Moving to Canada from the US - question about renting an apartment
April 7, 2014 11:39 AM   Subscribe

I am finishing my Ph.D this month and will be moving to Canada for a post-doc position. The town where I will be moving to has a VERY tight rental market and from what I have heard, apartments rent within hours of being posted on the local rental websites. My husband is flying out about a month before we officially move up to secure a place for us to rent, but we are worried about trying to pay for a place without a Canadian bank account. We don't want to give cash to the landlord because it is untraceable and we are pretty sure no one will accept a check from a US bank. Has anyone had to deal with this before? Any advice would be most welcome. Thanks!
posted by source.decay to Work & Money (13 answers total)
I can't help with the rental market (other than suggest subletting?), but for the bank problem, would a cashiers check go over better?
posted by Ms Vegetable at 11:49 AM on April 7, 2014

TD Canada Trust has branches in the US. Is there one nearby that you can open an account? Here we have the option of having a US dollar account, I assume you would also have the option the the States to have a Canadian dollar account. You can then write a cheque from that account (landlords would recognise the TD name on the cheque as we only have four or five banks up here). Cheques are becoming old-fashioned, interact email transfers are relatively common, so that is another option. You could also get a money order from a bank for a small fee (you would need to know the landlords name and the amount first). Can he set up a bank account while he is there? Do you have friends you can use as a mail drop? You need to bring the permit/proof of status and a passport to open the account.
posted by saucysault at 11:52 AM on April 7, 2014 [2 favorites]

We dealt with this a while ago, so things may have changed. It's normal in Canada (or at least it was normal in Ontario several years ago) for renters to give their landlords the whole year of rent in post-dated checks at the start of the term. Just a heads up on that, since it was astonishing to me. (On preview, "Interac" is Canadian for "debit card" and it is much more widely used than in the US.) When we moved, it wasn't possible to open a Canadian bank account until you had your SIN number, which we couldn't get until we had an address in the country. So, paradox. I think in our case our landlord was willing to work with us, but I think the second option is cash (or cashier's check or money order) and a signed receipt from the landlord saying they have accepted the cash from you. The receipt is your way of tracing it.

Also, side notes that may prove useful: the border guards don't all know what a "post doc" is, so be sure you bring a letter from the new university describing the job as one that requires a PhD and be sure you bring documentation that you have a PhD. (It makes a difference to which immigration category you're in, and eg what kind of work visa your husband will be eligible for.) If they mess up, get your university to intervene to correct it. Also when we moved, they expected that when entering the country with our moving truck, we would have an itemized list of everything we were bringing into the country (itemized like "tv worth $x, ten boxes of books worth $y") nominally so they could check we were bringing it all back out again - so we could avoid paying import duties on everything. They checked on the way in but not on the way out IIRC.
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:56 AM on April 7, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I recommend getting an account at a Canadian based bank, TD (Toronto Dominon) has branches in the us, as does RBC Bank.

RBC specifically has an item on their web site about moving from US to Canada.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:52 PM on April 7, 2014 [2 favorites]

I moved money the other way and my lack of planning made it a nightmare. Even wire-transfer charges are downright usurious and can take weeks to clear.

Open a bank account.
posted by vapidave at 1:39 PM on April 7, 2014

Best answer: About 10 years ago I had a long-distance girlfriend in Canada.

I was sick of paying exchange fees and foreign ATM fees and the likes. I opened up a US resident account (in Canadian dollars -- it's possible to open a US dollar account) at Royal Bank of Canada, using my US address. No SIN required, but I did have to give my SSN.

I'd bring American cash to an RBC branch in Canada, deposit it in my account, put my ATM card into the ATM just outside, and out popped Canadian dollars.

I closed the account in 2006 when the relationship ended, so things may be different now up there in Canada.

