As a tenant in British Columbia, you are protected by the Residential Tenancy Act. It is important to understand your rights and responsibilities.
House hunting can be a stressful venture, especially if you're coming from a different country. Searching for a place in Vancouver can be a unique experience with the turnaround for housing being as volatile as it is. We've compiled some tips for finding housing in Vancouver to help you. If you receive an admission offer from UBC, we encourage you to log into our graduate student community and to connect with peers who are looking for accommodation as well. Many incoming graduate students have teamed up together and rented accommodation together.
House Hunting Tips
If you are looking to sign a lease yourself (not sharing an apartment) keep in mind that BC laws specify a 30 days notice to vacate a property. In most cases you have to give notice on the last day of the month to vacate by the end of the next month. For example, if you want to move out in April, you have to give notice on or before 31st of March. Hence, apartments in Vancouver move on short-notice and quickly. Often it might not make sense to look more than 8 weeks in advance of your planned arrival date. For a September start, many offers will be posted July/August.
For shared housing or sublets the advance planning may be longer.
Many landlords wish to do a background or credit check on new tenants. That may involve a credit check, employee references, landlord references, and so on. Since new arrivals in Canada typically don't have a credit score, you should prepare as best as possible to make a good impression on potential landlords. This could include bringing printouts from bank accounts, references from previous landlords or employers, or other supporting documents.
Consider what amenities you may need, for example, cost of utilities, wifi, if your place is unfurnished, the cost of furniture, etc. You may also want to consider specialized housing options if you have specific needs.
Our Living in Vancouver pre-arrival webinar and handout also have information that can help you prepare for your arrival, including information about what potential landlords can ask you, utilities to consider, and more. You can see the latest recording and slide deck on our Orientation site.
There are various online platforms that one can use to search for available housing, such as Craigslist, Facebook marketplace, and Padmapper.
- Co-operative Housing Federation of BC
- Even Better
- Kijiji Real Estate
For a longer list of housing site and other search tips see this Housing in Vancouver: Tips for first time renters article by a UBC Alumni.
Some of these websites are known to provide platforms for scammers. Be careful with any offers that seem to be too good to be true - typically they are not true. You should never hand over money in advance, send it by mail, or transfer it without inspecting the accommodation beforehand and being sure that the offer of accommodation is legitimate.
Facebook is another great resource with several groups dedicated to UBC student housing, graduate student housing, and families:
- UBC Graduate Student Housing Group
- UBC Roommates and Housing
- UBC students looking for roommates, housing rental/sublet
- For Rent Vancouver
- UBC Families
Check back on the sites daily as new postings are created everyday. The housing market in Vancouver is competitive, so places can be posted and taken down within the same day. Howevever the turnaround for new places can come up at any moment as well. If you are interested in a place, make your interest known and apply as soon as possible in order to have the highest chance of getting it. You can apply to multiple places at a time to give yourself the best chance to securing housing.
If you are in the city it is best to be able to view the apartment yourself before signing a lease. However, if you have not yet arrived in the city, ask a friend to record or call you while attending in your place, or ask the landlord if they would be willing to do a virtual tour.
Other On-campus rentals
In addition to the graduate student housing available on campus, there are other campus housing options provided by third-party agencies.
Places like Westpoint in Chancellor Place, University MarketPlace in University Village, and Greenwood Commons in East Campus, are also places to consider if you’re hoping to live on campus but are not able to get graduate student residence housing.
The MBA House is primarily for graduate students in business programs, but sometimes has rooms available that they offer to non-business school graduate students.
These market rentals are available to rent close by if you search for them on housing sites (some options listed in Search tips above), or on the developer's websites. See the list of rental options not provided by UBC on the Student housing page.
Where to live?
If you prefer to live in the city there are lots of fantastic neighborhoods to choose from. Look at the map of Vancouver to help you decide. Make sure you visit the area during the day and at night before deciding to live in a neighbourhood.
