Welcome to Canada! The true north strong and free. Canada is a country with exceptional natural beauty, free healthcare, great education and a red-hot housing market. This is a list of the five documents you need to begin your search for the perfect rental apartment in Canada, and how to get them.
Like anywhere, Canadian landlords and property managers want to verify that you are who you say you are, you will take care of the place, and you’ll pay your rent on time. As a recent arrival to the country, you’ll face a few additional challenges to collect all this evidence.
Follow the steps below to get organized. Then make several copies of each document and put one of each in an envelope with your name on it. Bring these packages of essential documents to each apartment viewing. When you find an apartment you like, you’ll be ready to apply right away. If you don’t, you might miss out. Happy home hunting!
- Bank account
Before beginning your apartment search you need to set up an account with a Canadian bank. All of the 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 a bank account in Canada even if you don’t have a job or any money to deposit.
The rules related to deposits and fees are different in each province or territory. Make sure you know the law for your region, and never pay more than what is required. If a landlord asks for an extra fee, or a deposit that you know is illegal in your province, walk away. If they don’t know the most basic rules about renting or try to take advantage of you, they are unlikely to be the kind of landlord you want to do business with.
Most landlords will require a deposit in the form of a personal or certified cheque. 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.
3. Credit check
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. 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 extremely valuable for your Canadian apartment hunt. If there is one thing you need to know about moving to Canada, it’s this!
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 and ask them about your character and suitability as a tenant.
They will also have to verify that the references you have provided are really your past landlords. Verifying the identity of foreign references is challenging and dealing with different time zones or language barriers may put you at a disadvantage compared with local applicants. 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.
5. Letter of employment
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.