Pro Tip: TD Bank has many branches in the US and is based in Canada (it stands for Toronto Dominion).
posted by tckma at 2:44 PM on April 7, 2014 [2 favorites]

It's tricky but not impossible to open a bank account before you have an address. You can get a mail box from somewhere like a UPS store and use that as your address to open up the bank account. I moved to Canada from the US in 2005 and got opened bank account before I had an address. (But if possible use a credit union instead of one of the big national banks, they're better in just about every way)

You could always just give one of the banks a call now and see exactly what you need to do to open up an account.

Beyond that, there's not really any reason not to use cash for a security deposit. You don't give the landlord a deposit before you've signed the lease and signing the lease indicates you gave them the deposit. So once you signed the lease, what are they really going to do? Take the cash and then claim you didn't give it to them and ask for another deposit? If they're really going to do that, you sure as hell don't want them as your landlord.

Heh, I'm guessing you're moving to Vancouver, aren't you? If so, the rental scene isn't as bad as it sounds like it's been made out to be. It ain't a breeze by any means, but it's not crazy. Do learn to refresh Craigslist like mad though that (that applies to Toronto as well, maybe less so with Montreal)
posted by Nelsormensch at 2:46 PM on April 7, 2014

Is there some reason you can't ask the landlord to provide a receipt proving that you paid them?

In my experience someone doing legitimate business is usually happy to provide a receipt (and understands that you have a perfectly reasonable motivation for asking for one.) Someone who can't, or won't, provide a paper trail for that kind of exchange is probably someone with whom you should think twice about dealing.
posted by Nerd of the North at 3:06 PM on April 7, 2014

One thing to note: In Canada, rental law varies from province to province, so you'll want to research your rights and obligations as a tenant for the specific city you're moving to. In Quebec, for instance, deposits are illegal, although out-of-province students at McGill often get conned into paying them.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 7:06 AM on April 8, 2014

Response by poster: Thanks everyone for the help. I'll look into both TD and RBC and try to get accounts in US and Canadian funds. When I was researching this before, every bank I looked at required an SIN and a Canadian address both of which I don't have yet. Also, my husband is going to continue to be paid in US funds, so having an account where we can access that money easily in Canada will come in very handy.

I feel a bit scared to give someone around $4000 in cash for a deposit and first month rent (Alberta allows deposits, but that is good to know that some provinces don't allow them!) and perhaps get screwed out of our place. I don't want something like this to happen to us.

Thank you again!
posted by source.decay at 8:14 AM on April 8, 2014

For TD, their website does not specify the SIN card for New Canadians, I would recommend trying a different branch if the first one isn't helpful (they really vary a lot between branches). try prting out their own webpage with regards to requirements and see if that helps. I think having a US TD account would be the most helpful part though.
posted by saucysault at 8:29 AM on April 8, 2014

Yeouch, $4000 is a big chunk of change for that, so I'm guessing Vancouver as well. (I could be wrong!)

If it is Van, my brother is actually looking for a subletter for May-August or so (unsure about the details) and something like that would give you time to get your feet on the ground with someone more likely to be cool with US money until you could get a bank account and all that set up. Memail me if you want specifics on that! (Either way, if you are moving somewhere with students, which I presume you are, the rental market might be tight but there are ALWAYS sublets.)

Either way, TD is a pretty good bank to deal with, especially with US funds. I have some amount of dealings with US checks for work, and the US accounts are very handy things.
posted by aggyface at 1:56 PM on April 8, 2014

I was able to get a SIN and CIBC bank account using my US address. At least for CIBC, they only needed a SIN number (which is issued instantly), not the actual card. One thing to be aware of is the requirement for two forms of id to open a bank account. While CIBC and TD Bank did not consider a US drivers license a valid second form of id, the study permit stapled into my passport was accepted (along with my passport as the first id).

TD Bank is by far the easiest to move money across the border with, though I don't know if they will open an account without a Canadian address.

My rental company (CAPREIT, one of the big national ones) was willing to accept a US postal money order in US dollars for the deposit and first months rent. They can be cashed at any Canada Post location and most banks without fee, so it was not a big deal for them to accept. This might work better, since I found the big landlords wont take cash.
posted by cspurrier at 4:46 PM on April 9, 2014

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