Finding accommodation in Montreal: our advice and tips for expats

Have you decided to move to Montreal?

Finding accommodation is a mandatory step and often the number one concern of expatriates.

You are probably wondering "Where to stay in Montreal? ". Here are some tips to help you anticipate your move and find your dream home in Montreal.

Housing in Montreal: specifics of housing ads

Understanding the advertisements is the best way to avoid unpleasant surprises.

Here are the main things and small details to consider when reading housing offers.

What is a Condo?

French people wishing to rent or invest in Canada may come up against this first term, which is very present in North America. Are condos - "condominiums" - synonymous with flats? Not really.

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One of the major differences between a condo and a flat is the access to ownership . Flats are units in a building owned by the same owner who will rent them to people who wish to occupy them. Condos - condominiums - are, on the other hand, units in a building sold to owners who wish to move in.

The management of the building is also different between flats and condos: while the owner is responsible for the entire building in the case of flats, he will only take care of the common areas in a condo building. In fact, condos are generally more luxurious than flats and offer more services to the residents (swimming pool, gym, concierge, etc.). 

Is it possible to rent a condo in Montreal?

Some condominium owners decide to rent out their units as they do with apartments.

This is a good option if you don't want to buy but would like to live in Montreal in a comfortable and modern home (insulation in particular in Quebec is a very important point to take into account, given the winter temperatures!)

One of the advantages of renting a condo is that the tenant does not have to pay the common expenses of the building, the property taxes and the condominium fees since he is not the owner.

However, the tenant is entitled to use all the amenities and services offered in the building, if applicable. 

As a tenant, however, you will not be able to customize your apartment with new appliances or permanent fixtures. 

What does it cost to live in a condo in Montreal?

 

Buying or renting a condo has a price. Access to these extras/luxuries adds extra costs to the owners: they have to add to their mortgage payment the monthly condo/condominium fees and utility costs (electricity, internet...). 

In terms of rent for tenants, it will generally be higher on the condo side, in a neighbourhood and with similar general characteristics.

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2 ½, 3 ½ or 4 ½?

You will almost always see this information in the title of the advertisement. This corresponds to the number of rooms in the property. 

The ½ means the bathroom (which counts as half a room). These mentions can be confusing, as they do not reveal the area of the place, which is indicated very rarely.

Do not hesitate to ask the owner directly for the square footage of the accommodation.

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The 1 ½ room units (studio / T1 equivalent)

These are studios, with a large room with kitchenette and a bathroom - often small. 

Housing 2 ½ 

Usually a closed bedroom, a living room, a kitchenette and a bathroom. 

The 3 ½ room units (T2 equivalent)

Similar to the 2 ½ (an enclosed bedroom, living room and bathroom), the 3 ½ is often larger and has a full kitchen. 

The 4 ½ room units (T3 equivalent)

A 4 ½ is a two-bedroom flat. It has a living room, a separate or separate full kitchen and a bathroom. 

The 5 ½ (T4 equivalent) units

This type of accommodation contains an extra bedroom compared to the 4 ½ 

The 6 ½ (T5 equivalent) units 

These units have 3 or 4 bedrooms (usually two large bedrooms and one smaller one), a dining room, a living room, a separate full kitchen and a bathroom.

Converting feet to metres

While kilometres have not been converted to miles in Quebec, feet have taken precedence (no pun intended) over metres for housing. To give you a clearer idea of the difference, 1 foot = 30.48cm. For example, a 328 square foot dwelling is about 30 square metres.

Furnished/Semi-furnished: what are the differences?

The furnished rentals are accommodations that contain all the furniture and appliances necessary for the immediate installation of the tenants. These rentals sometimes include utilities such as internet, water, heating and electricity in the rent.

The semi-furnished rentalsSemi-furnished rentals are unfurnished accommodations where basic appliances are included (refrigerator, gas cooker, oven).

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Vocabulary

Cottage = two-storey house

Duplex / triplex / quadruplex = two / three / four unit property

Bungalow = single-storey house

Semi-detached house = semi-detached house

Split-level = split-level house

House townhouse = row house

Bachelor = basement, semi-basement or small flat within a single-family house

First floor = ground floor

Second floor = first floor

Locker = indoor or outdoor storage space

Accommodation in Montreal: why not a Basement?

In Canada and the United States, basements are often used as living quarters. Far from resembling our damp wine cellar, it is quite possible to live in them and they sometimes even have windows.

Beware, however, that the light is still reduced and in winter, with the days getting shorter and the snow accumulating, you may quickly live in darkness. The rents of these apartments are always lower, considering the disadvantages that this implies. 

Housing in Montreal: the credit check

Audits in Quebec

According to the Régie du Logement du Québec :

"In order to ascertain the payment habits of the prospective tenant, the landlord may, with the consent of the tenant, collect information from current or previous landlords.To ascertain the payment habits of the prospective tenant, the landlord may, with the consent of the tenant, collect information from current or previous landlords. The landlord may then request the names and contact details of these landlords and carry out a credit check.The landlord can then request the names and contact details of these landlords and carry out a credit check.

