It may take a few weeks to find a house with all the desired features, especially considering the low vacancy rates in some Canadian cities. In the interim, long-stay hotels are possible alternatives, as they provide fully-equipped kitchens or kitchenettes and laundry facilities. Most hospitality properties offer embassy or government rates, if asked, and may offer lower rates for longer term stays.

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t is advisable to enlist the help of a real estate agent either before or upon arrival in Canada. Agents are familiar with most available properties, occasionally before they are listed on public sites. Real estate agents or realtors can schedule viewings and provide valuable advice on a unit, offer rental price comparisons and assess the location of the property.

Some agents may offer transportation to and from the properties to be viewed. Others may suggest meeting directly at the location. Usually, 24-hour notice is required by the landlord or the landlord’s agent to view a property.

Most landlords require a contract—a lease—to be signed. This usually commits the tenant for a term of one year, where rent is paid monthly. Terms of six months or month-to-month rental agreements are sometimes offered. Once a lease is signed, the first month’s rent is usually paid to the agent. The tenant also gives a deposit to the landlord, which is applied to the last month of the lease term, except in British Columbia (see below).

Here are some important points to consider before signing a lease:

  • Whether the utilities (electricity, water and gas), if any, are included in the rental price. If the tenant pays the utilities, it is important to consider the amount of insulation, the quality of the windows and the efficiency of the appliances, including the furnace. Electrical baseboard heating is one of the most expensive forms of heating, while natural gas heating is usually the least expensive. Asking for the billing histories of a unit’s utilities can give the tenants an idea ofwhat they can expect to pay.
  • In Canada, the landlord is obliged to maintain the dwelling and deal with any necessary repairs.
    The age and condition of the plumbing and appliances will suggest the likelihood of breakdowns. If the landlord offers to paint the unit, make upgrades, repairs or replacements as a condition of a rental, these conditions should be in writing, along with any other promises made by the landlord.
  • Sometimes parking is included in the rent. Other times it is provided at an additional fee or is simply unavailable. Most rental units in a downtown area will charge an additional monthly fee for parking.
  • There may be extra charges to install and run an air conditioner, laundry machines or a dishwasher. In some cases, these appliances may be prohibited, especially if there are wiring or plumbing limitations. If the building contains a laundry room, check the cost of using it.
  • Some buildings have facilities for tenants, such as swimming pools, saunas and exercise and social/party rooms. If these are a consideration, it is important to see them and understand any rules regarding their use, such as hours and guest access, before signing the lease.
  • Tenants should check if pets are permitted in a rental unit, if they plan to have one in it. Damage caused by pet ownership is not considered regular “wear and tear.” So, a tenant should expect a bill if a pet damages a unit. Ontario prohibits “no pets” clauses in leases, while British Columbia, Québec and Alberta allow such clauses.
  • Garden and lawn maintenance, as well as autumn leaf and winter snow removal, are substantial chores. It is important to determine who is responsible for this.
  • Some landlords will consider including a Diplomatic Clause in the residential lease agreement. Such a clause may be as follows: “The landlord [name] agrees that in the event the tenant is transferred out of the city for employment purposes, the tenant [name] may terminate the lease agreement by providing landlord [name] with [xx] days’ notice in writing.”
  • It is advisable to document the condition of a unit before signing a lease to avoid being held responsible for any pre-existing damage to it. One can either make the list of damages, to be signed by both landlord and tenant, or take the pictures of the condition of the apartment prior to occupancy.