Newcomers – How to Find Housing

By: Valérie Nadeau, Documentation Agent, 211

Upon arrival in Quebec, one of the great challenges for many immigrants is to find a first home. This is not a simple task, because standards are not universal, and newcomers may need help finding out how to find housing here. For them, the following questions may be a cause for concern:

  • What is a reasonable price for housing?
  • What services are usually included in the rent?
  • How can I decode classified ads (e.g., apartment size, inclusions, etc.)?
  • In which neighborhoods can I be close to services I need?
  • How do I contact the owner?
  • How do visits work?
  • How is the lease signature?
  • What are my options if I have a problem?
  • Once I find a home, where can I get furniture at a low cost?

Fortunately, many organizations offer help and guide people in search of housing. Here is an overview of different available services.

Support and General Questions

First, individuals who have questions about the different aspects of getting established can start by contacting an organization offering to accompany newcomers in a general way. In this type of organization, workers do not always have answers to very specific questions about housing and they might not be able to accompany someone concretely – by attending housing visits, for example. On the other hand, they will be able to guide you regarding general questions about market prices, neighborhoods and procedures to follow.

Many organizations accompanying newcomers also offer interpretation or translation services in many languages.

Assistance in Housing Search

Housing search services can take many forms. Generally, workers will be able to conduct a search with you by browsing advertisements and by taking your criteria into account. Some organizations may even assist you in the process: when contacting the owner, during a visit or even when signing the lease.

These services are usually free, but we suggest that you call beforehand to know what an organization offers exactly. In addition to answering your questions, some organizations have a list of available and affordable housing.

Defending Tenants’ Rights

If you have doubts about the condition of a home, about an owner’s actions during your search process or even after taking possession of an apartment, housing committees are there to help you. Housing committees exist in almost every neighborhood and are very familiar with the laws, rights and duties of tenants and landlords. Each committee is familiar with its neighborhood and sometimes even maintain a registry of non-compliant landlords, which can save you from dealing with one of them. Workers are also very aware of abusive practices and can help you quickly identify a problematic situation, and then accompany you throughout the procedures that can be undertaken. They can help you if, for example, you find yourself in an unfit housing, if an owner tries to extort money from you, if an owner refuses to perform essential repairs, if you are bullied, etc.

See our article on housing advocacy for more information.

Special needs

People who live with a disability and require adapted housing may receive help from certain organizations that can either provide financial assistance, make the necessary renovations, or refer to adapted housing.

Low-income individuals can sometimes benefit from financial assistance, most often offered by municipal housing bureaus, or subsidized housing. However, accessibility criteria are generally strict and there may be very long waiting times, depending on the region. Organizations offering help in finding housing can often help with the procedures.

Housing cooperatives can be a cheaper option for people willing to get involved in the management of a building.

As for seniors, they can also have access to housing adapted to their needs.

Furnish Your Home

Furnished apartments are rare and it is likely that you will have to purchase furniture and/or household items. If you wish to avoid paying for new and expensive items, many thrift shops can provide you with used items at a fraction of the price. Some organizations offer furniture delivery, and some may even donate free furniture to those in need.

Be careful!

In Quebec, it is illegal for landlords to ask for a security deposit from their tenants, or for payment of several months’ rent in advance. However, this claim is frequent and particularly targets immigrants who are not always fully aware of the laws. Vigilance is therefore critical. For more information on laws related to housing, you can consult the Tribunal administratif du logement website.