Find a place to live

Last reviewed: March 11, 2024

When you move to British Columbia, you’ll need to find a place to live. You may want to think about where you want to live, what type of house you want, moving in and what’s involved, setting up telephone, internet, heating, mail, and more. Use the Newcomer’s Guide to help you get started.


Residential Tenancy Branch

The Residential Tenancy Branch is part of the provincial government. It provides useful information about the rights and responsibilities of both landlords and tenants (renters). The branch also settles disagreements between landlords and tenants.

Contact the Residential Tenancy Branch if you have questions about renting a home in B.C., or if you have a problem with your landlord. They have information in several languages. 

Types of housing

  • A single-family house is a building with a kitchen, bathroom, living room, and bedrooms. There may be more rooms for eating, watching TV, or doing laundry. There is usually a yard and a place to park a car.
  • A duplex is a building divided into 2 houses.
  • A townhouse is a group of small houses joined together.
  • An apartment building has many apartments and 1 owner. The owner is the landlord for every apartment in the building.
  • A condominium (condo or strata) building has many apartments. People can own an apartment in the building.
  • Apartments and suites can be in an apartment or condo building, or in a single family house.
    • Most apartments and suites have 1 or 2 bedrooms.
    • Most apartments and suites have a kitchen, a bathroom, and a living room.
    • Studios or bachelor suites have 1 room with a kitchen area and a bathroom and no bedrooms
  • A “room for rent” is usually a bedroom in a shared house or apartment. Sometimes you have a private bathroom. Everyone shares the kitchen.
  • Room and board means a room, furniture, and meals are included in your rent. Every rental home has a person in charge. This person is the landlord, the owner, or a manager. You need to talk to this person about rent, repairs, and other needs.

Where to look for housing

  • Start by calling your settlement agency. Find a settlement agency near you.
  • Search for rental homes online, on community “Buy & Sell” websites, and in newspapers.
  • Look for “Vacancy” or “For Rent” signs posted near houses and apartment buildings.
  • Look for “For Rent” notices in your library, community centre, or place of worship (church, mosque, etc.).
  • You may qualify for subsidized housing. For more information, see The Newcomers Guide.
  • Check listings for co‑op housing. For more information, see The Newcomers Guide.
Here are some tips for reviewing ads or information.
  • Be careful when looking at ads for places to rent. Some people use fake ads to trick you and take your money.
  • Be careful with rentals that seem too good or too cheap.
  • Always read your rental contract carefully and ask someone you trust to review it.


A landlord cannot refuse to rent a place to people because of their race, skin colour, ancestry, birthplace, religion, sex, marital status, family status, sexual orientation, physical or mental disability, or lawful source of income. This is discrimination, and it is against the law.

There are special exceptions. Some buildings are for people who are aged 55 or older. Some units are for people with disabilities. A landlord is allowed to make rules so people cannot have pets or smoke in the building. If you have a problem with discrimination, call the BC Human Rights Clinic or the Tenant Resource & Advisory Centre (TRAC).

If you want to make an official complaint, contact the BC Human Rights Tribunal or the Canadian Human Rights Commission.


References are people who can recommend you as a good tenant or employee. A landlord may ask you for references before you rent the apartment. You can give a phone number for a reference. You can also give a letter written by your reference. Try to have references ready before you look for a home to rent.

Credit checks

Before renting to you, landlords need to know if you can pay the rent. Landlords are allowed to check your credit history. Landlords can ask for proof of your income (like a pay stub). They can also ask for other personal information, such as your full name and date of birth.

They may ask for other details like your Social Insurance Number, credit card details, driver’s license number, or banking information. You do not need to give this information and are allowed to refuse this request. However, if you refuse to provide the information, the landlord is also allowed to refuse to rent the place to you.

