Vancouver is an amazing place to call home. It is a beautiful, desirable, safe city with a high quality of life–and the local rental market reflects these factors. Be prepared that rent can be high relative to many other cities, and that the rental market is competitive. But don’t worry! You are not alone, and help is at hand.
First, remember to remain calm. All of our students successfully find accommodation, usually in the weeks and days before they start school. Take the process step by step, and try not to get overwhelmed. Not sure where to start? We recommend that you take these two steps before you begin your housing search:
Read through this Housing Guide page for tips on finding and selecting accommodation, living in Vancouver, choosing a neighbourhood, navigating the city, and more. We also advise reading the Tenant Survival Guide compiled by TRAC (Tenant Resource & Activity Centre)
Email our Housing Advisors at [email protected] and ask to join Housing Help, our private Facebook group, where you will find a selection of housing ads and posts from other students looking for roommates or shared accommodation.
Our part-time Housing Advisors can provide resources to support you in your search for accommodation. Although they are happy to help however they can, it is the responsibility of the student to find and secure their own housing.
Our Housing Advisors are here to provide resource information and support:
Finding housing is such an important and personal endeavour. It is part of your college experience to take on this responsibility and to do the research and investigation to find the housing or roommates that best suit your needs.
If you are having trouble in your housing search, or have specific questions about housing, contact our Housing Advisors at [email protected].
Here are some useful tips and resources to assist you in finding and securing housing.
The resource information provided is for your general information and is subject to change without notice. Any companies listed are provided as resource support. We are not endorsing any of these third party organizations. It is your responsibility to do the research to ensure that any rental company, homestay organization or housing resource meets your satisfaction and needs.
The first step to finding accommodation is to identify the best housing type and location according to your allocated budget.
Top Tip: Don’t start the search too early–and don’t panic if you don’t have housing in the month before your start date, as this is often the best time to find rentals. But do start researching ahead of time to understand the market.
Many students attempt to start their housing search far too early. For instance, if you want to start your rental on September 1st, it will be very difficult to find housing in February or March. Since most rental agreements only require a month’s notice, many long-term rentals only go on the market a month or a few weeks before the move-in date (usually the 1st day of the next month, though sometimes it is the 15th of the same or the next month). So, if you are searching for a rental with a move-in date of September 1st, that apartment or room will often only be advertised around or after August 1st. Therefore, the best time to start searching for that September 1st rental is the end of July and first weeks of August.
But it’s never too early to start researching! It's always a good idea to start looking at ads early so that you can gain an understanding of what's out there, how ads look, how the market is working, what the general going rate of their ideal accommodations are, neighbourhood costs, etc. This will help you become more informed, budget appropriately, and be realistic about expectations.
If you need a short-term rental (see above) when you first arrive in Vancouver, these can usually be booked several months in advance, but tend to come with a higher price-tag than long-term rentals.
Be prepared that rent in Vancouver can be high, and will cost a good portion of your monthly budget. Rents can vary substantially depending on the location and condition of the housing, so please note that these are only general guidelines for costs per month:
Please note that additional costs might include:
Long-term Rentals are usually the best option financially. They often require a commitment of at least six months to one year. Once a one-year lease is complete, your lease may go to month-to-month, but often landlords do prefer or even require you to sign another year-long lease.
If, at the end of the lease term, you wish to change to a month-by-month rental, don’t be afraid to negotiate with your landlord. At that point you will have already built a relationship/rapport with your landlord and have proven your commitment to the property and lease, so they may be more than willing to compromise.
There are many search engines and classified ad listing sites where you can search for housing. Here are some of the most popular ones:
Another option to investigate is searching for a room in a shared home. This can be with fellow Blanche Macdonald students that you connect with through the Housing Help Facebook page, or an already-established home looking for a roommate, which you can also find through the above sites.
Short-term rentals can vary from daily to weekly or monthly. They don’t necessarily require a specific time commitment, but can be more expensive than long-term rentals.
If you are moving to Vancouver from out of town, it is often useful to book a short-term rental for a few weeks or months while you settle in, open any necessary accounts, collect references, and conduct your accommodation search. That way you can be in town to check out neighbourhoods, meet face-to-face with prospective landlords, sign leases, etc, while having a temporary home base to work from.
Furnished suites are a convenient option for shorter stays, and many include some services, such as cleaning and utilities. Make sure you confirm what services and supplies are included before you make your decision.
Here are some resources for short-term housing and furnished suites:
Homestays are a great option for students looking for a family environment, and are particularly recommended for International Students who want to immerse themselves in Canadian culture and improve their English language skills. Homestays place you in a home with a Canadian family who provide you with a room and, in many cases, meals. Many students choose the Homestay option because of the extra safety factor, since they are pre-screened by an agency, given a criminal record check, have home inspections, and offer secure transactions. Some also offer an airport pick-up.
