Housing

Housing is a key consideration for newcomers to the area. Depending on your income and preferences, you may want to rent or buy a home. On this page, you will find information about how to find a place to live including both short- and long-term options.


Renting

Renting an apartment or house involves paying a set fee, usually monthly, to a landlord, who is usually the owner or caretaker of the property. As a renter, you do not own the property. You can browse rental housing listings online; however, we do not recommend sending payment to secure housing before you arrive in the area. If you need short term housing while you look for a rental property, see the short term housing section below.

When renting a property, you will be required to sign a lease. A lease is a legal document that describes the terms of the rental agreement with your landlord, including how much you are required to pay, whether utility costs are included in this payment and how much notice you must give your landlord if you choose to vacate the property.

Many leases require you to commit to living in the property and paying rent for at least one year before you can vacate the property. You should always read any document in full before signing. If you need help understanding the document, you can seek help from a local settlement agency listed on the Immigration & Settlement page.

If the lease states that utilities are included, this usually means vital services, such as heat (minimum of 20°C/68°F), hot and cold water, electricity, and fuel are included in the cost of your rent.  Sometimes air conditioning/cooling and cable and internet may be included, but this is less common. If utilities are not included in your rent, you will need to pay these bills directly to the service providers in addition to your rental payment.

Regardless of whether you rent or own your home, you will likely have to pay for telephone, internet and/or television services. High speed services are provided by many carriers throughout the region.

The requirements to successfully rent a property vary depending on the landlord’s preferences. Some documents you may need include:

  • Basic information about where you work
  • A letter from your employer that includes your annual income
  • A bank statement that shows you can pay rent for a few months
  • A credit check – this means you give your landlord permission to access information about your credit history
  • A guarantor or co-signor who can pay the rent in case you cannot
  • References who can confirm you are a good tenant

A good rental property should:

  • Be in a safe, well-maintained state
  • Have access to utilities, such as heat, hot and cold water, and electricity
  • Provide privacy – your landlord can only enter the rental property in an emergency or with written notification
  • Provide a working smoke detector that will warn you in case of a fire

As a tenant you also have some responsibilities:

  • Pay your rent on time
  • Keep the rental property clean
  • Repair damages you cause
  • Be reasonably quiet
  • Obey the law
  • Follow the terms of your lease

Landlords cannot discriminate against you based on your race, ethnicity, religion, sex, age, sexual orientation, family status, or disability.


Buying

Buying and owning a home means that the building and possibly the land surrounding the property belongs to you. Buying a home is a more permanent housing option that you may wish to consider if you have already found employment in the area.

Although it is possible to purchase a home in cash if you have the financial means, many individuals and families purchase homes in Canada by applying for a home loan known as a mortgage. Typically, mortgages are long-term loans that can be repaid over 20 to 30 years. There are many different types of mortgage lengths and interest rate arrangements available through banks and independent mortgage lenders.

In order to qualify for a mortgage, you will likely need to have an established Canadian credit history or significant financial means. To establish a good Canadian credit history, you should consistently pay your bills on time and pay at least the minimum required amount.

You can work with a bank or mortgage lender to find out the size of mortgage you will likely be approved for before you start looking for a house, although, keep in mind that the pre-approved amount if often much higher than many individuals choose to spend on a home in order to live comfortably.

Home ownership also comes with additional costs compared to renting. Maintenance, utilities, and property taxes are all the responsibilities of the home owners in addition to the mortgage loan. Maintenance and utility costs vary based on the size and age of the home. You will also pay less in property taxes overall in St. Thomas-Elgin because the average home price is much cheaper than other regions.

When you own your home you will have to pay for telephone, internet and/or television services. High speed services are provided by many carriers throughout the region.

For more information about buying a home in the area, visit the London St. Thomas Association of Realtors and the St. Thomas & Elgin Homebuilders' Association.


Short Term Housing

If you only plan to stay in the area for a short time or need more time to find permanent housing, you may want to live in short term housing. Short term rental properties can be found online or through advertisements in local newspapers (see the Shops & Services page for a list of local newspapers).

Short term housing typically involves making daily, weekly or monthly payments to the owner or landlord that include all utilities and amenities, such as cable and internet. This arrangement can be easier for newcomers who may not be familiar with the local rental process; however, short term rentals are usually more expensive than long term rentals over time.

Hotels and motels are considered short term housing options and may offer reduced weekly or monthly rates for longer term stays. Search for local hotels and motels on Elgin Tourist or Railway City Tourism.

OUR PARTNERS & FUNDERS

Elgin County
City of St.Thomas
YW St.Thomas
Province of Ontario