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Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Learn how to find a temporary place to stay when you first arrive and how to find permanent housing in Saskatchewan.  This section also has information on renting accommodations, tenant/landlord rights and responsibilities, buying a house, and housing assistance programs for people with low to moderate incomes.

Housing on Arrival

When you arrive in Saskatchewan, you might stay for several days in a temporary place before you get settled.  Many immigrants choose a place to stay that is located in the centre of the community so it is close to where you will need to apply for key documents or take other steps to settle in Saskatchewan.

You might stay in a hotel or motel, where you pay for one room, usually with your own bathroom facilities.  You will need to ask how many people are allowed to stay in the room and how many beds it will have.  Some hotels and motels have a kitchen area that has cookware, dishes, and cutlery. 

You can find a list of hotels, motels and motor inns in the Yellow Pages of a telephone book, or online at by searching using the word "hotels."  If you are making a reservation by telephone, you may be asked to give your credit card number to hold your reservation.

Getting Settled in Saskatchewan

There two main housing options to consider:  renting or buying a home.  The Newcomer’s Guide to Canadian Housing, published by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), is a useful resource.  It gives basic information about the Canadian housing market and explains specific terms.  The Public Legal Education Association of Saskatchewan (PLEA) provides legal information related to a range of life events including renting and buying a home.  Housing for Newcomers has information on renting, buying and maintaining your home and is published in various languages.

Rental Housing

There are many kinds of rental housing including apartments, single family houses, townhouses, condominiums and sometimes individual rooms with shared kitchen and bathroom.  Apartments are the most common type of rental housing.

Most rental housing in Canada is owned by individuals or by companies, not by the government.  The property owner (called the landlord) sets the amount of the rent and renters (called tenants) pay the rent in order to live in the property.  Some rental housing has lower rental rates because it is subsidized by government, but it is specifically for people with low to moderate incomes.

When looking for rental housing, a good place to start is a classified advertisement section of the local newspaper.  You can also search on the internet, or notice “For Rent” signs posted on apartment buildings in areas where you would like to live.

When you have found a place that you think is good to rent, consider these questions:

  • Does the condition of the place present any health or safety concerns?  The landlord is required by law to make sure that the building is safe and clean.
  • Is there enough space for the number of people who will live there?  The landlord may only allow a specific number of people to live in the home.
  • How much is the rent and what is included in the rent?  For example, does it include the cost of water, heat and electricity?
  • How much is the security deposit?  A security deposit (sometimes called a damage deposit) is money you pay the landlord as security for damage, cleaning and unpaid rent.  It is usually charged when you start renting.  The maximum amount the landlord can charge you for a security deposit is one month’s rent.  It is returned to you when you move out.  With your agreement, the landlord can keep some or all of the deposit to pay the costs if the place needs to be cleaned, fixed, or if there is unpaid rent.
  • Is it rented on month-to-month basis or will you be required to sign a longer-term lease?  A lease is a rental agreement that outlines the rights and responsibilities of each party and is signed by both the tenant and landlord.  Read the agreement carefully and get help if you don’t understand something.  You will need to give advance notice when you move out and there may be a cost if you move out before your lease is over.
  • Is it a desirable location – close to what you need such as your workplace, a school, bus route, and grocery store?
  • Are pets allowed?  In Saskatchewan, many rental places do not allow tenants to keep pets, so if you have a pet, it is important to ask this question.

The Rental Unit Evaluation Worksheet can help you judge whether the place is safe, comfortable and suitable for you.  It is a good idea to list all the things that do not work or need fixing.  If you do not list broken or damaged areas on the worksheet, your landlord might think you are responsible for the damage.  As a result, when you move out, all or part of your security deposit could be used to make those repairs.  You can find more information at Housing in Canada.

Many landlords ask for character and financial references from those applying to rent a home.  Your employer might be willing to provide these references if you do not have any other contacts. Your Regional Newcomer Gateway may be able to suggest other possibilities.

