Commentary, Opinion

Campus Conversation: Apartment hunting trials and tribulations

It’s springtime in Montreal: The days are getting longer, the weather is just slightly getting warmer, and thousands of students are rushing to find a new place to live. Contributors Makena Anderson and Leina Gabra detail the trials and tribulations of apartment hunting as McGill students.

Exploitative landlords and annoying age limits

Makena Anderson, Contributor 

It’s no secret that good landlords are few and far between, but they seem especially scant in the Milton-Parc area. Between broken dishwashers, missing doorknobs, and unreturned phone calls, nearly every student has horror stories about their landlord.

Following a two-year tenancy in the Plateau, I came up against some surprising troubles as I began my search for a new home. While on the hunt for an apartment, I discovered that—at age 20—I was too old for some landlords. By their second and third years, many students are unappealing candidates for potential landlords because they are less likely to renew their leases for the following year. As a result, some landlords will opt for younger prospects, which is illegal.

Even if you belong to the lucky group of students who are invited to sign a lease for their apartment of choice, you may find that your potential landlord has tacked on extra fees like illegal security deposits. Quebec is the only province in which landlords are not allowed to ask for a security deposit; however, they have been known to circumvent this law by exploiting students’ naïveté.

With hundreds of students hunting for housing near campus, landlords are afforded substantial power. As students desperately look for an apartment before the Apr. 30 deadline, landlords have the opportunity to bypass certain regulations and are still likely to find a tenant. By the time students file a complaint, landlords will likely have found a different signatory for the lease. The future of renting may seem unpromising to many students, and, moving forward, the Régie du Logement should take a more active role in advocating for student renters and condemning landlords who partake in illegal renting practices.

The stress of finding and living in a Milton-Parc apartment

Leina Gabra, Contributor 

The Milton-Parc area is home to over 11,000 residents, thousands of whom are McGill students. Many students live in the neighbourhood because they enjoy the convenience of being able to leave home 10 minutes before classes begin. Affordable units in this densely-populated area are snatched up within minutes: I had Craigslist and PadMapper bookmarked for months because apartments were being rented out as soon as they were listed.

McGill Student Housing offers a webpage with some online resources and a handful of workshops and Q&A events to assist its community in finding off-campus housing and understanding the law. However, this still does not fully prepare students for all of the headaches that come with apartment hunting. Unprepared second-year students are thrust into the big, scary world that is apartment hunting with few tools to guide them, especially regarding their rights as tenants. Although McGill does provide some resources, they do not assist in finding apartments in concentrated and highly-popular areas like Milton-Parc.

On top of the difficulty of finding a satisfactory apartment in Milton-Parc, for many students, this is their first time renting. For those who are especially unaware of Quebec’s renting laws, such as international students, this highly-concentrated neighbourhood of students allows landlords to take advantage of oblivious McGill students for their own profit through illegal deposits, hazardous living conditions, and unfair rent prices. Besides exploitation, some students living in Milton-Parc have reported burglaries, trespassing, or peeping—especially female students.

Apartment hunting as a McGill student is no easy feat, especially when students are all looking in the same neighbourhood. Students who are tired of the struggle that is apartment hunting in Milton-Parc and don’t mind a short commute should consider renting in other neighbourhoods outside of the ‘McGill bubble’ such as like Atwater, Saint-Henri, or the Mile End.

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