In addition, to establish payment habits, the prospective tenant may provide the landlord with :

  • A credit report from your financial institution
  • A letter of recommendation from a previous landlord 
  • Any other document attesting to the fulfilment of its obligations by an organisation or a goods or services company that requires payments over time (e.g.: Bell, Hydro-Québec, Vidéotron, etc.)
  • Relevant extracts from his credit report

A landlord can use a personal information agent ("credit bureau") to carry out a credit check. The landlord must obtain the consent of the prospective tenant. Only the name, address and date of birth are sufficient - the social insurance number is not necessary

The credit check can be conducted by the prospective tenant who will share the report with the landlord. 

To know: Most of the time, newcomers do not have a credit history or references from previous landlords in Canada: even without this information, most landlords will agree to rent their property. You can also ask for a letter of recommendation from your bank in France to support your application - it is always appreciated

Your rights and duties as a tenant

La Régie du Logement 

The Régie du Logement in Quebec is there to inform you of your rights and responsibilities, the laws that exist in Quebec and the procedures to follow covering all aspects of your tenancy. 

Housing Committee 

This is your local tenants' association, which can help you with any questions about renting a property

Your personal data 

The landlord cannot require you to share your social insurance number (SIN), bank account number, driver's licence number and health card number. However, they can ask for your first and last name, current and previous addresses and date of birth.

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As a tenant, you have an obligation to :

  • pay the required rent at the time specified in the lease;
  • use the accommodation carefully and responsibly;
  • carry out any minor repairs that may be required;
  • not to change the form or purpose (type of use) of the dwelling;
  • return the accommodation to the condition in which you received it;
  • not to disturb the peace and quiet of other tenants.

Simple steps to find accommodation in Montreal 

Compared to France, in Quebec, the procedures for accessing rental accommodation are fairly quick.

Please note: As mentioned above, you will need to show that you are a good payer, as the landlord does not have a guarantee (deposit). If it is not possible for you to satisfy the credit check as a newcomer, you can provide proof of your solvency: a copy of your work contract, a rigorous bank statement showing a four or five figure balance, the designation of a guarantor jointly and severally liable, a letter of recommendation from your French bank.

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Housing in Montreal: lease and moving day

Leases and moving day

In Quebec, there is a "Moving Day".Moving Day"July 1 of each year. By custom, most residential leases end on June 30/July 1. If you are looking for a place to live, you will have more choices (but also more competition) in April, May and June .

A lease is a consensual contract which does not require any particular formality. It can be done in writing or verbally by the mere exchange of consents. In Quebec, the Régie du logement requires you to sign its own lease form, whether you are renting a flat, a room, a condo or a house. This is a way to reassure both parties and avoid unpleasant surprises. 

Even if your lease is more likely to end on 1 July, there is no minimum rental period set by law: it is perfectly possible to rent a property for one month or three years (the maximum period is still 100 years per lease).

The prescribed lease form must include the following elements:

  • The name of the tenant(s) and the owner;
  • The description and purpose of the rented accommodation, accessories and outbuildings (address of the accommodation, furniture and/or appliances included in the rental);
  • The duration of the lease (fixed term or indefinite term);
  • The rent: the amount, date and method of payment (weekly or monthly);
  • Services (works and repairs, caretaker service, other services, taxes and consumption costs for heating, hot water, etc.) and conditions (building regulations);
  • The signatures of each of the parties

You can obtain a standard lease form from pharmacies (Pharmaprix, Jean Coutu)

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Housing in Montreal: Subletting and lease transfer

As explained above, leases usually end on 1 July.

If you wish to leave your flat during the course of your lease, you can sublet it and keep the possibility of returning. This procedure is perfectly legal in Quebec. You can also transfer your lease, that is, terminate your lease and transfer it to another tenant. In general, the tenant of the dwelling arranges to quickly find a future tenant who will take over the lease. Of course, the landlord must be notified and may refuse and look for a new tenanthimself.

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Accommodation in Montreal: budget

The terms of payment of the rent can be negotiated and must be included in the lease. Rents are paid on the agreed dates. Otherwise, they are paid on the first of each month. Rents can be paid in cash, by certified cheque, money order or credit card in some cases. The landlord cannot force you to pay more than one month's rent or demand post-dated cheques. The lease must specify what charges are included in the rent.

In addition to paying rent, here are the other expenses you should consider and incorporate into your budget for housing in Montreal.

Home insurance, a necessity for tenants

Although it is not a legal obligation, home insurance is essential in the face of unforeseen events that may occur in your home. 

In addition to guaranteeing your property and furniture, home insurance provides you with civil liability insurance, both inside and outside your home, when you sign the contract.

On average, you should expect to pay $30/month for home insurance in Montreal

Electricity, gas and water

The tenant is responsible for energy costs (especially heating), unless the lease specifies that they are paid by the landlord. Subscribing to electricity and gas services is very simple, since in each region they are provided by a single distribution company. All you have to do is call the customer service department of the local electricity and gas companies, Hydro-Québecand gas companies, Energir - formerly Gaz Métro, to find out how to subscribe and what the monthly cost will be. Water consumption is not billed - the drinking water system is financed through property taxes paid by homeowners.

