Getting an apartment may be the best housing solution for you. Montreal has a lot of apartments in tall buildings and in small buildings, all over the city. There are some things you need to know and some questions you need to ask.
» The Lease [bail]
A lease is a contract between the tenant [locataire] and the landlord [propriétaire]. The tenant is the person who pays rent, and the landlord is the owner of the building. In Quebec, the lease forms are from the government, so they all look the same. Most leases are for 12 months, but in some buildings where there are many students, they can be for shorter periods of time. Landlords prefer leases that go from July 1st to June 30th, which is why many people say July 1st is “Moving Day”.
The lease will say what the price of the rent is, and it will say what is and isn’t included. Leases may include heating, hot water, electricity, cable TV, parking or other things. Make sure you understand exactly what is included, because some of these extras cost a lot of money. If the lease is in French, and you can’t understand it, you can ask for it in English.
Before you sign your name on the lease, check the Rights of Tenants to know what the landlord can and can’t do legally in Quebec.
Leases are automatically renewed. If you are leaving your apartment at the end of the lease, you must give written notice of “non-renewal” in advance. If it is a 12 month lease, the notice must be at least 3 months before the end.
To find an apartment, check the Concordia Student Union Off Campus Housing Bank, or the classified ads. You may also see ads on bulletin boards at school or around the university. Also, you may see a sign on a building. À LOUER means FOR RENT in English.
An important tool for finding apartments in Canada is the classified ads of the newspaper. You can find classified ads in the Gazette and in the free newspapers you find in the city. The biggest housing section is in the Saturday Gazette. The ads are small, and the writers use abbreviations so they are cheaper. However, with a little practice, they are easy to understand.
Location – classified ads usually start by saying which neighbourhood they are in, or which metro station they are near. They are also listed alphabetically this way. Check the neighbourhoods map for more details.
Size – the ads always mention a size (how many rooms). In Quebec, we use a numbering system with ½ meaning a bathroom.
1½ – one room with a bathroom. It will have a kitchenette (small fridge and sink)
2½ – like a 1½ but a the room may be double or L-shaped
3½ – one bedroom, living room, kitchen and bathroom
4½ – two bedrooms (or a double room), living room, kitchen and bathroom
5½ – three bedrooms, living room, kitchen and bathroom
6½ – add more rooms/bedrooms for each bigger number
In English Canada, they don’t use the ½-numbering system. A 1½ or 2½ is called a Bachelor Apartment, a 3½ is called a 1-bedroom apartment, and 4½ is called a 2-bedroom apartment and so on.
Date – the ad usually says the date the apartment is available. If it is available immediately, it means that the apartment is empty now, and you can move in right away.
Included – usually the ad will mention if the apartment is heated [chauffé] or unheated. This is very important, because if it is heated, the building has a heating system, so your electricity cost will be lower. If it is unheated, it probably has electric heat, and you will have to pay a higher electricity bill for heating in the winter. It is the same thing for air conditioning (AC) Also, hot water [eau chaude]may or may not be included.
Furnished – If an apartment is furnished [meublé], it has furniture. Semi-furnished means it has some furniture. Many apartments have a fridge [frigo] and stove [poêle] included, but you should ask to make sure.
Telephone Number – check if it says evenings or other special times to call. Landlords sometimes have other jobs and can’t answer the phone any time.
Getting roommates is a way to save a lot of money, if you are sharing an apartment. However, it is important to get the right one. Make sure your roommate is someone you can easily talk to if have a disagreement. It is a lot of fun to live with your friend, but you need to agree about cooking, cleaning, smoking, noise, and splitting the expenses. If you like to study at home, and your roommate likes to party all the time, maybe you shouldn’t be roommates! Don’t lose your friend because you fought about the apartment.
It is a good idea to find a roommate who doesn’t speak the same first languages as you, so you both can practice speaking English. Talk to your classmates, and students in other classes. You may hear about someone who is looking for the same thing. There are also signs on the bulletin boards on the first and second floor of the FB building, and some on the third floor of the CL building.
Another place to look is the Concordia Student Union Housing and Job Bank (CSU HoJo). Click on Housing to Share.
Montreal is a big city with lots of interesting neighbourhoods to live in. You don’t have to live downtown! Downtown apartments can be very small and very expensive. Areas that are a little farther away are much cheaper. You can live near a metro station so you can go to school and downtown easily but pay much less than living downtown.
When you are looking at ads for apartments, they often say their neighbourhood. To get an idea about where they are, click the Map of Montreal neighbourhoods. Some of the neighbourhoods are boroughs [arrondissements], which are political divisions in the city, and others are just traditional names for areas.