When looking for your first university apartment, it can be easy to become overwhelmed by the sheer amount of information needed to navigate the housing market. Lease agreements are no exception to this; whether you don’t know who to ask to be a guarantor, how to set up an account with Hydro Quebec, or you’re unsure about what to expect on the lease agreement, we’ve compiled a comprehensive guide to help you navigate the complex world of leases with ease.
What You’ll Need Before Signing
While many landlords have different requirements for tenants before signing a lease, it’s very common to be asked to provide basic information to prove your reliability and ensure you’ll meet the requirements set out in the lease.
Proof of identity
This is common practice, and while they may ask for proof of your identity, they cannot photocopy or save a photo of it or the information listed on it.
You may be asked to provide a reference from a previous landlord, which is why it’s important to stay on good terms with your landlord, or you may be able to send a reference letter with copies of a credit report or a collection of bills you’ve consistently paid.
Credit / Guarantor
As a student, you likely have not rented before or even established much credit yet. You’ll require a guarantor to vouch for you and provide a guarantee that the financial requirements of your lease will be fulfilled.
What to Expect on Your Lease
After viewing an apartment, meeting the landlord or superintendent, and getting pre-approved for the lease, landlords will have you sign a Quebec lease agreement, with an addendum or schedule of rules and regulations specific to that building that’s added to the end of the lease. Standard information that is covered by lease agreements includes:
The amount of your rent and what it covers
Does it include internet, heating, and hydro? What about snow removal? If your building has amenities, are they included too? If hydro is not included, ask the landlord for the costs or use this resource to estimate your monthly bill if the heat is electric.
Whether or not it’s a joint tenancy
Make note if it’s a joint tenancy, this means all tenants are equally responsible to cover the rent; if one tenant decides to leave then all remaining tenants will need to ensure the full rent continues to be paid. Joint tenants can sign this agreement to establish how they will split the rent.
Building-specific procedures and policies
This can include how to dispose of garbage and on what days it’s collected, if there’s laundry in the building and how much it costs, whether tenant insurance is required, and how the unit is heated, among other things.
Who are the building managers? Is there a superintendent on site? Make sure you know who these people are and how to contact them.
This will be different on each lease and can include the landlord’s policy on allowances for things like pets, parties, fire escape procedures, accessibility needs, and more.
What to Watch Out For
In Quebec it is not legal for landlords to require a deposit when signing your lease. It is legal for them to require first month’s rent when you sign, which may be paid well in advance of when you actually move. Your first month’s rent functions as a deposit would, which is legal because it’s basically a pre-payment of rent. However, this means your next rent payment will be due on month two of tenancy; make sure you aren’t asked for money beyond the first month’s rent when signing. Additionally:
- Landlords cannot ask for more than one month’s rent at a time
- They cannot charge a damage deposit
- They cannot ask for a key deposit or post-dated cheques
Other Things to Know
Beyond the lease agreement, there are other standards and practices that you need to know about when renting an apartment in Quebec.
While Quebec renting laws tend to favour the right of tenants to retain occupancy, landlords can legally file for eviction if they wish to subdivide, enlarge substantially, renovate, or change the use of the property. If attempting to evict their tenants, landlords must provide an eviction notice with the reason and the date of the eviction. A landlord must provide the following amount of notice to evict:
- Six months before, on a lease of six months or more
- One month before, on a lease of six months or less
- Six months before, on a lease without a set term.
A tenant then has one month from the time they receive the eviction notice to notify the landlord whether they accept or reject the eviction notice. If a tenant fails to respond appropriately within that window, it is assumed they have accepted the notice to evict.
Since many students spend their summers elsewhere, having someone live in your space and supplement your rent can really ease the financial burden. Here’s the form you need for that.
Whether it’s intentional or by coincidence, many leases in Quebec run 12 months long and commonly start anywhere from May 1st to July 1st. This means that move-in day for many people falls on July 1st, Canada Day. If you’re booking a moving truck for that day, you’ll have to prepare well in advance since it is often a day of chaos and mass movement in the province.
When to look for apartments
For leases beginning in May, June, or July, make sure you start looking for what’s available in January, that way you won’t get stuck living somewhere you don’t want.
In Quebec it is typical for your landlord to send you a notice of renewal 6 months or so before your lease ends. Once received, you’ll have 30 days to respond if you are staying or leaving. Without providing notice you may get locked in to an additional year or be forced out earlier than you wanted.
Remember to ask questions about your lease and consult more than just your landlord. Don’t be afraid to advocate for yourself or seek help when it comes to even basic things like choosing which internet provider to use. If you’re unsure whether something is legally permitted in your lease, check out the website for the Régie, now known as the Tribunal administratif du logement. The Régie holds jurisdiction over all matters relating to renting in Quebec and is an invaluable resource for anyone renting an apartment. They exist to help renters navigate housing and also to enforce legal renting practices. Always refer to the Régie to clarify what is and is not legal, what your rights are, and how to receive legal help in matters of renting.