How to best be prepared
August 17, 2009 10:48 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking to rent an apartment in Montreal (Plateau area) coming from the US - so, lacking a Canadian credit score, Canadian references, etc. Should I be saving up to pay several months of rent from the start? Is it a common practice? Also, what could I do or bring with me during the apartment hunt to look as polished as possible?

I'd have a temporary worker permit, so I'd be able to show a letter from my employer. Check. I'm not sure what else, though.
posted by Tequila Mockingbird to Home & Garden (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I've moved several times in Montreal and I've never been asked for any security deposit whatsoever.
I think it's not even legal to do so.
Just make sure to sign the "bail" (legal papers for renting an appartment).
Dress nicely, I guess.
Welcome to Montreal and I hope you learn french soon.

PS. Plateau is awesome. One of the nicest french area of the city.
posted by PowerCat at 11:00 AM on August 17, 2009

You can only be required to prepay the first month's rent. No deposit. No last month's rent.
posted by jeather at 11:04 AM on August 17, 2009

No deposit required. It is indeed illegal, and I've never seen this practice (I moved a few times in Montreal). Bring references from earlier places with phone numbers of all owners. Perhaps get a signed balance account from your bank, and the letter from the employer. Be prepared to sign on the spot.
It's usually easier to get a "bail" from July 1st to June 30, so they might get you to sign until July 2010 (after that you would sign for a full year). The lease you sign should include the amount of the rent paid by previous occupants. If it's not there, they might try to raise the rent too much (so be informed of average prices in your neighborhood)
Plateau is nice, but might still be overpriced (there are a lot of nice apartments, but also lots of old decaying buildings). If you have a car, think twice about living on a one-way street (hint: snow removal operations are a pita and there's a ridiculously high ration of cars to parking spaces).
If I were to move back to Montreal, I'd also consider NDG, Atwater and the Jean-Talon area. It's much easier if you can walk to a metro station. If you want to learn French and save on rent, live east of St-Denis.
posted by ddaavviidd at 11:13 AM on August 17, 2009

I've never lived in Montreal, but I have lived in several big canadian cities, and I've never had a credit check done, and never been asked for references. Only thing they've ever asked for was 1st months rent + a deposit (apparently illegal in Montreal).

Get a SIN (Social Insurance Number) immediately, then getting a canadian chequeing (aka "checking") account, and you'll be fine.
posted by blue_beetle at 12:15 PM on August 17, 2009

Everyone above is spot on.. I was asked for references once, but it seemed more of a goad to see if I would happily provide them. None were ever called.
posted by mbatch at 1:09 PM on August 17, 2009

Security deposits/Last Month are illegal in Quebec. You don't ever see them, although it's customary to provide first month rent when signing the lease. Credit checks are legal, but I've rarely had one done. Your full list of rights (and landlord rights) can be found here on the Regie du Logement website and here's a good simplified summary of what can/can't be done from McGill University.

Leases are standardized, rent increases follow a guidance issued in the spring of each year and are also regulated to a certain extent, so if your increase is a lot more than the previous tenant you can sign the lease and then file a grievance with the regie right after, you'll win unless the owner did repairs, and even then he can only charge a % of it.

Plateau and Mile End area are a great place to live in. Enjoy!
posted by furtive at 3:16 PM on August 17, 2009

You should check out tenant protection laws in Montreal. It's fantastic (like rent stabilization for everybody, but better), but it helps if you know your rights. There are certain things that can't be enforced against you even if you sign the lease, because the law recognizes that tenants aren't in an equal bargaining position.

If you can show proof of income and look respectable, I think you'll be fine. Also, you can get a lease transfer directly from the current tenant. The landlord has to have a good reason to reject you. That's how most people move outside of July 1st.

The McGill Legal Information Clinic is a good resource, as is the website of the Regie (de Logement).

Enjoy Montreal! It's awesome.

If the Plateau doesn't work out, you should check out Mile End, which is a bit like the Plateau was a couple of years ago. It's that far from the subway and you have the Parc bus, which is basically as good.
posted by Salamandrous at 6:17 PM on August 17, 2009

I was in the same situation a few years ago (US resident looking for an apartment in Montreal). I came up one weekend, looked at a bunch of places, explained my situation to the building super (going to grad school at McGill,) and was able to get an apartment that started August 1 instead of July 1. I just paid 1st month's rent, and I brought my student visa, acceptance letter, financial aid papers and so forth with me. I had no problems getting an apartment.

I got my SIN, Canadian banking account, etc. all after I moved.

I can't remember if I paid my first month's rent with a US check or if I paid in $CDN cash...I don't remember it being a hassle, either way.

Plateau is awesome. I lived in Cote-St-Luc and loved it. NDG is also a great neighborhood. Enjoy your time in Montreal.
posted by bryghtrose at 6:21 AM on August 18, 2009

Fantastic! Thank you, it sounds much easier than getting an apartment where I live currently. Everything in Montreal seems that way, come to think of it :)
posted by Tequila Mockingbird at 7:30 AM on August 18, 2009

The Plateau is quite expensive these days, by the way. It used to be the cheap subculture haven but has been a prime locale for a decade or so.
If you go farther east it gets cheaper, but very french.
If you go farther west (NDG/Snowdon) it gets cheaper and is also more English.

That said, the plateau is pretty awesome. Mont Royal is a fantastic street full of shops and restaurants, and also has amenities such as grocery stores and launderettes etc.
If you want an insider's eye on the best places to look and what you need/want to know about each, please feel free to PM me here - I've lived in various places around Montreal and am currently happily ensconced west of downtown.
posted by Billegible at 2:49 PM on August 18, 2009

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