Here are some Homestay resources:
One of the best ways to find accommodation is to take a walk around your desired neighbourhood(s) and look for vacancy signs. Because of the competitive rental market, many landlords (especially those who aren’t tech-savvy) prefer to post a Vacancy Sign outside of their home or building. Walking around is sometimes the best–and only–way to find rentals that would otherwise be snapped up online! Be the first to know and enquire about these spots. It’s a great way to get a feel for neighbourhoods too. Bring your phone and references, and be ready to give a great first impression.
We want your rental experience to go as smoothly as possible. Here are some factors to consider and recommended steps and tips for searching, applying, and securing your housing.
Before signing a lease or rental agreement, inspect the unit, or have a trusted friend or family member inspect it on your behalf. Discuss any issues with the landlord or property manager. Make sure to check the following:
Apartment rentals are regulated through the BC Residential Tenancy Office. Know your rights and responsibilities as a renter in Vancouver.
Utilities and furnishings are another factor to consider when renting. Consider the following points:
Rental scams do exist and fraudsters tend to target first-time renters and students, especially ones who are new to the city. It's important to be aware of possible scam situations as they can affect you both financially and emotionally. Here is some advice from the Vancouver Police Department and liv.rent to protect yourself from becoming a victim of fraud:
Rental scams vary but here are two of the more common scenarios:
You can also watch these YouTube videos by liv.rent:
Verify the listing and who you are renting from
Carefully review the contract
Be careful with how you send money and the information you provide
Most importantly: follow your instincts. If something is too good to be true, it probably is!
This information was taken from the Vancouver Police Department website: https://vancouver.ca/police/crime-prevention/for-individuals/preventing-fraud.html, and liv.rent.
For additional information consult the following resources:
BC Residential Tenancy Office - https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/housing-tenancy/residential-tenancies
City of Vancouver Rental Database of buildings with known issues: http://app.vancouver.ca/rps_net/search.aspx
Top Tip: Approach a Housing Application with the same seriousness and professionalism you would approach a job interview.
Writing an Enquiry Email or Text
Your email or text communication will often be your first impression to your new potential Landlord. Write a professional, courteous and polite email, and be aware of grammar and spelling. Don’t be afraid to inject a little personality, or tell them a bit about yourself! Here is an example:
Dear (name of landlord or manager if known),
I am responding to your ad on Craigslist for a one-bedroom apartment. I would love to arrange a time to view the apartment. It is in my favourite neighbourhood and looks perfect! Please contact me at (phone number) or (email address) at your earliest convenience. Thank you for your time, and I look forward to hearing from you.
With best wishes,
If your enquiry is made by phone, the same rules apply - be polite, be professional, be respectful and be yourself!
Viewing Appointments/Interviews and Open Houses
As we already mentioned, the Vancouver housing market is competitive. Therefore, we suggest you approach housing as you would a job interview. Often the first step to securing a rental is to have a viewing appointment with the landlord or caretaker. Here are some tips:
Security Deposit and Rental Agreement
Once you have become a successful applicant for a rental, the next step is officially confirming that agreement in writing. This is usually done by signing an agreement with the landlord called a Lease or Tenancy Agreement. It is highly recommended that this agreement is in writing, and it should include the following information:
If there is any pre-existing damage or required repairs, be sure to take photos before you move in. If your landlord says that something will be repaired or cleaned before you move in, make sure that this is documented in the Agreement. Ensure that both you and your Landlord have a copy of all the Agreements you have signed. If you change anything in the Agreement, both you and your landlord should initial beside any changes.
Before renting any accommodation, make sure you understand the contract. Here are some questions that you can ask:
When paying your security deposit, ensure that you have proof of payment. Pay by cheque or other traceable method of payment, or get a receipt if you pay in cash.
For a complete guide on renting in Vancouver you can take the free, online video course Renting It Right, offered by TRAC (Tenancy Resources and Advisory Centre) at https://tenants.bc.ca/.
IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER: The information provided is for general information and is subject to change without notice. Every effort has been made to provide accurate and complete information however Pacifique Riche Enterprises Ltd. (doing business as Blanche Macdonald Centre (BMC)) makes no warranty or representation as to the accuracy of the information provided. Some of the information provided may have been provided by independent third parties and should not be assumed to be approved or endorsed by BMC. BMC expressly disclaims all and any liability to anyone who acts in reliance on the information provided, whether the direct recipient of such information or not. Before acting in reliance on any information provided, you are strongly advised to contact BMC or such other person, organization or legal entity as you consider necessary or advisable to confirm that any information you are relying upon is current and accurate. BMC will not be responsible for any loss or damage arising to you as a result of any actions taken by you in reliance on the information contained herein or for any errors or omissions.