If you have questions about sharing your personal information, contact the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner for British Columbia.
Toll-free: 1 800 663-7867

Application deposits are illegal

Some landlords ask tenants to pay a deposit when they apply to rent a place. This is against the law. Landlords cannot take your money until you have both signed a Residential Tenancy Agreement. If you pay an application deposit, the landlord might still refuse to rent to you. You may not be able to get your money back. Visit the Residential Tenancies website to learn what deposits a landlord can charge.

Residential Tenancy Agreement

If you decide you want to rent a place, you and the landlord will need to sign a Residential Tenancy Agreement. This is also known as a lease. You may need to pay a security deposit. Some landlords prefer cash or cheque. It is a good idea to bring a cheque with you when you look at places to rent. When you pay your deposit, make sure you get a receipt. You should also get a receipt for rent payments. This is very important if you pay in cash. It proves that you have paid.

Do not pay a security deposit without signing a tenancy agreement first. The tenancy agreement tells you the tenancy rules. For example, you must pay the rent on time and keep the place clean, and you must not disturb other tenants or the landlord.

Before you sign a lease

When you find a place you like, ask these questions:

How much is the rent? When do I have to pay it?
You usually pay rent on the first day of each month. The landlord can only increase your rent once a year by an amount allowed by law. The landlord must tell you they are raising the rent 3 months before you have to pay. They must tell you in writing.
Are utilities included in the rent, or do I have to pay for them?
Utilities are electricity (hydro), gas or fuel oil, water, and sewer. Sometimes the utilities are included in the rent. Sometimes they are not. Ask the landlord if utilities are included in the rent. If they are not included, you will pay extra for them every month.
Are parking and storage included in the rent?
Some buildings have parking or storage space. Sometimes they are included in the rent. If they are not included in the rent, you will pay extra for them. Ask your landlord if parking and storage are included.
How much is the security (damage) deposit?
A deposit is money you pay to finalize your agreement. In B.C., you need to pay a damage deposit when you move into a rental unit. The deposit cannot be more than half of 1 month’s rent. If you have a pet, the landlord can also ask for a pet damage deposit. The landlord keeps this deposit until you move out. If you damage the rental unit, the landlord will use your deposit to fix it. If you do not clean the rental unit, the landlord can use the money to pay for cleaning fees.

Be sure to clean the rental unit before you move out. If there is no damage to the unit, and the landlord does not have to clean after you move out, they must return all of the deposit money to you. The landlord must do this within 15 days after you move out. If there is some damage or cleaning, the landlord may want to keep some or all of the money. If you disagree about the deposit, you can file a dispute with the Residential Tenancy Branch

Make a checklist before you move in

Make sure you have a signed Residential Tenancy Agreement
When you agree to rent a house or apartment, you and the landlord are making a contract. It is called a tenancy agreement. The agreement must be in writing. The tenancy agreement gives you the rules for renting the home. The law says that landlords and tenants each have certain rights and certain things they must do (responsibilities). A tenancy agreement must follow the law. 

Make sure you understand everything in the tenancy agreement before you sign it. If you are not sure, ask someone who can help you. You may need to have the agreement translated into your language. For more information, visit the Tenant Resource and Advisory Centre (TRAC) website.
Check for damage
Before you move in, look at the rental unit for damage. Ask the landlord to check with you. Take photographs of any damage you see, like a hole or a stained floor. Fill out a Condition Inspection Report form with your landlord. This form shows that the damage was there when you moved in. Both you and the landlord should sign the report. When you move out, you can use the form to ask for your damage deposit back.

