Apartment Hunting 101

Hunting for apartments can be quite the challenge for anyone. We have a bit of advice for anyone new to the Montreal apartment scene. (Wikimedia Commons user Wizzard / Wikimedia Commons)

Hunting for apartments can be quite the challenge for anyone. We have a bit of advice for anyone new to the Montreal apartment scene. (Wikimedia Commons user Wizzard / Wikimedia Commons)

It’s the time of the year again when we begin to consider whether we should stay at our current place or shuffle out. Here at MSURJ, we would like to give you some tips on planning the big move.

The Hunt

If you are looking for an apartment, remember that there are plenty of options for students in two areas immediately around campus: the Milton-Parc Community East of campus, and West of campus. There is also the option of living further away and commuting to school.

Most of the high rises West-of-campus are operated by management companies. Alina Hameed, an Arts student from McGill, shared her story on hunting for her apartment.

I always knew where I wanted to live. We approached the building director to discuss options available. At the time, only people over 21 could rent, even guarantors were not enough. My friends were turning 21 soon though and the manager caved. We got our dream place. Remember to ask around, view apartments and trust your gut instinct.

Prices might vary based on which side of campus you choose. Generally, West-of-campus apartments are slightly more expensive than apartments East of campus (although there are always exceptions). Whichever side of campus you live on, consider factors like the proximity to grocery stores and pharmacies carefully. In the winter, this will suddenly matter. In terms of general environment, West of McGill is quieter; the East of campus tends to be louder, especially during orientation week.

Another option available is living completely off-campus. Apartments near Métro Lionel-Groulx, Atwater, Concordia, the Plateau, and Gay Village can boast a significantly more affordable cost than on-campus or near-campus housing. Bussing to school can take around 30 minutes from the Plateau area – the Métro may be faster. However, students who live further away from campus might find themselves being limited by public transport schedules, which may mean missing out on on-campus late-night activities, being stranded at the lab at inconvenient hours, and losing motivation to attend early classes in the winter. Although buses run throughout the night, the Métro closes at 12:30 some days, which can put a damper on on-campus parties. While some students may crave being around other students all the time, you might enjoy interacting with students from other universities such as UdeM, as well as neighbours and workers from all around. Living further from campus can allow you to explore Montreal and all it has to offer.

Listings to check for apartments are kijiji, McGill apartment listings, les PAC, and Padmapper.

Costs

Here are some examples of costs of apartments in the ghetto and Montreal area

2 1/2 – East-of-Campus High Rise – 800$ with utilities – One person

5 – West-of-Campus High Rise – 2100$ without utilities – Three people

3 1/2 West-of-Campus High Rise – 1150$ without utilities – Two people

3 1/2 East-of-Campus High Rise – 1100$ with utilities – Two people

3 1/2 Plateau Condo – 600$ with utilities – One person

Electricity, heating, internet bills, phone bills and cable can come to up to 200$ a month, on top of basic rent.

To keep costs down, fellow student Jing-Lun Xu suggests:

Consider having a roommate use the living room as a bedroom, that way two people can live in a 3 1/2 apartment.

According to Educaloi.qc.ca, the number of people in an apartment is constrained by the number of people who can live comfortably there. Curtains, bookcases, desks, and sofas can be used to re-portion a room to allow a roommate some privacy. Alternatively, a day bed can be placed in the living room, to double both as a place to sit and as a place to sleep.

Reality Check

Here are some honest disclaimers and warnings for renting your own place.

McGill warns against disclosing your Social Insurance Number (or any other national identification number), bank account numbers, or passport information to rent apartments. By law, managers are not allowed to demand this information from you, but many places will claim to require it. If you find yourself in this situation, it is your choice to either look for another apartment, disclose the information, or take the extremely time-consuming (and inconvenient; court sessions often take place during school hours) step of suing the landlord. Another technically illegal – but very common – requirement is the payment of an early deposit. Alina had to disclose additional information to her landlord, and her classmates have been in situations where they had to pay additional deposits. If landlords demand additional information or deposits that violate the laws set by the Régie du logement, be firm – sometimes, showing that you know the law can be enough to encourage a landlord to back off. 

By law, landlords need to guarantee a certain degree of livability – hot water, gas, and working electricity. But sometimes when things break, a landlord may not be able to address the problem immediately. This could mean living in a -5-degree apartment without running water for a few days. While high rise buildings tend to have more security and may have staff on-location to help deal with such problems, they may still take time to fix.

Most of us have nothing against smokers, but in a building with poor ventilation, suddenly indoor smoking can become your own downstairs health hazard. Similarly, bed bug infestations, mice, cockroaches, and ant infestations are real problems depending on the building. Carefully inspect where you want to live for any of these signs; once inside, vermin are difficult to dispose of.

Choose your roommates carefully. Who you live with may not be who you want to have fun with – and vice versa. Roommates should be chosen based on preferences: is your prospective roommate a night owl or a morning bird?  Does he prefer cranking up the thermostat in the winter or throwing on a sweater? Does she enjoying home cooking to take out? Do you like cleaning over cooking? These all can become issues in the long run, and it’s important to find complementary preferences and ensure you’re prepared to discuss such issues openly with your new roommate.

Follow your instinct more than anything. According to Alina, her friend rented a place early in the year. When he went back to pick up the keys and move in, the landlord had reconstructed the apartment so it was several sizes smaller. Construction was still going on and the place was in disrepair. Realize that when something does not seem right to you, you should extract yourself from the situation.

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