Find a place to live

When you move to British Columbia, you’ll need to find a place to live. You may want to consider some of the following points: where you want to live, what type of house you want, moving in and what’s involved, setting up telephone, Internet, lights, heating, mail and so on. Use the Newcomer’s Guide to help you get started.

What to do when you’re ready to start looking for a place to live:
 
  • Contact your settlement services agency for advice.
  • Check online classified ads for rental units. Look for notices on community bulletin boards.
  • Look for signs on houses and apartment buildings that say “Vacancy,” “For Rent” or “For Sale.”
  • Hire a real estate agent if you plan to buy.

Renting a Home

When you rent a house or apartment, get a tenancy agreement. This is a contract between you and the owner. It should be in writing and signed by you and the owner.

  • The tenancy agreement states the terms such as the rent you pay, how long the agreement will last and other conditions.
  • The agreement affects how you can use the home. Make sure you understand everything in the agreement before you sign it. Get advice or a translation if you need it.
  • As a tenant, you must pay the rent on time, keep the home in good condition and avoid disturbing others.
  • You usually pay one month rent in advance and half of one month rent as a damage deposit.
  • Get a receipt for all payments you make to the landlord.
  • If you have a serious dispute with an owner, you can use a low-cost dispute resolution service.

If you will be renting, information in several languages is available. Visit the Tenant Resource and Advisory Centre. or get more information from the Residential Tenancy Branch.

Tips:

  • Watch out for rental frauds. Don’t rent unless you have met the owner or a manager and entered the unit. Use a cheque to pay the first month’s rent.
  • Check for damage before you move in. Take photos or make a list and ask the owner to sign it. If there is no new damage when you move out, you can get your damage deposit back.
  • B.C. laws give tenants and owners certain rights and obligations. These laws apply even if the tenancy agreement is different.
  • An owner may not ask for a deposit to take your rental application. Don’t rent from an owner who wants an application deposit.
  • A landlord cannot discriminate against people on the basis of place of origin, religion or similar grounds. However, a landlord can refuse to rent to pet owners and people who smoke. If you have a problem with discrimination, contact the B.C. Human Rights Clinic, the Tenant Resource and Advisory Centre, the Residential Tenancy Branch, or the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal.

Buying a Home

Buying a home in British Columbia is complex and costly. However, B.C. permits anyone to own land, including newcomers and non-residents. Always get professional advice before buying a home.
The Canada Mortgage and Housing Step-by-Step Guide will help you think about buying a home in Canada. It gives you information and worksheets on questions like these:

  • Is home ownership right for you?
  • Are you financially ready?
  • What kind of home do you need?
  • How do you find and buy Canadian property?

You can find homes for sale on the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) and For Sale by Owner websites.

The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation‘s Housing for Newcomers website and the Homebuyers Checklist (PDF) give newcomers a step-by-step guide to buying a new home.

Moving into Your New Home

Once you have found a place to live and are ready to move in, there are many details to plan for.

To be sure you’re planning for everything, use the checklist on page 12 of the Homebuyers Checklist (PDF) for newcomers. For budgeting help, use the spreadsheets on the Moving Out on Your Own webpages.

Use the Newcomers’ Guide moving in checklist (under the chapter Finding a Place to Live) to make sure you are ready to move.

If you need help, contact a settlement services location in your community.

Services and Utilities

When you move into a new home, you will have to arrange for electricity, heating, communications and other services.

Electricity

Usually you will have to start an electrical account and pay for the electricity you use. Sometimes, electricity is included in rent payments (check your rental agreement to find out). In most communities, electrical service will start a few days after you begin an account. You will receive an invoice each month for the electricity you use.

Ask your neighbours or a settlement services worker how to contact the electricity utility in your community.

Heating

Heat may be included in your rent or in your electrical bill if you have electric heat. In some areas, an electric heat pump provides both heating and cooling.

If heat is not included, you will have to contact the natural gas utility in your area. Sometimes you will use another fuel, such as heating oil. Usually it takes only a few days to begin service.

Ask your neighbours or a settlement services worker how to contact the fuel provider in your community.

Communications Services

For landline or cell phone services, cable and internet, you can choose from many service providers. Different providers offer a variety of services and price plans. Service usually begins within a few hours.

Often, you can get a discount by buying several services from one provider. Usually, you will be asked to agree to a contract for one or two years. If you agree, you will have to pay a penalty to end the contract early. The terms of the contract may be complex. Don’t agree to a contract unless you understand what services you are getting, how much they cost and how long the contract will last.

You can find service providers by searching online or at retail centres.

Other Services

You may have to start other services when you move into a new home, such as water and recycling or garbage collection. Some people choose to pay for services such as housecleaning, gardening or snow clearing.

Ask your neighbours or a settlement services worker what other services you will need and how to get them started.

Insurance

Homeowners and renters usually find that insurance offers valuable security. Insurance will pay to replace a home or belongings that you own if there is a fire, burglary or certain other losses. If you used a mortgage to buy your home, you may be required to insure the home. Tenants insurance will replace your belongings if you rent.

Search online for Insurance Agents and Brokers, or ask a settlement services worker for help.

Related Resources

Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) provides information to help you find housing in Canada: