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10 Tips for Renting an Apartment in Vancouver

You guessed it! This is a series. Previously, we went through 10 tips on renting a house, such as how to dispose of your trash, staying informed of the animals in the area, and checking the noise levels.

This time, we will cover 10 tips for renting an apartment in Vancouver. How different could it be from renting a house? 🤔 It is different enough to write an article about it. Furthermore, it's always good to stay informed and prepared. This way, you have no surprises.


The search for an apartment is similar to the search for a house, as you use the same apps and websites. However, the difference is

  1. You will likely communicate with a real estate leasing agent rather than the owner. Property management companies manage multiple properties around the city because overseas investors own many units. Therefore, you may never communicate with the owners as they might not even be in the country.

  2. The communication is streamlined through the use of standardized applications and contracts. You can learn more about applications in our 'Dos and Don'ts When Renting in Vancouver' article.

Now let's get to the tips!

Tip 1: More trash talk

We talk about taking out your trash in Vancouver a lot. It is a big part of living in the city, and many places even fine you up to $250 if you don't do it correctly. Don't worry, though. It is easy to get the hang of it. Most highrises in Vancouver have a room specifically for garbage; more often than not, those rooms are monitored with CCTV and located on lower levels.

[Note] Ask the renting agent to show you where the room is before or when you receive the keys.

The room will have bins for paper, mixed paper, glass, containers, nonrecyclable trash and compost. Every building will vary somewhat, but this is a general idea. Just follow the instructions, as it is "easier" than taking out the trash when living in a house. The instructions usually include graphics for clarity.

Tip 2: Community Board

Every building will have a community board somewhere in the building's common areas. These boards will have announcements from the building management and other tenants in the building. Extra parking space for rent, computers for sale, and dog walking services are just some examples of things you will see your neighbors post. These boards will have some rules tied to them, such as how long the announcement can be on the board. Those rules will be communicated next to the board. It's an excellent communication tool, so keep an eye out for it.

Tip 3: Nearby transportation

Due to the housing crisis in Vancouver, new buildings are always popping up. This is awesome as you always have the chance to live in new buildings. And most times, they offer good deals for first occupants if the strata own the apartments.

Anyhow, because these developments are new, transportation can be limited. So search where is the nearest bus stop or train station, and remember to look up how long it will take you to get to school or work. Taking buses increases your travel time.

Tip 4: Heating and cooling

This is a simple one. Ask if the apartment has heating and what type of heating. Radiators use a lot of electricity, and hot water pipes don't heat up that much but are cost-effective. However, apartments are warmer than houses, so you might not need to turn on the heat for long periods.

It is also great to note what are the utilities that are included in the rent, as sometimes gas or water is included. Also, take note of which utilities you will need to get on your own such as electricity (Hydro) or internet.

Now to the cooling part. Air conditioning and ceiling fans are not common in Vancouver. Therefore, you may see an apartment advertised as having A/C when in fact, they have an air system (fans in the walls, also referred to as an HVAC system). So ask because Vancouver has gotten hotter in the past few years. #whatisglobalwarming

Tip 5: Paper walls

If you are coming from certain countries, you will notice that buildings here don't have concrete walls. They have 'dry walls' instead. This means that sound travels, although newer buildings got better at increasing the insulation. So bring a friend, go to separate rooms and try to have a conversation with the doors closed. We advise you to keep the noise down after 10 pm, such as loud music and late-night vacuuming.

Tip 6: Tenant insurance

You are more likely to get asked for tenant insurance when renting an apartment than when renting a house. There are many insurance providers in BC, and the real estate agent might provide you with recommendations on a few providers.

When looking for a provider, use the online tools on their website to get a quote and compare prices. Insurance will cost you around $30 per month, depending on your postal code and coverage details.

Tip 7: Elevators

Not having the proper ratio of floors to elevators can be a serious problem. An elevator will inevitably break down in your building, and having only one elevator for 36 floors can cause you major delays. Another scenario is having an elevator be occupied by someone moving in or out. And the worst of the worst is the frequent fire alarms, so you and all your neighbours take the stairs down, and once the situation is resolved, everyone goes back up to their homes at the same time. We are reliving traumas by writing this😜. We believe any building with more than 15 floors should have 3 elevators.

Tip 8: Building management

Most buildings in Vancouver have building managers. We recommend you talk to the building manager of your new building and make sure you understand their position. Therefore, ask them what kind of problems they can help you solve, and which issues with the unit should be reported to the landlord.

Next time your fire alarms are going crazy, and you know who to call, you will be thankful we gave you this tip.

Tip 9: Move-in fee

Apartment buildings will charge you an extra fee when you move in. This is called a move-in fee, which can be in the 100 - 200 CAD range. Therefore, you should consider this cost in your math when you budget for your move. What is it for, you ask? It's supposed to cover some costs related to repairs in your new unit, plus changing the locks.

Tip 10: Roommates

Living in an apartment is the most expensive type of property you can live in. Therefore, make sure you find someone to split the rent with, or you might only get approved to rent with a co-signer or guarantor.

I know you are curious about this, so let us give you the ranking:

Most expensive - Apartment

More expensive - House

Expensive - Laneway house

Less expensive - Basement

Everything is expensive!!

Want to exchange more tips with other international students? Join our Slack community, as we are always sharing tips and stories.

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