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Canada - Renting Property
Typical rental prices vary according to region, with major cities such as Toronto and Vancouver being more expensive than rural areas, and prices varying within cities depending on the popularity of the zone. Renting a small apartment in a city centre can cost anywhere between $850-1800, whereas a similar sized property on the outskirts of town can cost between $750-1000. A three-bedroom apartment in a major city centre can range from $1,700 to $2,500 whereas the same property outside the city could cost from $1,200 to $1,800.
In Canada there is a difference between a lease and a rental agreement, with a lease offering more security and stability and a rental agreement offering more freedom to both the landlord and tenant.
A lease is an arrangement where the tenant agrees to stay in the property for a fixed period of time. Most leases last a year, although they can sometimes be six months long or over 12 months long. During the term of the lease the contract can not be changed. This means that the rent must stay the same, the conditions on the contract must not be altered, (for example the landlord can’t suddenly decide to ban smoking in the property halfway through the lease), and the tenant must remain in the property until the lease is up or pay a penalty.
Although a lease is generally considered to be a binding agreement for the full length of its term, there may be occasions where one or other of the parties wish to terminate the agreement prematurely. In this case both parties have to agree to a termination; one cannot end the contract without the consent of the other. If a tenant wants to vacate the property before the end of the lease they will normally have to find someone to take over the lease from them. When signing a lease you should make sure that you are completely content with the terms of your contract, as you will not be able to change them later.
A rental agreement is generally a month-to-month arrangement, affording both parties the freedom to change contract conditions and the possibility to end the contract at the end of any given month. This is often the best option for people who don’t want to commit to a long-term contract, such as students, travellers, and people on temporary residency. Rental agreements usually renew automatically at the end of the month unless either one of the parties gives the other ‘due notice’ (eg. 30 days’ notice). This arrangement gives the tenant the freedom to live somewhere for just a month or two and then move on, and the landlord the freedom to up or lower the rent more often. While rental agreements offer flexibility, leases offer longer-term security, and are the better option for those who are looking to set up a ‘home’.
Most landlords require a deposit at the beginning of the contract, which is usually equal to a month’s rent. This is often used to pay the last month’s rent on the contract, but if not it is returned to the tenant at the end of the contract with interest. In Ontario, landlords cannot use this deposit to cover damages to the property, and in Quebec they can’t charge a deposit at all. In many provinces however, if the property is damaged during your contract, the deposit may be used to cover the expenses, and can also be used to cover unpaid rent or cleaning if you leave the property very dirty. When handing over a deposit cheque to a landlord, make sure you get a receipt with the apartment address and the landlord’s name and phone number written on it. Once you are in the property you should also always ask for a receipt if paying by cash or cheque, so that you have proof of payment.
When looking to rent a property you should ask whether utilities are included in the rent, and what they are likely to cost you if not. You should ask whether you can make changes to the home such as painting and decorating, if you are allowed to smoke or keep pets in the house, if there is parking available, what the neighbourhood is like and how safe it is, what the other tenants are like and who maintains the property.
If you have your own furniture to bring you will most likely opt for an unfurnished flat. Unfurnished flats generally contain only essential appliances such as a fridge, washing machine and dishwasher. Unfurnished properties allow you more freedom to tailor your surroundings to your tastes, as all the furniture is yours and you can arrange it how you like. They are also usually cheaper than furnished flats and have lower security deposits. There are generally many more unfurnished apartments available than furnished.
Most rental agreement flats will be furnished and are usually equipped with basic furniture such as tables, chairs and beds. This is usually the easiest and most convenient option for people who move a lot and those who don’t want the burden of owning and having to move big pieces of furniture. Rent is usually higher for furnished apartments but the cost of buying furniture is saved.
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