Tenant and Landlord Rights and Responsibilities

It is important to know that when you rent living space, you are entering into a legal agreement.  The renter is a tenant, and the person or company owning the property is the landlord.  Each has rights and responsibilities that include paying the rent, making repairs, security deposits, the right to privacy, rent increases, moving out and settling disputes.  You may rent on a month-to-month basis or longer by signing a lease.

It is against the law for the landlord to refuse to rent to you because of your ancestry, ethnicity, or religion.  If you feel you have been wrongly treated, you can contact the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission.  

As a tenant, it is your responsibility to pay rent on time.  It is a good idea to ask your landlord to give you a written receipt for any money you pay for a deposit or rent.  There are rules about when and how often the landlord can increase the rent.  The landlord must notify a tenant in writing at least six full months before the increase is to come into effect. 

Each tenant must keep their own place clean and respect the building’s rules and the rights of other tenants.  The landlord is responsible for maintaining the building and facilities.  The landlord must ensure that the building is safe to live in, appliances work, and make repairs when necessary.  The landlord must also respect your privacy.  He or she can only enter your place by giving you proper notice, or in an emergency, or with your agreement.

You cannot stop paying rent because of problems with your landlord (for example, if the landlord refuses to make repairs).  You need to work with your landlord to find a solution.  If your problem cannot be settled, contact the Office of Residential Tenancies.  The staff there can explain what is expected of renters and landlords, and resolve disputes when they arise.

When you are planning to move out, you must notify the landlord ahead of time.  This is usually called “giving notice”.  Notice must be given in writing, not just by telling the landlord.  Here is a sample notice of moving.  The security deposit will be returned at the end of the tenancy, unless the tenant agrees that the landlord can keep some or all of the deposit to pay the costs if the place needs to be cleaned, fixed or for unpaid rent.

Buying a Home

There are various types of home for sale such as condominiums, townhouses, single or detached homes, semi-detached homes, and duplexes.  Buying Your First Home in Canada:  What Newcomers Need to Know gives information on the different types of homes along with other useful information.

Homes for sales are listed in the classified advertisement sections of local newspapers.  You can also check real estate websites or contact a local real estate agent.  Driving around and noticing “For Sale” signs can also help you find the right home.

Once you have found a home that you would like to buy, you will need to make a written offer to the owner, pay a purchase deposit, arrange for a home inspection and obtain a mortgage from a bank.  A real estate agent or a lawyer can assist you through the process.  Real estate agents are paid for their work by the person selling the home, so the buyer does not pay them.  Both the buyer and the seller will usually hire their own lawyer and pay the fees.

It is important to know exactly how much it costs to buy and own a home.  You will need to consider the price of the house and land and other expenses such as property taxes, legal fees, land transfer taxes, mortgage costs (including interest rates), a condominium fee (for condominiums only), and potential renovation costs if repairs are needed.

As a homeowner, you are required to pay property taxes on your home every year. The amount depends on the type of home, its location, and the size of the residential lot (land) that it occupies. You are also responsible to maintain your house and property.  Before you start any renovations on your home, check whether you need a building permit from the municipal office.  There are rules about what changes will be allowed.  Condominiums are different.  The owner pays a condominium fee that covers exterior maintenance services and care of areas shared by all condominium owners.  The owner must still pay to maintain the inside of their own unit.

Once you own a home, you need to consider buying home insurance. Home insurance gives you financial protection against incidents that can cause damage to your home. Visit Home Insurance in Saskatchewan for more information.

Housing Assistance Programs

Through Saskatchewan Housing Corporation (SHC), the Government offers a range of housing programs to low- and moderate-income households who may not be able to afford adequate, safe, and secure housing.  These housing programs include:

  • affordable rental housing;
  • financial assistance with the adaptation of a home for a household member with a disability;
  • financial assistance with home repair;
  • support to help seniors live independently in SHC-owned projects; and
  • financial assistance with homeownership (through housing partners).

Most of Saskatchewan Housing Corporation’s programs are income and asset tested.  There also may be other eligibility criteria, including citizenship requirements.  For more information about these programs, please visit Saskatchewan Housing Corporation Programs and Services or call 1-800-667-7567.

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