A Students Guide to Renting in Montreal!
Updated: Dec 12, 2019
With a new semester starting after the holidays many of our students will be looking for apartments. We have some advice for first time renters in Montreal that will help make the process easier for you!
Renting in Montreal
Renting in Montreal comes with several rights and responsibilities intended to protect both renters and landlords alike. There are a lot of myths about renting in Montreal that even locals will tell you as if they were fact. Part of the reason for this is that the rules are so well established that most people don’t run into serious problems personally. As a result, they tell you local horror stories heard from a friend of a friend. The reality is that the Regie de Logement Quebec has a long-standing system established to help protect renters from abuse and to give landlords recourse against bad tenants. If you ever have a serious problem regarding your apartment or landlord, you should contact the Regie immediately to find out what your legal rights and recourses are.
Signing a lease:
To rent an apartment, condo or house you must have some form of lease! A legal written lease detailing all your rights and responsibilities is an essential to ensure both you and your new landlord agree on exactly what you are responsible for in maintaining the apartment. Some examples of this include if you can paint the interior, if you are responsible for snow removal or tending the garden and what utilities are included in the lease, if any.
The Regie provides a standardized lease agreement that is used all over Quebec and has, in fact, been mandatory since 1996! If for some reason a prospective landlord refuses to use the standard lease form always be suspicious! They cost about $2 and are available online, at any post office and even at local depanneurs. (corner stores) Heck, you can even find it in the links down below. There really isn’t an excuse not to use one!
You are legally entitled to a signed copy of your lease! Make sure you have one in your files. Many municipal services, like libraries, will require a proof of residence to sign up initially and a signed lease is often acceptable.
Additions to the lease:
The Regie provides the standardized lease contract but landlords will often add additional terms to leases to help define exactly what you are responsible for while under contract. There are many additional clauses which are common to see added to a lease, most of which are common sense. If, for instance, you have a parking space attached to your lease a standard addition would be to define the cost of the space per month, and whether that cost is included in the base rent or additional to it. Also, if you are responsible for clearing it of snow.
Another common clause is about interior decorating. In most rental spaces you will not have the right to make major changes, but most landlords allow you to repaint the interior of the apartment to match your tastes. Many will require that you repaint the apartment to base white before you move out at the end of your lease.
It is very important that you get any additional clauses in written form. Since they are considered binding terms for legal purposes you need to make sure that they are clearly set out and reasonable. Not all landlords are reliable, and some will try to stick you with terms that will make you responsible for damage not cause by you. Damage caused by a flood for instance. You are responsible for damages cause by you but can not be forced to pay for repairs or improvements on your apartment that are not your fault, or that the landlord chooses to do on their own. If you are not sure if any of the clauses in your lease are legitimate feel free to contact the Regie to ask. Even if you have already signed a lease that has illegal clauses attached the Regie will completely ignore them. You are not responsible for following terms which are illegal whether you know they are or not.
It is important that you physically see your apartment before you sign the lease. It may look good online, but you will want to make sure in person that there are no hidden problems that photos can’t show you. How good is the water pressure for instance? Do the windows have good weather sealing to help keep your heating bill low during winter? How loud is the building? I once lived on the 2nd floor in an expensive apartment block in Westmount where I was woken up in the morning by one of my neighbor’s pet parrot… at 5am… from the 8th floor… every… single… morning! It was a rough year.
The neighborhood maters a lot. You will want to make sure that there are stores nearby and easy access to transportation and essential services. Much more importantly, is it the sort of place you will enjoy living. Even if the photos are great and the price is right a bad neighborhood can turn a good online deal into a miserable reality. If you like quiet living, Downtown or on the Plateau are not good ideas for you. That is where people who love the nightlife will want to live, you might want to consider Verdun/Lasalle or NDG which are more residential.
It is important to choose wisely when renting any place to live. Most leases in Montreal are for the entire year, and once signed you are legally responsible for paying your rent for that entire time. This does not mean that you will be stuck in a terrible apartment if three months in you discover serious problem that make the place unlivable. There are recourses for breaking leases and the Regie is always available to handle your case should you have a landlord who is reluctant to let you leave early. Keep in mind that this cuts both ways. If your complaints are not legitimate you may be refused, and the landlord has the right to take YOU to the Regie should you be breaking any of the rules of your lease. Fortunately, this isn’t necessary most of the time. Many landlords are willing to break a lease if you can find a new tenant to take over the lease or sublet in your place. Always talk to your landlord before going to the Regie. They are there to help when we can’t be civilized to each other.
Check out the Regie de Logement Quebec and other useful links below and we will see you again with our next Blog on housing in Montreal.
Regi de Logement Quebec -https://www.rdl.gouv.qc.ca/en
Leases explained - https://www.educaloi.qc.ca/en/capsules/leases
Legal information (not for profit)- https://www.educaloi.qc.ca/en/categories/housing-and-property#cat178
Legal lease Quebec English - https://www.canlii.org/en/qc/laws/regu/cqlr-c-r-8.1-r-3/latest/attachment/R-8.1R3_EN_004_002.pdf