9-Step Guide How to Find an Apartment in Montreal
How to find an apartment in Montreal? You are now at that stage, where you told your current landlord that you don’t want to renew your lease because of whatever reason, whether it was because you want a change, to move in with your friends/partner, and/or you are moving from another country or province. You must be thinking: Oh, here we go again, with the frustrating process of apartment hunting. Well, it does not have to be like that, and it can actually be fun! Here is a 9-step guide on how to find the perfect apartment or condo for you.
- Know the Market Well.
It is absolutely crucial to understand the terminology that Montreal rental market uses. Here are a few words to look out for when you are browsing online.
Difference between Condo and Apartment:
A condo is a unit that is owned by an individual in a condo building, while an apartment is a unit in a rental building owned by one person/corporation. Usually, condos are either run by the person who bought it, by a property manager or a property management company, like Agrasoy Realty that is hired by the owner. What that means for you when you want to consider a condo, make sure to put the following in mind,
- Rules: Condo buildings usually have condo by-laws that all the owners and their tenants should be aware of in addition to the rules and regulations imposed by the individual owner such as moving in and out rules, usage of the common amenities, etc. Make sure you ask for these by-laws before signing the lease. Condo buildings require tenant liability insurance which is usually not the case in apartment buildings.
- Amenities: Condos almost always have the following high-quality features, granite countertops, hardwood floors, stainless steel appliances, and high ceilings. The building also contains, gyms, indoor or outdoor swimming pools, parking, common lounge area, rooftop decks with BBQ, and many more. This may not be the case for an apartment, it can apply to it, but they would be part of the luxury high-end buildings.
- Utilities: Apartment buildings usually have central heating and hot water system and these utilities are included in the rent. You don’t have a thermostat to be able to adjust the temperature. Electricity is usually not included. On the other hand, condo units usually have individual electrical heating and hot water system. The utilities are not included. The hydro bill will consist of electricity, heating, and hot water. Having said that, condo buildings are better insulated and the hydro bills tend to be lower than an apartment building. Some condo buildings, especially larger ones, have a central hot water system. In that case, hot water will be included and the bills will be paid by the owner through condo fees.
Hydro Quebec, the utility company in Montreal, provides estimated hydro bills online based on the previous consumption averages. Make sure to check the estimated hydro bills before committing to a rental unit. Here is the link to check the estimated hydro costs. https://session.hydroquebec.com/portail/en/web/clientele/estimation-consommation
Montreal Apartment/Condo Sizes
– 5.5 condo/apartment: 3 closed bedrooms, kitchen, living room, and bathroom.
– 4.5 condo/apartment: 2 closed bedrooms, Kitchen, Living Room, and Bathroom
– 3.5 condo/apartment: 1 closed bedroom, kitchen, living room and bathroom.
– 2.5 condo/apartment: Bedroom, living room, kitchenette and bathroom. The two rooms may not be separated by a wall but is bigger than a 1.5.
– 1.5 condo/apartment: one room with kitchenette, and a separate bathroom studio apartment.
– Duplex: a unit that is divided into two apartments with their own entrances.
– Triplex: a unit that is divided into three apartments with their own entrances
– Multiplex: a unit that is divided into 5+ apartments with their own entrances.
Some terms to know:
- Application: it is a form that potential tenants have to fill out, so a landlord can decide if this tenant is qualified to rent this apartment or not. It usually asks the potential tenant to include the address of the unit that they want to rent, social security number( you have the right to not disclose it, it is not mandatory), their current and last employment, their current & previous address, and current & previous landlords’ information. In addition to the application you will be asked to send, the last 3 recent pay stubs and/or employment letter, credit score, Photo ID of your choice, and official papers like visa or student permit.
Keep in mind, the landlord should get rid of all this information after they processed your application.
- Credit Score: it is a public record that could be obtained through your bank or a website your landlord or property manager provides you with. It will sum up how you managed all your credit and debit of all your bills (phone bills, leases, loans, credit cards etc.)
- Co-signer or Guarantor: it is a third party of your choice (usually a parent or a guardian) who will assure that your rent will be paid even if you can’t. They will be equally liable for your financial obligations. (Guarantors and Co-signers are usually asked for when the potential tenant is not working or has a poor credit score)
- Lease: is a contract between the tenant and the landlord/property manager stating both your rights and responsibilities concerning the rented unit.
- Lessee: Tenant; Lessor: Landlord or Property Manager.
- Prorated: It is the amount that is not a full month’s rent. For example, if you move in, in the middle of the month or close to the end of the month, you will have to pay the percentage of the month that you will be living there.
