Apartment-hunting tips for Montreal renters

Finding the perfect place isn't easy. CBC Montreal's Daybreak asked Concordia University's off-campus housing co-ordinator Leanne Ashworth for tips on what to keep in mind while apartment hunting.

Concordia off-campus housing co-ordinator offers dos and don'ts for the 2016 apartment-hunting season

Many Montreal tenants have begun the search for a new apartment, with many leases expiring on July 1 - Montreal's traditional moving day. (Graham Hughes/Canadian Press)

Many Montreal tenants have begun their search for a new place to call home as July 1 – the date most leases come to an end – approaches. 

But finding the perfect place isn't always easy.

CBC Montreal's Daybreak asked Leanne Ashworth, the off-campus housing co-ordinator at Concordia University, for a few tips and important information to keep in mind when apartment hunting. 

Here's what Ashworth had to say:

Where to look for apartments
Leanne Ashworth says many would-be renters miss out on potential apartments because they tend to only search online. She says walking around neighbourhoods you like is still your best bet. (CBC)

A lot of apartments are still only advertised in the window with the "For Rent" sign.

...We actually are talking to a lot of young renters at Concordia, and they think everything is online: They think they have to go onto Kijiji and Craigslist, and they spend hours just in their room scrolling through those ads, and they're missing out on a whole bunch of apartments.

So walking around: best thing to do, still...

We're encouraging people [to] take the Metro on a nice day...

Try out a neighbourhood you haven't been in. See what's out there, and start seeing apartments in those neighbourhoods.

What to look for when visiting apartments
When visiting an apartment, Ashworth says don't be shy: 'Start in the bathroom. Make sure there's water pressure. Make sure the hot water is coming out. You can even flush the toilet if you want.' (CBC)

I would suggest making a list and comparing apartments. 

When you go into an apartment, instead of rushing through because it is someone's space, and you may feel a little uncomfortable that you're inconveniencing people, go through it.

Start in the bathroom: Make sure there's water pressure, make sure the hot water is coming out. You can even flush the toilet if you want.

Feel comfortable, because you're going to be committing to probably a year, and that's a long time to not be happy with the condition of your apartment.

When you go into the kitchen, take a look at the water pressure in there, look under sink, see if there's any bugs. Unfortunately, if there [are] any droppings, you want to know now rather than later.

You want to look for any kind of water damage on the ceilings, on the walls. You want to see a well-maintained apartment.

This is this apartment's job interview for you. This is its time to shine, so if doesn't look good, you may want to consider continuing your search.

Talk to the neighbours

That's one of the biggest resources we have as renters.

Speak to them: How is your experience here? Is your landlord good with repairs? Did you ever have issues with landlords?

It's easier to prevent problems by making a good choice with your apartment rather than just saying, 'Oh yeah, I can live with that. It can't be that bad.'

It actually can be really disruptive to your life.

So you want to make sure the heating is adequate, the windows are good quality. Also the common spaces in the apartment: the laundry room, is it well-maintained? ... Is the hall clean? How are these spaces looking to you, because you're going to be in them everyday.

What to know before signing a lease
Ashworth reminds apartment hunters that it's illegal for landlords to ask for security deposits in Quebec. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)

Security deposits are not legal in the province of Quebec. You don't want to be giving additional money to your landlord in order to secure an apartment. As well, application charges are not legal in Quebec.

The only money that should be changing hands is the cost of the first month of rent when you sign a lease, and you should receive a copy of that lease when you commit to an apartment.

If you are being asked for that money, you have to make a decision if you're going to give that additional money, and if you are, we recommend getting a receipt for that.

A lot of people are giving cash to people they don't know, and they're not always getting that money back, and they're not always getting their rights respected.

References and credit checks

When you're going around looking for apartments, it's good to have a folder full of information that you're comfortable giving a landlord, and so you want to have that information ready so that you can commit to an apartment if it seems like it's the right one for you.

The information a landlord is allowed to ask you is:

  • your name 
  • phone number 
  • address

That's in order to do a credit check on you, which you can also do on yourself and supply to the landlord. That way you know what is says about you before they even see it.

Another thing they're allowed to do is verify your payment history, so they could contact your current landlord.

You could also ask your current landlord for a letter, attesting to the fact that you've paid your rent on time and in full.

The other thing they can ask your landlord for is a conduct history.

Were you a good tenant? Did you maintain the apartment reasonably well? Were you respectful to your neighbours? [Were you] having loud parties all the time?

Those are the kinds of things landlords would like to know because they don't want to deal with a problematic tenant either.

Dealing with problems after you've signed a lease
Ashworth says even once they've signed a lease, tenants have the right to ask for repairs. (Jaela Bernstien/CBC News)

Something like 30 per cent of the apartments in Montreal are not adequately maintained, so a lot of people are going to be signing leases, unfortunately, for apartments that are going to need work.

...Ask for repairs to be done… We suggest people send written notice… If there are serious issues in the apartment, you want to send that, you want to keep a copy, and you want to start putting things on the record.

With files from CBC Daybreak


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