When you apply for rental housing, landlords and property managers want to verify that you are who you say you are, that you’ll take care of the place, and that you’ll pay your rent on time.
If you don’t have Canadian credit history or previous Canadian landlords, you’ll face a few additional challenges to collect all the documents that will allow you to prove yourself trustworthy. But don’t worry! Follow the steps below and refer to our handy flow chart to figure out everything you need to rent in Canada.
Then make several copies of each of documents and put one copy of each document in an envelope with your name on it. Bring an envelope to each viewing. When you find an apartment you like, you’ll be ready to apply right away. Good luck!
Before beginning your apartment hunt you need to set up an account with a Canadian bank. All major banks have accounts specifically designed for people who are new to Canada and anyone can open an account provided they can provide two pieces of identification, such as a passport, employee card with a photograph, driver’s license, certificate of Canadian citizenship or naturalization, or permanent resident card. It’s also possible to present only one piece of identification if your identity can be confirmed by a client in good standing with the bank or by an individual of good standing in the community where the bank is located. You can open an account even if you don’t have a job or any money to deposit.
To rent an apartment in Canada, you’ll need to provide a rent deposit. Most landlords will require a deposit in the form of a personal or certified cheque. The type and amount of deposit that landlords can charge is different in each province and territory.
A cheque (or ‘check’ in American English) is a piece of paper that orders a bank to pay a specific amount of money from a person’s account to the person in whose name the cheque has been issued. North America is one of the only regions in the world where paper cheques are still widely used. A certified cheque is similar to a personal cheque, except the bank has verified that there is enough money in the account to pay it. The bank then sets this money aside until the cheque is cashed or cancelled. Therefore, a certified cheque cannot “bounce” and its liquidity is similar to cash.
Most landlords require a credit report which contains your credit score. A credit score is a number that illustrates how consistently you’ve paid bills and debt in the past. Landlords use credit scores as indicators of financial health and to determine the risk you represent compared with other renters.
Unfortunately, Canadian credit agencies (Equifax and TransUnion) only consider Canadian debts, such as credit cards, mortgages, phone bills, and car loans. To prove your credit-worthiness if you are new to the country, ask your bank at home for a solvency certificate or letter of good standing. This is an official letter that states that your assets (i.e. your bank balance) are greater than your liabilities (i.e. your debts). Each bank will require different documents and may charge a small fee, but this letter will be very valuable for your Canadian apartment hunt.
When landlords ask for your references, they are asking for the names and contact details of past landlords. They usually require about three references. Good landlords will call your references to verify the information you have given them. They will also have to verify that the references you have provided are valid.
Verifying the identity of foreign references is challenging and dealing with different time zones or language barriers may put you at an additional disadvantage. Simplify this process by providing them with Canadian references in addition to those from back home. Your employer, colleagues, professors, immigration lawyers, or even the bank manager who helped you open your account could all do this for you. It’s a good idea to begin building relationships with people who might be able to act as references as soon as you arrive in Canada.
Letter of employment or income statement
In addition to a credit check and references from people who can vouch for your character, you will need a letter to prove that you’re employed or otherwise financially viable. An example employment letter template can be found here. If you are a student you may also need to provide proof of funding. You can use the same letter provided to Canadian immigration services to secure your student visa.