- Wear and tear: this is a phrase that you will find in the lease or building regulations you will receive BEFORE signing the lease. This means that painting, cleaning of floor or carpet, hanging things on the wall, scratches on the furniture provided, etc. all fall under the category of wear and tear. Any damage beyond that, might come out of your pocket at the end of the lease.
- Walk Score gives you an idea about how close this unit you are renting by walking to supermarkets, hospitals, schools, pharmacies, restaurants, bars, universities, etc. The higher the score, the better!
- Bike Score: gives you an idea about how easy it will be for you to bike around the unit you are renting. Again, the higher the score, the better!
- Transit Score: gives you an idea about how easy it is to find public transportation around you. Yes, you guessed it, the higher the score, the better!
- Before the Hunt, you have to Plan!
These are the following things you need to consider before attempting the hunt of the apartments/condos:
What kind of Neighbourhood do you see yourself living in? That is crucial to consider because it will be where you live for at least 12 months. For a vibrant lifestyle, you should consider Downtown, Old port, Mile-End, Le Plateau-Mont-Royal, and Sud-Ouest. For a quieter lifestyle, you should go for Westmount, Cote des Neiges, NDG, Outremont, etc. Open google search and make sure to write down the pros and cons of the neighborhood you like. You might be surprised!
It is important to calculate your budget considering all other factors that are going to be an expense as well. A very important rule to put in mind is that when looking for an apartment, your annual income should cover 3 times the annual rent. If it doesn’t the landlord/property manager will feel a bit uneasy and will start asking you questions about how you will pay the rent.
Budget also, is how much are you ready to pay for. Most of the units do not cover utilities so you have to consider the maximum amount of rent you are willing to pay so you can have a clearer view about which unit will suit you more.
Type of building you want to live in.
Is it in a triplex, or duplex or would you prefer a tall proud building?
Most buildings will have indoor parking spaces/bike racks, if you have a car, which will be extra$$ ranging from $100-350, depending on the neighbourhood you are choosing. The triplexes and duplexes mostly will have street parking for free.
Yes, a lot of buildings do not allow pets, some have certain rules about it, and others are totally pet-friendly.
If you don’t have a car, you would need public transport. It is essential for you to research the transit score of the address you will be living in. The higher the score, the more available public transits will be.
What month do you want to move in?
Montreal has several months where the pressure on property managers is at its highest. High season for apartment hunting starts from April and ends around October. July 1 is by far the busiest month in terms of moving so if you are planning to move then, you must be ready, know what you want and HUNT!
- Best Websites to look for an apartment/condo for rent
Now that you know what you want, it is time to search for the percent apartment! Here are some of the best websites to look for an apartment/condo,
- Facebook Groups
- Social media ( Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter etc.)
- Scheduling the Visit:
You now found the apartment or condo you really liked. The first step is to call the landlord or property manager and set up an appointment to visit. Please make sure to be there on time, and if you need to re-schedule, make sure to give a heads up at least 3 hours before, as a lot of leasing managers are showing other units also.
Also, if you know you are going to be late, just shoot the landlord/property manager a text, and do not leave them hanging. Mutual respect goes a long way, and these little behaviors can either give a positive first impression or a negative one.
For people who are moving to Montreal, but can’t visit the unit, you can either send a friend/ family member or anyone you trust to come on your behalf, or Agrasoy Realty usually will set up an appointment that respects your time zone and have a live virtual session of the showing. Agrasoy realty also has a section on their website called virtual visits https://rentals.agrasoyrealty.com/, where you can find all the videos of the dwellings available. It is really important to see the actual units before making a decision. Pictures may be misleading.
- During the Visit
You are at the apartment now with the leasing agent or manager. Their duty is to show you around, highlight the unit with its features and benefits, and answer any question you have. Your duty is to inspect the apartment. Is it as discussed in the description?
- Is it really renovated?
- Is it clean?
- Plumbing working well?
- Appliances mentioned in the description all there? Are they working?
- Electrical outlets, working, at good locations?
- Heating is it central, electrical or gas?
- How bright is the apartment? Is it as big as you were told?
- Windows in what condition? Are they energy-efficient, do they provide a good insulation?
- How are the conditions of the walls, floors?
- Are there any traces of previous leaks in the ceiling?
Be vigilant, so you can discuss with your landlord about what things should be fixed/ cleaned before you sign the lease.
Taking a decision about picking the right apartment for you, also depends on your preferences that you studied and chose before. If you are not really feeling the neighbourhood, or it is not up to your expectations, please be honest and tell the leasing manager that you are not interested.
