Finding a Place to Live


Many Canadians rent housing, and so do most newcomers, at least for the first few years. Apartments and houses for rent are usually listed in the classified advertising section of the newspaper. It is also a good idea to walk around an area you would like to live in, and see if there are any signs posted on or by the buildings. Do not take the first place you see ?try to shop around a little, see what available. Prices often vary considerably.

Some apartments can be rented by the month, but with most rented housing you sign a lease for a year. This is a legally binding contract between you and the landlord. Make sure you understand exactly what you have to pay for, and what is included in your rent. For example, do you pay for the heating costs or are they included? Canada is a cold country in the winter, and heating can be expensive. Are you allowed to have pets? Are the fridge and stove included? Do you have to pay municipal taxes? Also, you may have to pay a security deposit (such as the first month rent) to rent the apartment you have chosen. Read the lease over carefully before you sign it.

You should also purchase tenant insurance to cover the costs of replacing the household contents of your apartment. It is probably a good idea to ask someone in your local community group or immigrant-serving organization for information about housing. They can also explain the legal terms used in leases. Remember: Avoid signing a lease if you plan to move again soon.

Your rights as a tenant

Both tenants (someone who rents a room, an apartment or house) and landlords both have legal rights. There are laws which protect you from sudden rent increases or being forced to leave your apartment. You have the right to live anywhere you choose. Discrimination on the basis of colour, creed, sex, age or disability is not allowed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Provincial landlord and tenant laws also protect against such discrimination. You also have responsibilities. It is important to keep the house or apartment you are renting in the same condition you found it. Call?19 the provincial or municipal government department responsible for housing, sometimes called a rental board, if you need information or help, or look up the provincial Landlord and Tenant Regulations. You will find the numbers in the blue pages of the telephone book. You can also ask community groups for information or help.


Buying a home is a big step, and you might want to wait until you are settled before you do so. Most homes in Canada are sold through real estate agents, although some owners do it themselves. You may see or Sale?signs posted in front of homes, and you can also read the classified advertising section of the daily newspaper. When buying a house, it important to remember that there are many hidden costs. These may include the agent fee, in some provinces, as well as lawyer or notary fees, yearly property tax, house insurance, registration fees, various home buyer taxes, and the cost of maintaining the house ?heat, hydro, water, sewer, and so on. Make sure you know exactly what your costs will be before you buy.

You may want to find out about the First Home Loan Insurance Program, run by Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation. It enables you to buy a home with a smaller down payment. The Corporation fee is rolled into the total mortgage in the form of a small percentage.

Heat and hydro

Whether you rent or buy, you will need to sign up for various basic services, such as heat and hydro (electricity). In Canada, some homes are heated by gas, others by oil, and others by electricity. Frequently, there are one or two main companies which provide these services in an area, and you can find these in the yellow pages of the telephone book. Try looking under as,?eating Companies,?ils/Fuel,?and ydro-Electric.?

Getting a telephone

You will want to get a telephone installed quickly, so that you can reach the people and the services you need from the comfort of your home. Bell Canada operates most of the telephone service across Canada, but you can find out the name of the telephone company in your area in a telephone book. The Customer Service number should be in the first few pages of the book. The telephone company in your area normally has phonecentres in large shopping malls. You can visit them to get your service set up. You can either rent a telephone from your telephone company and pay month by month or buy one. The cost of making local calls is covered by the monthly service fee, which is added to the cost of renting the telephone. Long distance and overseas calls are not covered by this monthly fee, and can be quite expensive. Many telephone companies offer special plans which can reduce the costs of long distance calls. Remember: Canada is a very large country, so even when you e calling within the same province or city, long distance charges may apply.


Chances are you e going to need some basic furniture and household appliances. You can buy new, which can be costly, or wait for stores to have sales and buy things gradually. You can also buy used furniture and appliances, which is what many Canadians do. Articles or furniture for sale listings are found in the classified advertising section of the newspaper. You can also try used furniture stores, church and local rummage or garage sales, or community organizations. Your local community immigrant service organization should be able to help you with names and addresses.

To find out more

Probably one of the best sources of information is your local immigrant-serving organization. You might also want to consult the provincial or municipal department responsible for housing, listed in the blue pages of your telephone book. They may have a central information number.

The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) has a free pamphlet entitled Homebuying, Step by Step. They also run the Canada Housing Information Centre, and can provide information on the rental and housing markets across Canada. Call their toll-free number for more information: 1-800-668-2642 or visit their website at