20th Jun 2023
Afia Azmi

Cracking the Canadian Housing Market: A Guide for International Students

Canadian Universities have become increasingly popular for international students seeking quality education in a safe and welcoming environment. However, one of the most important concerns for those abroad is finding suitable accommodation in Canada. Canadian universities offer a range of accommodation options, from on-campus to off-campus.

This article will discuss the different types of accommodation available to international students in Canada, including their costs and benefits. It will also provide advice and tips on how to find the best accommodation option in Canada for your needs.

Types of Accommodation

Canada offers a range of accommodation options for international students, including student residences, homestays, shared apartments, and hotels. 

When finding suitable accommodation in Canada, it's important to consider the various options available. Each option has its own advantages and disadvantages, so it's crucial to research and evaluate them carefully to find the best accommodation in Canada that suits your needs.


Accommodation DetailsRentDeposit
On-Campus ResidenceConvenient but expensive, and you may have to share a room with another student. Requires a full academic year commitment instead of a more flexible arrangement.CAD 4,000 - CAD 10,000/yearCAD 200 - CAD 500
Apartments/CondosApartments offer private living spaces with separate bedrooms, bathrooms, and a kitchen. Apartments can vary in size and amenities. CAD 800 - CAD 2,500/monthOne Month's Rent
Shared Housing Room rentals in houses, apartments, or condominiums allow students to save on expenses while experiencing local culture, offering a unique alternative to dormitory living.CAD 400 to CAD 1,200/monthOne Month's Rent
HomestaysStudents live with a host family that provides a safe and comfortable home environment, meals, transportation, and sometimes even cultural activities. --
Basement SuitesBasement suites are self-contained units located in the basement of a house, with separate entrances, a kitchen, a bathroom, and a living space. CAD 500 to CAD 1,500/monthCAD 100 - CAD 500
Room Rentals Can be rented out by the month or semester and are typically furnished with bedding, a desk, and other amenities. CAD 400 to CAD 1,000/monthCAD 400 - CAD 500
Pros and Cons of Housing Options
On-Campus Residences
  • Sense of Community and Togetherness
  • Basic Amenities are provided
  • Shared Responsibilities and Ownership
  • Noisy and lifestyle Differences
  • Lack of Choice in Choosing Roommates
  • Flexible Duration 
  • Amenities like Gyms and Swimming Pools, etc
  • Maintenance Managed by landlords
  • Location Accessibility 
  • Can be Expensive
  • Restrictions on renovations
  • Lease restrictions and landlord rules
Shared Apartment
  • Cost-Sharing and affordable
  • Helps Socialize and Build Friendships
  • Shared Responsibilities and Ownership
  • Lack of Privacy 
  • Compatibility and Lifestyle Differences
  • Opportunity to blend with local culture and customs 
  • Guidance and Security to navigate freely
  • Meals and Amenities provided
  • Helps building relationships
  • Limited independence
  • Lack of Privacy Due to shared personal space
  • Cultural differences
Basement Suites
  • Privacy and independence
  • Affordable
  • Separate entrance for added convenience.
  • Limited natural light and ventilation
  • Potential noise from upstairs residents
  • Limited outdoor space or access to common areas
Room Rentals 
  • Cost-effective
  • Furnished with essential items
  • Flexibility to rent on a monthly or semester basis
  • Lack of Privacy 
  • Compatibility and Lifestyle Differences
  • Less control over the overall living environment
How to Secure Accommodation in Canada?
  • Research

Begin exploring off-campus housing choices as soon as possible to understand the rental market in the area where the institution is located. Think about things like location, affordability, transport, and safety. 

  • Budget

Determine your budget and find housing options that meet it. Be realistic about what you can afford. When searching for off-campus housing, you should factor in the cost of rent, utilities, and other expenses like internet and cable. You should also consider the cost of commuting if you need to commute to campus or to work. 

  • Look for listings

Check out online classifieds websites such as Places4Students, Craigslist or Kijiji to search for available apartments and houses for rent. Some universities also have online housing search portals for students. You may also hire a real estate agent to assist you in your search. Realtors usually have access to a wide selection of properties that are not listed online. Additionally, you can also ask friends and family for recommendations. 

  • Plan a visit

Visit the university and the surrounding area to view potential off-campus housing options in person. This will give you a better understanding of the neighbourhood and the house. 

  • Contact landlords

Contacting landlords who have properties for rent is essential. It's imperative to thoroughly research the area and the landlord before signing a lease. Ask the landlord about their payment policies, pet policies, and other vital details. 

  • Verify Legitimacy

When searching for accommodations online, avoid scams. Only send money or personal information after verifying the legitimacy of the listing or the landlord. Visit the accommodation in person or ask someone you trust to do so.

  • Consider roommates

Look for suitable roommates. You'll want to make sure you are compatible with your potential roommates. Talk with them about expectations and living habits, and make sure you are on the same page. Establishing boundaries and expectations early on is also essential to avoid conflicts later. 

  • Sign the lease

Once you have found the perfect off-campus housing, the next step is to sign the lease. Read the lease carefully and understand the terms and conditions before signing. Ensure you know of additional fees or costs, such as security deposits or utility bills. Once you have signed the lease, you can move into your new home.

NOTE - Before signing a rental agreement, ensure you understand and are comfortable with the terms. Thoroughly read the contract or consult an expert, and request a copy in advance to review and ask questions.

