The type of accommodation you choose will depend on your budget, expectations, and how long you plan on staying in Canada. When sorting out your housing, your first stop should be the international student's office or website of the school you will be attending. They’ll be able to help you in your search for housing.
Many schools in Canada offer accommodation located on or near campus in the form of dormitories/residence halls, townhouses, and apartments. Dormitories (dorms) are larger buildings housing many students, and townhouses are detached, housing usually three to six students.
Dorm rooms vary in size and quality, so it's a good idea to peruse any available pictures that are on your school's website. They usually have a shared kitchen, bathroom, and laundry facility and are managed directly by the school. Many dorms also contain a dining hall which students can purchase a meal plan to utilize. Often separated by gender, you’ll likely have one or two roommates sleeping in the room with you. Dorms are usually suggested for first-year students, and can be a great way for all students to meet new friends and get involved on campus.
Townhouses are designed for three to six students with single-occupancy rooms (this means no on sharing rooms, but a living space as a whole) and a main floor containing a kitchen and living room area. This type of accommodation is generally reserved for third or fourth year students.
If you're only going to be in Canada for a semester, it is probably easier to stay on campus than to search for off-campus housing. If you're staying for a longer period, you might consider staying in the dorms for the first semester, and then making different long-term arrangements once you've become more familiar with the area.
The majority of Canadian students in their first and second years of study do prefer to stay on campus. As an international student, you might find that living in the dorms makes it easier to make friends and to save on transportation costs. The average cost for on-campus housing is about $3,000 - $7,500 CDN per school year.
When looking for private, off-campus housing, trying checking with your school's housing office or student union office on campus for a list of nearby rental units. Remember that these accommodations are not inspected by your school, so it will be your responsibility to contact the landlord and examine the premises.
There are a number of different types of housing available to renters. A house is generally too expensive for one student to rent alone, so often multiple students will opt to share or rent suites within a larger house. Apartments that contain one to three bedrooms are also an option.
Most rental properties are not furnished, but it is possible to find temporary furnished apartment rentals before you arrive in Canada. If you are only planning on staying in the country for a short time, this might be the best option for you. Otherwise you will need to find and purchase your own furniture.
Private rentals require that you sign a lease, which is a legal document stating your responsibility as a tenant. These responsibilities include things like paying rent on time, keeping the premises clean, repairing any damages caused by you or your guests, and not disturbing other tenants. Landlords may also add various rules and conditions to the lease, so make sure to read the document carefully before signing. Always ask for a copy of any paperwork you sign.
Your landlord also has responsibilities, such as keeping the premises in good condition. In emergency situations, the landlord does have the right to enter your dwelling unannounced - otherwise advance notice must be given a reason for the request. If the landlord needs you to vacate the premises, 60 days advance notice is usually required, but be sure to read your lease, as terms may vary.
Price, quality, and availability of off-campus accommodations will differ. You should expect to pay from C$400-C$1,500 per month depending on the city and neighborhood you choose, and whether you have any co-tenants. Landlords typically collect one month's rent up-front as a security deposit. This will be returned to you when you move out, provided there are no damages made to the property.
You'll figure out which living accommodations are best for you as do your research. Don't be shy about asking for help, and know that you aren't bound to your first choice. You can always try dorms your first year and off-campus housing the next. It's all a learning process just like most experiences studying as an international student.