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Securing housing

Submitting a rental application

To rent an apartment, a house or a room, rental companies usually require you to submit an application to prove that you have enough money to pay your rent. Private property owners may or may not require one. See what a typical application looks like (PDF 161KB).

When you submit your application, you'll be asked about:

  • A guarantor: This is someone (a parent, for example) who can take responsibility for your rent in the event you can't pay it yourself.
  • A Canadian bank account: This is what you'll use to pay your rent (make sure to open an account as soon as you arrive in Canada - or from abroad, if possible).
  • Employer references (or other proof): This is how you show you're able to work on and off campus.
  • Bank statements: These show that you have savings, enabling you to pay your rent.

You also may be asked to:

  • Give biographical information about yourself and all other occupants of the property.
  • Provide information about where you've lived before and offer references.
  • Undergo a credit check.
  • Pay a damage deposit (half a month's rent) to secure the apartment. If you've kept the apartment in good condition, you get the damage deposit back when you move out.
  • Provide proof of tenant insurance. Even if you're not required to provide proof, you should have tenant insurance.

Note: Asking someone to pay more than half a month’s rent in advance is an illegal practice in Nova Scotia. Application fees or key money are also illegal.

Other Resources:

Signing a lease

When you sign a lease or rental agreement, you’re agreeing to be a good tenant, committing to the duration of the lease and committing to paying rent on time. Once you've signed a lease, it's difficult to break the contract. You should always sign a lease (or a rental agreement). If the person you're renting from doesn’t want to sign a lease, think twice before renting from them.

  • Read your lease: Check for the starting and ending date on the lease, description of your place, utilities included, number of people on the lease, inspection dates, amount of rent that you owe each month, amount for your first month’s rent and the amount of security deposit. (Note: It is illegal to ask for more than ½ month’s rent as a damage deposit)
  • Ask for changes: If there is anything on the lease you that you don't agree with, have it changed before you sign it.
  • Sign the lease: Once you sign a lease, it is difficult to break the terms of the agreement and you're responsible to pay rent, so make sure you read lease documents thoroughly before signing them.
  • Get a free copy of your Residential Tenancies Act: The person you're renting from must give you a copy of the Act within 10 days of the day you sign your lease.

Other Resources

Protecting yourself from negative rental experiences

Learn more about protecting yourself from negative rental experiences – view our video about rental scams and other video resources for renters on YouTube.

Tips to avoid rental scams

  • View the property before you apply: Make sure you see the place that's being offered for rent, not a space that's staged for viewings.
  • Inspect the property when you move in: Check the place to see if anything is missing or requires repair. Cross reference with what's listed on your lease/rental agreement.
  • Record everything: Take pictures and videos of the place, both when you move in and when you move out. Don’t pay rent in cash.
  • Watch out for illegal practices and rental scams: Application fees, key money or multiple months of rent paid in advance are all illegal practices. You can call Dalhousie Legal Aid Service at 902-423-8105 or  if you're experiencing problems with your lease and don’t know what to do.

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