Legal Requirements for Accommodation
 Rental AgreementsWritten agreements are crucial, signed by both parties, and must clearly outline rights and responsibilities. It should include rental unit details, lease duration, rent amount and payment terms, security deposit, and tenant rules.
Valid Immigration StatusInternational students in Canada must have a valid study permit and be in good standing with Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC). 
Rental Application ProcessThe rental application process may include submitting a form, providing references, and undergoing a credit check. Landlords may ask for previous addresses, educational institution details, and references from landlords or employers.
Security DepositsThey are usually required by landlords in Canada. A security deposit is a refundable amount paid to secure a rental agreement, returned if all obligations are met.
Paying RentInternational students have the same rental obligations as other tenants in Canada. This includes timely rent payment, respecting fellow tenants' rights, and adhering to the lease terms.
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Tenant Rights and Responsibilities

It is important to familiarize yourself with your rights and responsibilities as a tenant in Canada. Each province or territory has residential tenancy legislation outlining tenants' and landlords' rights and obligations. It covers rent increases, repairs, eviction procedures, and privacy rights.

Some of these are -

  1. Right to equal treatment
  2. Right to privacy
  3. Right to a safe and habitable living environment
  4. Right to reasonable notice of rent increases
  5. Responsibility for paying rent on time
  6. Responsibility for reporting repairs and maintenance issues
  7. Responsibility for maintaining the rental unit
  8. Right to dispute resolution
Safety and Security
Research the NeighbourhoodResearch the area for safety and security before choosing accommodation. Read online reviews and seek input from previous residents to make an informed decision.
Seek RecommendationsTake suggestions from current students or alumni who have lived in Canada to get an idea of the safety and security of the accommodation in a particular area. 
Verify the Legitimacy of ListingsDo your research before applying for housing. Verify the legitimacy of the listing and check if the landlord/agency is registered with provincial or municipal government. 
Visit the Property in PersonVisit the property in person to assess its condition, suitability, and meet the landlord/manager before committing to a rental agreement.
Check Safety MeasuresVerify the presence and functionality of locks, smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, and secure all doors and windows. Consider installing a security system for added safety.
Get Renter's InsuranceConsider obtaining renter's insurance to safeguard your belongings against theft, damage, or loss. This insurance can also provide coverage for medical expenses in case of accidents.
Resources For Finding Information
  1. International Student Offices

These offices at universities and colleges across Canada can provide helpful information and advice on finding accommodation. They can also provide access to resources such as off-campus housing databases and information on rental contracts.

  1. Online Housing Portals

Utilize online housing portals and platforms explicitly catering to students, such as Places4Students, Off-Campus Housing 101, or HousingAnywhere. These platforms often have listings tailored to the needs of international students and provide search filters based on location, price, and other preferences.

  1. Local Housing Organizations and Agencies

These are great resource for finding information on accommodation in Canada for international students. They can provide up-to-date information about housing availability in specific areas and often offer assistance finding accommodation.

  1. Online Housing Portals

Utilize online housing portals and platforms explicitly catering to students, such as Places4Students, Off-Campus Housing 101, or HousingAnywhere. These platforms often have listings tailored to the needs of international students and provide search filters based on location, price, and other preferences.

  1. Student Unions

Student associations are an excellent resource for finding information on accommodation in Canada for international students. They can provide information on available housing options, rental prices, and other relevant information. They can also offer advice and assistance in finding a suitable living place.

  1. Online Review Platforms

Read reviews and feedback from previous tenants about specific accommodations, landlords, or rental agencies. Websites like Yelp, Google Reviews, or RateMyLandlord can provide insights into the experiences of others.

Post-Arrival in Canada
Activate your Study PermitActivate your study permit promptly upon arrival by visiting the nearest CBSA office or following the provided instructions.
Open Bank AccountA Canadian bank account is necessary for paying rent, bills, and living expenses, as well as receiving scholarships and financial aid.
Obtain a Social Security NumberObtain a social insurance number (SIN) from Service Canada to rent, bank, and apply for scholarships. It is a nine-digit number necessary for accessing government programs and benefits.
Register for ClassesRegister for classes by bringing proof of enrollment, student visa, and possibly taking a placement test to determine appropriate courses.
Attend OrientationAttend the university orientation programs for essential information about campus, area, culture, laws, and tips for adjusting to life in Canada.
Connect with the CommunityConnect with the international student community at your institution. Attend social events, join clubs, and make friends for support, cultural exchange, and valuable connections.
Set up Healthcare CoverageCheck eligibility for public healthcare coverage in your province/territory. Register promptly to ensure coverage as international students are responsible for healthcare costs in Canada.
Private InsuranceConsider private health insurance if you're not eligible for provincial coverage or during waiting periods. Look for international student health insurance plans offered by your institution or private providers.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Q.1) Can I work part-time to support my accommodation expenses?

Work part-time to support accommodation expenses. Universities and local businesses offer job opportunities, but prioritize balancing work with academic responsibilities.

Q.2) What resources can I access for assistance with accommodation-related issues?

Seek guidance from your educational institution's housing services, international student office, or student union. Local resources like legal aid clinics and tenant advocacy organisations can also provide valuable support and advice.

Q.3) Can I sublet my accommodation if I need to leave Canada temporarily?

Check your lease agreement for subletting permissions and ensure that any potential subletter meets the requirements and responsibilities outlined in the agreement.

Q.4) Can international students stay in on-campus residence halls year-round?

On-campus residence halls are generally available year-round for international students, although policies may vary.

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