Please note: In Canada, the electrical current is generally 110 volts (60 volts or 40 volts can be found, but this is extremely rare). Electrical installations are the same as in the United States. Appliances intended for use in Europe and many other countries of the world will need an adapter or special plug.

For electricity/gas, count 50$ on average for a 3 ½

The security deposit / guarantee

It is not uncommon for landlords to ask you for a security deposit: be aware that you have the right to refuse, as this is forbidden by law (for standard one-year contracts)! They only have the right to ask you to pay the first term/month when signing the lease .

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Council Tax and School Tax

Good news! The housing tax does not exist in Quebec! Only the school tax exists.

Landlords must pay a tax to the English or French school board that serves the territory where the dwelling is located. This school tax is directly included in the rent that the landlord charges you.

Find out what expenses to expect in our article on the cost of living in Montreal and Toronto.

Furnishing your flat

If you are moving into semi-furnished or unfurnished accommodation, here is a (non-exhaustive) list of good places to find furniture and decoration: 

  • IKEA Ikea : we are not going to introduce you to Ikea 😉 please note, the car is essential to get there
  • EQ3 EQ3 is a Canadian retailer and manufacturer dedicated to quality manufacturing and design. EQ3 promotes original designs, homegrown manufacturing and a uniquely Canadian perspective on modern home furnishings and housewares.
  • Structube Structube : Structube was originally a small family business, but has since become a reference in terms of decoration, design and furnishings in Canada. They offer an incredible range of furniture and accessories at the best prices. Several shops in Montreal
  • Nüspace Nüspace is the place to be for contemporary design in Montreal where you will find a wide range of quality, attractive, comfortable and affordable furniture.
  • ZONE House ZONE Maison : This Quebec-based company offers furniture and decorations for all budgets, with a contemporary design style. Several shops in Montreal

More upmarket shops: 

  • Buk & Nola Buk & Nola is the perfect place to find the finishing touch to a decor, find the perfect gift or simply feast your eyes.
  • MUST Company MUST: collections for indoors and outdoors, a kitchen area, a flower counter, an electronics area, a bakery and the Ligne Roset boutique for enthusiasts of top-of-the-range contemporary furniture.
  • West Elm West Elm: Originally from Brooklyn, the company has moved to Griffintown in Montreal. They collaborate with artisanal communities and independent designers, and strive to design products that have a positive impact on people and the environment.
  • V de V VdeV is a vintage/industrial style furniture and accessories shop in Mile End
  • Coeur d'artichaut Coeur d'Artichaut: the owners of Coeur d'Artichaut travel the world in search of artisans who like to see the world as a land of opportunity and who are committed to offering objects with a story.
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Housing in Montreal: which neighbourhood to choose?

Discover our overview of Montreal's main neighbourhoods, in pictures, budget and description in our article : "Discover the neighbourhoods of Montreal

Housing in Montreal: when and how to look for accommodation as an expatriate?

Book a temporary rental

The ideal is to arrive in Montreal having booked a room/apartment/temporary home and to visit directly on site. Indeed, the offer is larger and more accessible and the real visits will be more reassuring for you and for the owners.

Book accommodation on Airbnb and do some advance research on the internet before you arrive.

When is the best time to find accommodation in Montreal?

As mentioned at the beginning of this article, Moving Day is held every July 1 in Montreal (and throughout Quebec). Therefore, the best times to find your future home are April, May and June. Winter (November - early March) is the season with the lowest supply of housing. 

Where to look for accommodation?

Many websites put landlords and prospective tenants in touch with each other

  • Kijiji and Craigslist are the most common and most consulted
  • https://rentals.ca/ 
  • Kangalou is a Canadian company located in Montreal that serves tenants and landlords. More than just a site for finding flats or tenants, the platform is a must for renting your flat without wasting time, to live a more human rental experience and to find, in one place, a host of tips and tools for successful renting.
  • DuProprio and LesPac or PadMapper are three other good websites for finding a home
  • Facebook groups(Montreal Apartments/Logements Montréal, Logement à Montréal ...) allow owners or tenants to post ads (beware of scams)

In Montreal, you have to be reactive and react quickly to the ads, because in 2/3 days the properties are no longer available. Hence the need to be on the spot when looking for accommodation.

Surround yourself with a residential real estate broker to find a place to live in Montreal

Surrounding yourself with a residential real estate broker is a common practice in Quebec. Indeed, he will accompany you free of charge through all the steps of the rental process: from the selection of the neighbourhood to the signing of the lease with the owner. His neutral and objective view coupled with his role as a negotiator will effectively guide you in your search for a home.

Even before you arrive in Canada, he or she will be able to analyse your needs and advise you on the areas and properties that best suit your expectations.

Joining our community of French-speaking expatriate developers in Canada also means taking advantage of our network of trusted real estate brokers and our sound advice regarding your search for a home in Montreal. 

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