate agent can negotiate rental rates on your behalf. Your real estate agent will also assist in the drafting of a lease agreement, and should provide you with information regarding provincial landlord-tenant laws.

Flat sharing and room mates

It is common in Canada for women to seek female roommates, or for students or young adults to seek roommates in the same peer group. If you wish to rent property with another person to share costs, you can find many like-minded people in most urban centers. Wanted ads for roommates are placed in the classified section of newspapers, online on web sites like Kijiji and Craiglist, on university classified web sites, and through word of mouth.

If you are sharing a property with another individual you may wish to have your details on the lease or rental agreement, or you may sublet a room in a property from the leaseholder. In the first case, rent is payable directly to your landlord. In the latter case, you would likely pay rent to the leaseholder (your roommate).

It is recommended that you agree ahead of time with your roommate on the division of utility and maintenance fees.

By Jess Gerrow, who traded city life in Canada for island life in the Mediterranean two years ago. She is a postgraduate marketing student, blogger, and freelance writer.