Arrange for services and utilities
Sometimes, services (telephone and internet), and utilities (hydro, electricity, and gas) are included in your rent. Check your tenancy agreement. If they are not included, you will have to pay for them separately. Contact the telephone and internet company to ask for service.
Buy tenant’s insurance
Both homeowners and tenants can buy insurance. If you are a tenant, you should buy tenant insurance or renter’s insurance. This insurance pays for damage to your belongings (the things you own) in the rental unit – for example, in case of a fire, flood, earthquake, or robbery.
Telephones and internet
There are many telephone and internet companies in B.C. Some companies offer both services. You may see advertising that says you can save money or get better service if you change companies. This may be true, but you need to be careful. Some companies make you pay a fine to cancel a contract. Some contracts have a very cheap starting price, but the price becomes expensive after some time. Do not sign a contract unless you understand what services you are getting, how much they cost, and how long the contract lasts.
Garbage and recycling
Many cities and towns have waste collection services. Waste includes garbage, old food, and recyclable items (paper, plastic, and glass). A truck will come to your house to pick up waste every week. Some communities collect old food waste and yard trimmings. Some small communities do not have waste collection services. You may need to take your garbage and recycling to a transfer station.

There may be rules about how much garbage and recycling you can put outside for collection. There may also be rules about when you put out waste and the kind of container you can use for waste. In many places, the city gives you special bags or boxes for recyclable waste. If the city gives you special waste containers, you must use them.

When you buy items that come in containers like bottles and cans, you pay a small deposit. You can return the empty containers to a recycling centre or grocery store. They will give you the deposit money back (a refund).

British Columbians try to reduce waste. Your local government has information on garbage and recycling in your community. You can see the waste collection schedule. You can also see rules about what items belong in garbage, recycling, and food waste bins. Check your town or district website. You can also contact the Recycling Council of BC.
Sometimes, the house or apartment you rent may have some problems. For example, the roof leaks, the toilet does not work, or there is no hot water. The landlord is responsible for repairs (fixing broken items). If your rental unit needs repairs, talk to your landlord as soon as possible. The law says that the landlord must make these repairs quickly. If it is an emergency, the landlord must give you the name and phone number of someone who can come quickly. If the landlord does not fix the problem quickly, you can call the repair company yourself.
If you or your guests damage your rental unit, you must pay for the repairs. Sometimes, the landlord does not allow you to paint the walls or drill holes for pictures. If you do these things, the landlord may ask you to pay for damage and repairs. Before you make any changes to the unit, ask your landlord for permission. Get the permission in writing. If your rental unit has problems that your landlord won’t fix, contact the Residential Tenancy Branch
Letting the landlord in
A landlord may want to come into (enter) your rental unit, but they must ask you first. You can say no. However, if there is a good reason, you must let the landlord enter. The landlord must give you a written notice at least 24 hours before the visit. The notice must include the date, time, and reason for coming in. Emergencies are different. If there is an emergency, such as a fire or a broken water pipe, the landlord can come in without your permission.
If you and your landlord disagree about an issue, contact the Residential Tenancy Branch. They can give you information about the rights and responsibilities of landlords and tenants. They can also help solve disagreements. If you ask the Residential Tenancy Branch to solve your disagreement, you will need to attend a hearing. You can usually do this by phone.

You will have an arbitrator (a person who helps solve disagreements). The arbitrator will talk to you and the landlord. They will help you find a solution. During the hearing, you need to tell your story and give evidence (proof). It is important to be prepared. The Residential Tenancy Branch website has information about how to prepare for the dispute resolution process.
Moving out
When you plan to move out of a rented house or apartment, you must tell your landlord in writing. This is called giving notice. If you are renting month-to-month, you must give the written notice to the landlord 1 full month before you move out. For example, if you plan to move out on December 31, you must give notice before November 30.
In certain cases, a landlord can tell a tenant to move out. This is called an eviction. The landlord must tell you in writing. They must give good reasons for eviction. This is called giving notice. Usually, the landlord must tell you at least 1 month before they need you to move out. Sometimes, the rules are different. The rules depend on the reason you are being evicted.

Learn about eviction laws on the Residential Tenancy Branch website.
If your landlord evicts you and you do not agree with the reason, you can ask for help. Call the Residential Tenancy Branch or the Tenant Resource and Advisory Centre. 

Residential Tenancy Branch
Toll-free: 1 800 665-8779
Tenant Resource & Advisory Centre (TRAC)
Toll-free: 1 800 665-1185