An important first decision when starting out is where to live in town, and it can make a big difference. You want to make sure that you’re in the best place for your family and for your needs. Make sure to check out the different neighbourhoods, the different types of housing available, as well as access to transportation, grocery stores and other services.

Common types of housing in Canada

  • An apartment or suite usually has one or more bedrooms. All apartments and suites have a kitchen, a bathroom, and a living room. Suites for rent may be in an apartment building or in a house.
  • Studios or bachelor suites have one room with a kitchen area and a bathroom.
  • A duplex is a house divided into two separate apartments. It may be bought or rented.
  • A condominium (condo) is a type of real estate divided into several units that are each separately owned. This could be in one building or several buildings.
  • A townhouse is a small house joined to other small houses. It may be bought or rented.
  • A room for rent is usually in a shared house or apartment. Everyone shares the kitchen and bathroom.

Understanding Rental Ads in Canada

It’s easy to get confused when you’re trying to understand rental ads, so here are some explanations of common terms and abbreviations that you might find.

  • Avail = available.  Usually refers to when the unit can be occupied: example: avail mar.1st
  • Bdrm or BR = bedroom.
  • BSMT = basement.  Basement suites can be below ground level, which can be dark, or have low ceilings. Sometimes they are at ground level, or above ground, with a small patio or garden.
  • Bthrm or Bath or BTH = bathroom, normally a full bathroom including a toilet and either a shower or bathtub.  A half-bath refers to just a toilet and sink.
  • Cbl = cable, for TV and sometimes internet
  • Cpl = couple.  Usually implies two people sharing a single bed or bedroom.
  • D/W = dishwasher
  • F/P = fireplace, which could be wood burning (you will need to buy wood), electric or gas. This could be the main way of heating the home or not, so be sure to ask.
  • Elec = electricity.  This could refer to heat, stove or just to wall outlets for appliances etc.
  • Furn = furnished. The furniture is included. Dishes may be included but you need to confirm.
  • Gas = Gas can mean natural gas or propane, for cooking and/or heating.
  • Landlord = this is the person you are renting from, usually the owner of the house.
  • Mo or mth = month.  You will normally see a price per month: example: $1200/mo.
  • N/P = no pets.  Many owners do not allow pets.  Some ads may state “small pet okay”.
  • N/S = no smoking.  Many owners do not allow smoking indoors or at all.
  • Partially Furnished = there are a few pieces of furniture but not everything.  May just be a bed.
  • Pkg or prkg = Parking.  U/G Pkg means underground parking.
  • Pref’d = preferred.  For example, male pref’d means a male renter is preferred.
  • Roommate = someone is looking for a person to share the house or apartment.
  • Shared House = you have your own bedroom, but share the kitchen, bathroom and other areas.
  • Sgl = single.  One person only, no couples or families.
  • Stg = storage.  Apartments often come with a separate storage area.
  • Tenant = this is the person who is renting the house, not the owner.
  • Utils = utilities.  This can mean water, electricity, heat (sometimes called hydro), cable (for TV), phone and internet, or a combination of these.  Often you pay extra for utilities (+ utils.)
  • W/D = washer/dryer.  You can do your own laundry at home. In a house or suite, this may be shared with other tenants.   Coin W/D means you need to pay for laundry with coins..
  • Wk = week.  Some places rent by the week.  These are usually vacation rentals.

For detailed general information about housing in BC see chapter 2 of the BC Newcomers’ Guide.  You can view this online or download a PDF to your own computer.

Also see Chapter 10: Housing in the Welcome to Canada – What You Should Know guidebook. You can download a PDF or eBook or order your own copy.