People new to Vancouver are sometimes confused about the boundaries of the city. The metropolitan area includes several neighborhoods such as Kitsilano, Kerrisdale, the West End or Downtown. However, areas like Richmond, Surrey, New Westminster or Burnaby appear like neighborhoods on a map, but are actually separate cities that belong to the Greater Vancouver region. The City of Vancouver is divided into the East and West sides. The area east of Ontario Street is considered the East Side, or East Vancouver. The area west of Ontario Street is considered the West Side.
Average rent prices can vary drastically depending on which neighbourhood you decide to live. Generally, areas to the West (closer to UBC) tend to be more expensive. Student residences are often lower than market price if you are able to secure UBC provided housing.
Keep in mind that UBC has many affiliated facilities, such as hospitals. Some students will spend most of their time at those facilities and not the Point Grey campus. This could be important to consider when deciding which area would be most convenient for your unique commuting situation.
The area west of Ontario Street is considered the West Side, but is not to be confused with the West End, which is a residential section of downtown and also not to be confused with West Vancouver, which is a municipality north-west of Vancouver on the North Shore. Vancouver's West side neighbourhoods are the closest to UBC, which is located on the west of Vancouver on a peninsula. Rents are a bit higher, but the commute is shorter.
West side’s main neighbourhoods:
Kitsilano (Kits) – offers many apartments and is very close to the beach in what is considered a trendy neighbourhood.
Mount Pleasant - easy access downtown, offers apartments and basement suites.
West Point Grey and Dunbar/Southlands – these offer many basement suites.
Arbutus Ridge and Kerrisdale – offer single-family homes and apartment buildings.
The downtown of Vancouver is one of the major shopping districts and a popular tourist spot. Equipped with many types of restaurants from all over the world, shopping centres, and live music, this area would be ideal for those who are interested in living the city lifestyle. However, living in a high-demand area like downtown means a significantly higher average monthly budget than if you were to live ouside of downtown.
The downtown area consists mainly of apartments in apartment buildings or above shops. However, there are some basement suites or houses outside of the main shopping district available.
- Downtown Vancouver
- West End
- Coal Harbour
The area east of Ontario Street is considered the East side, or East Vancouver. There are several uniquely vibrant neighbourhoods in East Van. The East side of Vancouver is farther away from campus, but is also cheaper. The Commercial Drive neighbourhood is popular for its diversity (35 to 40 minutes to campus by bus). Many UBC students choose to live here because of the easy transit to UBC.
According to thedrive.ca, the Commercial Drive area is “a culturally rich and authentic neighbourhood, and one of the best and most colourful shopping, dining and nightlife districts you will find in the city.” Little Italy is also in this neighbourhood, where you can find a bit of Italian heritage on every block filled with Italian coffee shops, pizza places, and fresh cheese markets.
North Vancouver is a municipality on the North Shore.
North Vancouver is home to places like Grouse Mountain and Mt. Seymour (two local ski mountains), The Lonsdale Quay market (a great collection of unique shops on the waterfront), and the Lynn Canyon Park and Suspension Bridge (a 600+ acre park full of trails and a bridge suspended 50 metres above Lynn Creek).
This area is quite far from UBC, but is managable if you have a car. It can be about a 40-60 minute drive depending on where you live.
West Vancouver is home to Horseshoe Bay (where there is a ferry terminal for Bowen Island, Vancouver Island, and the Sunshine Coast), Lighthouse Park (great hiking trails and of course, a lighthouse), and Cypress Mountain (one of our local ski mountains.)
Not many students tend to choose this area as it is quite a distance to get to campus. This could be an option for students planning to work and study mainly remotely.
If you’ve ever flown into the Vancouver Airport then you’ve been to Richmond, but Richmond is much more than an international airport. From seaside trails to Japanese fishing villages, amazing dim sum to Olympic-style sporting venues, Richmond is a great place to live and explore.
Although it contains the Vanouver airport, Richmond is its own city boarding Vancouver.