- Negotiating the Rent/ Understanding what it includes.
Before applying to the condo/apartment, you can negotiate the rent with the landlord or property manager. Make sure if you do, to present a reasonable offer. Also, it is essential to ask as many questions as you can to ensure you understand what is included in the rent and not.
- Apply for the Unit
Application form and documents needed.
You think you found your next perfect apartment and want to have a competitive advantage while applying? Make sure to fill in the application accurately and fully. Also make sure to provide a photo ID ( any of your choice), your credit score, the last 3 recent pay stubs and an employment letter, also on the application make sure to fill out your previous & current landlord’s information with their numbers so we can contact them for a reference check.
If you are here from another country, please make sure to add in your work visa, visa permit and passport as ID.
* Tip 1
A piece of advice, before applying, make sure that you have already spoken to your current landlord and informed him/her that you will be moving. This should be 3-6 months before your lease ends. It would be a great opportunity to do that when the landlord sends you a lease renewal, which tends to be in the same time frame you will have to inform them that you are leaving. It will be really awkward when we are performing the reference check and your landlord or property manager is thrown off with this piece of information; this will not reflect well on you. Your current landlord will feel betrayed, and we will be alert about considering you.
Please be patient when your application is being processed. It usually takes from 1-3 business days. It would be appreciated if you don’t hassle the landlord or property manager. They will get back to you to tell you if you were accepted or not.
- Lease Signing
You got accepted. Congratulations!! You found your apartment in Montreal. Now it is the time to sign the lease! Be mindful that you are given a government-approved lease, not one that is created by the landlords/property managers.
This may be one of the most important steps. READ your lease well. It is a contract between you and the landlord/property manager. This is the unit you will be staying in for at least 12 months, do not take things lightly. Also, you should have received the building regulations of a condo( they are usually longer than apartments), before signing the lease, so you would have enough time to read it and have your questions prepared when you want to sign the lease.
You want to make sure that everything is mentioned in the lease so you would avoid future conflicts and misunderstandings.
Also, put in mind, that deposits are illegal in Quebec.
The only thing that is acceptable is to pay first month’s rent upfront. So, if you are dealing with Agrasoy Realty, prepare to pay the first month’s rent when signing the lease, whether it was through interac e-transfer or through a cheque.
If you are signing a lease starting from the mid of the month, you will have to pay a prorated amount and not the full rent. (Put that in the lease!) Let’s say you are taking the apartment from May 15th, you can either negotiate it with the landlord/property manager, that you will pay the prorated amount while signing the lease, or pay June’s rent now and then prorated amount of May, in June.)
Get a copy of your lease, and all other documents you are signing.
Lease Renewals & Transfers
Keep in mind that the leases are renewed automatically for another year under two conditions:
1. If the tenant does not give notice at least 3 months before the end of the lease.
2. The landlord does not send a rent increase notice.
In case you can’t or don’t want to carry on with the lease until the end, you will have to inform your landlord 3-6 months before and request to transfer your lease. You can refer to https://www.agrasoyrealty.com/blog/leasetransfer-sublet/ for more information.
If the landlord sends you a lease renewal notice with a rent increase you have 30 days to respond. If you don’t respond, the lease will be renewed for another year with the suggested rent increase. The landlord should send you the lease renewal notice with the increased rental amount between 3 and 6 months before the end of the current lease.
- Moving Day
The last step is receiving the keys from the landlord/ property managers. Almost all of them will ask you to have a renter’s insurance that covers 2,000,000 liability, as well as proof that you changed your address for the Hydro Quebec (that is if you are paying your utilities).
PS. This will be written on the lease as a requirement.
The key exchange can happen 1 day in advance (no fee) of the move in date (if there is no tenant in the unit), unless negotiated and written on the lease otherwise.
There could be moving fees, especially at condo buildings. If you have read the building regulations sent you will not be surprised, if not, you will be really surprised by the extra fee on that one. This could either be paid by the owner or must be paid by you and that depends on the condo you are renting, since some owners already considered that as an expense, they are willing to pay..
Buildings should be notified 14 days in advance of the move, so they can reserve an elevator for you and do what is necessary, so have all your papers ready (renter’s insurance, Hydro Quebec change of address, your lease signed) before 14 days.
Yes, moving can be a hassle, especially if you are moving from another country. This 9-step guide to find an apartment in Montreal plus some valuable tips, can give you a sense of relief and head start on the apartment/condo hunt.