Renting with roommates 101
Pros of sharing a place
Sharing an apartment or a house with roommates is a flexible rental solution for WHV holders—you’ll get to meet people, learn more about Canadian culture, get tips, improve your language skills and more. Rent is also usually much cheaper than if you had a place to yourself.
The word “roommate” is used to describe several kinds of living arrangements and your responsibilities vary greatly depending on how the legal relationship is characterized. There are generally two options. If you sign the lease, you’re a tenant with legal rights and responsibilities towards the landlord. If you don’t sign the lease, you’re a “boarder,” i.e. someone a tenant allows to reside in the apartment. Occasionally, boarders are listed as “occupants” on the lease.
As a boarder, it’s generally easier to move out when you need to—however, be a good roommate and given enough notice! Do remember that if you don’t sign the lease, it goes both ways—you can also be kicked out easily. Even as a boarder, you have to meet your obligations towards the tenant(s), including paying your share of the rent and keeping the property in good condition.
Cons of sharing a place
Generally speaking, it’s advisable to sign the lease for two reasons. First, the legal document clarifies your portion of the rent, applicable utilities and other household expenses. Second, in case of disagreement (eviction, payment of rent, etc.), you may not be covered under the residential tenancy acts.
Finding a place as a couple is more difficult than if you were single but not impossible. It’s actually quite common in Canada to live as a couple with another couple or several roommates.
In a joint tenancy, the obligation to pay the rent is shared. For example, if the monthly rent is $800, each of the two tenants must pay $400. If the lease contains a clause stipulating solidarity, one of the joint tenants can be sued for the full rent. In the above example in which two joint tenants were responsible, one only could be required to pay the full amount of $800.
If you sign the lease, you have a personal right of occupancy. In other words, you can decide whether or not you want to renew the lease or accept or refuse an increase in rent or any other modification to the lease, regardless of what your roommate decides.
For better protection, joint tenants are advised to sign a written joint tenant agreement dealing with all practical aspects of living together. For example, “the Internet bill will be divided equally between all the tenants, X will have exclusive use of this room,” etc.