We asked housing experts for their top tips!
Montreal’s housing market is notoriously difficult to navigate, even for people who have lived here their whole lives. For those from outside of Montreal, especially international students, it’s understandably common to be unaware of your housing rights and the regulations that protect them. This can lead to people falling for scams and making avoidable mistakes that can make or break their time in the city.
Thankfully, organizations like Concordia University’s Housing and Job Resource Centre (HOJO) are here to support students, who make up a significant percentage of Montreal renters each year. MTL Blog asked HOJO experts about what issues international student renters often come across, and how to avoid getting caught in a sticky situation. These tips are good for everyone — we all deserve safe, affordable and scam-free housing!
Here are the do’s and don’ts for renting as an international student in Montreal.
DO sign an official Quebec lease.
It’s your right as a renter to have an official lease, especially because they detail Quebec housing regulations on the document itself. Your landlord should provide you with one, and you can verify the documents you receive against the templates available from the government.
DON’T send a landlord any money before signing your lease.
It’s common for landlords to ask unwitting tenants for additional money, sometimes even before a formal agreement has been signed. This is not how renting works, and you should always wait until your lease is signed before sending your rent — the only money your landlord is allowed to ask you for. HOJO explained that often, international students with no credit history or references in Canada may feel pressure to agree to additional requests from landlords in their attempts to secure housing. Even if you’re a new arrival with no credit and no connections, you still have the same housing rights, no matter how insistent your landlord may be.
DO withhold unnecessary personal information.
“International students might feel like they have to give a potential landlord any and all information they can ask for,” HOJO explained, “but this isn’t the case.” Landlords can’t ever ask you for your SIN, credit card number, driver’s license, passport number, student visa, health insurance number or bank account number.
DON’T pay your lease with Bitcoin, coupons or any other untraceable currency.
These payment methods, although crypto may be trendy, make it dangerously easy for landlords to scam you out of your precious student income. It’s important to pay your rent through traceable methods, both for any future legal actions and to make sure your landlord can’t claim you never paid.
DO your own background checks on any suspicious landlords or property agents.
“Suspicious” here means any landlord who claims to be outside the country. Per HOJO, this is a common tactic used in rental scams. “Scammers may even pretend to be an agent for a real estate company or a management company acting on behalf of a landlord who’s out of the country,” they told MTL Blog. To check if your potential landlord is legit, try searching Montreal’s municipal directory of property owners. You can also do a simple Google search to verify the management company isn’t six scammers in a trench coat.
DON’T pay your landlord any deposits or fees besides the first month’s rent (or a portion of it).
Landlords in Quebec are not allowed to ask for any kind of fee or deposit from a renter or potential tenant. Common examples of illegal fees are application fees, damage deposits, key deposits or furniture deposits, according to HOJO. Your landlord can only ask you to pay a portion, or the total amount, of the first month’s rent in advance, nothing else.
There are plenty of resources out there to help new renters manage the chaotic housing market. If you find yourself in a sticky situation with your landlord, including discrimination, HOJO recommends you reach out to the Comité du Logement (local housing committee), who are there to help.You can also consult this housing resource hub, co-created by HOJO and student housing non-profit UTILE, or visit the website for the housing tribunal (the Tribunal administratif du logement, previously called the Régie du logement), which has jurisdiction over lease-related conflicts.