Housing in Nova Scotia
There are many types of housing in Nova Scotia. They include:
- Apartment – bachelor or 1, 2 and 3 bedroom
- Shared house/room for rent
- Condominium -sometimes called a condo
- Townhouse or duplex or semi-detached house
- Detached house
Buying a Home
- The price of homes in Nova Scotia ranges widely, depending on such things as size, age, type and location.
- Often, homebuyers get a loan from the bank – a mortgage – to purchase their home. You usually have to make a down payment (e.g., 25% of the purchase price) when you get a mortgage. Your bank can give you details on financing a home purchase.
- Other costs to consider when you buy a home are property taxes, repairs, maintenance, insurance and utilities (heat, water, electricity, etc.).
- You must also take care of your home and property (e.g., paint, cut the grass, shovel snow).
- Many people who buy a home use a real estate agent. Check the Yellow Pages under Real Estate Brokers or search for agent and property at Realtor.ca.
- Some people find their home through a private sale advertised, for example, on a ‘House for Sale’ sign or on an internet site such as Kijiji.
- You can find more information about buying a home in Canada through the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation website.
Renting a Home
- Most newcomers to Canada rent at first. If you rent, you will need to sign a lease (a legal contract between you and the landlord). Leases are usually for one year but you may be able to negotiate a month to month agreement.
- Rent amounts range widely depending on location and size, and apartments or houses for rent can be furnished or unfurnished. Rent is usually due on the first day of the month. Most renters pay by post-dated cheques.
- In addition to your first month’s rent, you will pay a damage deposit of not more than half a month’s rent. The landlord holds this damage deposit to cover the cost if you damage the apartment. If there are no damages, the landlord is required to return this money within 10 days of you moving out.
- Consider Tenant’s Insurance to protect your personal belongings while you are renting – see an insurance agent for more information or visit the Insurance Brokers of Nova Scotia website.
Finding a Place to Rent
There are many ways to find apartments or houses to rent in Nova Scotia. For example:
- Local newspapers
- Websites (e.g., Kijiji, 247apartments.com, Rent Donkey)
- Property management companies (check the local Yellow Pages or online, e.g., Killam Properties Inc.)
- ‘For Rent’ signs
- Friends, relatives or co-workers
If you find an apartment or house that you think you might like to rent, contact the landlord, property manager or superintendent to tell them you would like to view it. You may have to make an appointment. Think of this meeting as an interview; be on time, dress professionally and be prepared.
Questions to ask a landlord or property manager:
- How much is the rent?
- What utilities are included?
- What is the neighborhood like?
- How old is the building?
- Is the building quiet?
- Can I have pets?
- Is it a non-smoking building?
- How many appliances are there?
- Is there a balcony?
- Is parking available?
The landlord will ask you to complete an application before renting an apartment or house to you. Rental applications provide the landlord with your personal information. Landlords will also check the references you provide and your credit history.
Rental applications will include such things as:
- names and dates of birth of occupants
- current telephone number
- current and previous addresses
- social insurance number (this is not mandatory)
- employment information and/or financial information (e.g., bank statement)
- current/previous landlord information
Signing a Lease
- A lease is a legal contract between you and the landlord. It includes such things as the rent amount, term of the lease, information on when and how the rent can increase, and rules for living in the building.
- Read the lease carefully and make sure you understand everything. If you do not understand the lease, ask someone you know and trust to help you before you sign the lease.
- You should get one copy of the lease and your landlord should get another. Make sure to keep your copy safe. See a standard Nova Scotia residential lease agreement at Access Nova Scotia Residential Tenancies Downloadable Forms.
- Heating and water costs may not be included in your rent. If heat is not included, make sure you budget for this, especially during the winter season when heating costs can be very high. There is a Heating Assistance Rebate Program available through Access Nova Scotia that can help people with low to medium income pay for heat.
- Electricity costs may not be included in your rent. You may need to contact Nova Scotia Power to set up an account and get electricity in your apartment. You may also need to pay a security deposit at the time you set up your account.
- Cable/Telephone/Internet are usually not included in your rent. You can contact Eastlink, Bell Aliant or check local Yellow Page listings for available services in the area where you are renting.
Rights and Responsibilities
By law, both tenants and landlords have rights and responsibilities. A tenant is the person who rents the place they live in. A landlord is a person who owns the building or home where the tenants rent. A caretaker or superintendent may work for the landlord to take care of the building or home rented to the tenants. Read about the rights and responsibilities of landlords and tenants in Access Nova Scotia’s Residential Tenancies Guides, or go directly to the Residential Tenancies Act.
What to do if there is a problem
If there is a problem in the house or apartment you are renting (e.g., broken plumbing, appliance, heating, or mice), contact your landlord or superintendent immediately. Note the date and time and the information you give to your landlord/superintendent. If the landlord does not solve the problem in a reasonable time, you can contact Dalhousie Legal Aid Service. Visit www.tenantrights.legalaid.dal.ca or call or visit their office in Halifax.
Dalhousie Legal Aid Service
2209 Gottingen St.
Halifax, Nova Scotia, B3K 3B5
You also have the right to take your complaint to the Residential Tenancies Board. Visit
Access Nova Scotia Residential Tenancies or call 1-800-670-4357 for more information.
What to do if you are without a home:
Some newcomers may find themselves in a situation where they are without a home due to a lack of work, financial problems or other issues. In those situations, there is help available. Speak to the Temporary Foreign Worker Support Counsellor at ISIS (1-866-431-6472) who will help you to connect with an agency that can assist you in finding a place to live.
- Dalhousie Legal Aid Service Guide: http://tenantrights.legalaid.dal.ca/guide.htm
- Tenant Rights Community Clinic: http://tenantrights.legalaid.dal.ca/schedule.htm
- Greater Halifax Partnership: http://www.greaterhalifax.com/en/home/livinginhalifax/halifax_cost_of_living.aspx
- Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation: www.cmhc.ca