Are you, or your friends or family thinking of moving to Greater Victoria with plans to rent? The current low vacancy environment has made it more difficult to secure a home, however, with a little strategic planning, you will find your next amazing place to live.

Plenty of articles describe the challenge for renters, but few provide good solutions and strategies. We decided to write an article with some ideas and resources to help you with your move. Let’s start by defining terms and taking a snapshot of where we’ve come from and where we are now:

Vacancy Rate in Victoria

The “Vacancy Rate” compares the amount of time a property could be rented to the amount of time a property was rented. It is measured over a one-year period and expressed as a percentage. Simply put, if 99 out of 100 homes are fully rented for a year, vacancy rate is 1 per cent.

In South Vancouver Island, the City of Victoria actually has the highest vacancy rate of 1.5% compared with every other municipality which are well under half a percent.

Rent in Victoria

The latest report from the Canada Mortgage Housing Association listed the average price for a one-bedroom apartment was $1,756 this August.

No question that rents are high here. In part this is because nearly zero purpose built rental units were being built in Greater Victoria for over a generation. The rental pool was almost exclusively provided by investors buying condos to rent out on the secondary market.

However, that is quickly changing. In Victoria and BC, a great deal of effort and planning is going into making sure renter’s living costs remain reasonable.

In response to the rapid rise in rents, the government of BC instituted a form of rent control by putting limits on how much a landlord could raise rents every year. In 2022, the annual allowable rent increase will be 1.5%. This means landlords cannot raise rent by very much once you’ve established yourself in a new home.

In the past few years, local housing strategies began prioritizing renters. The construction industry was reinvigorated with government funding, incentives, and improved yields.  and the level of rental construction in Victoria has exploded.

Canadians pay among the highest rents in the world, and Victoria comes in as 9th highest in the country. To address this, the federal government started the National Housing Strategy, the largest and most ambitious federal housing program in Canadian history. Over the next decade, it will invest $70+ billion to build stronger communities and help Canadians across the country access a safe, affordable home. Check out details at https://www.placetocallhome.ca

Six Planning Strategies

We recommend these six steps to ensure you find the home you need and want in Victoria BC:

  1. Figure Out How Much You Can Afford

The rule of thumb to determine how much you can afford to spend on housing is that it should be no more than 30% of your gross monthly income. For renters, that 30% includes rent and utility costs like heat, water, and electricity. That means if your family household income is $75,000 a year before taxes, you should spend no more than $1,875 a month on your housing. (The average household income in Victoria is $89,078 in 2021).

That’s a pretty tough percentage for lower income families to meet, but no matter your income, it’s worthwhile figuring out your sustainable price range before you start looking. Don’t forget to add things like content insurance to your budget. Most landlords will want to see a copy.

  1. Run a Credit Check

Potential landlords will run these checks prior to approving you, so it is a good idea to request your own. You are entitled to a free copy of your report from Equifax and TransUnion once a year. This gives you a chance to check for any potential problems and contest any errors.

  1. Start Hunting Earlier

DO NOT wait! If possible, start three months before your “must move” date. In BC, renters are required to provide 30 days’ notice minimum, but plenty give more.

Take time to think through your lifestyle requirements. For instance, Victoria has an excellent public transportation system. If you rent a home close to work, shopping, and amenities, you might be able to dispense with a vehicle and afford a higher priced home.

  1. Make Your Preparations

Damage Deposit

Victoria landlords require the first month rent plus another half month’s rent as a damage deposit. If you have a pet, they can also require a pet deposit to cover potential damage your furry friend might cause. It probably goes without saying that you should save this in advance, so you are not scrambling to pay this along with other moving costs.

Letter of Employment

A landlord will want to know you are employed and able to make monthly payments. Get a letter printed on company letterhead and include confirmation you are gainfully employed, the duration of your employment, and your monthly or yearly salary. It should be signed by a supervisor and include their phone number.

Reference Letters

If you’ve rented before, ask for reference letters from past landlords explaining that you paid your rent on time and cared for the property. Include their phone numbers to make it easy for you next landlord to check your references.

  1. Do a Walk-Through

Don’t skip this step. It’s an opportunity for you to thoroughly check your new premises and record anything that needs attention. Previous tenants may have caused damage and you want to make sure you don’t end up being responsible for them.

  1. Read the Rental Agreement

Make sure your landlord is using the standard form provided by BC Tenancy which is easily accessible on their website. If the landlord has included an addendum, their additional requirements must be fair and reasonable. If in doubt, give BC Tenancy in Victoria a call at (250) 387-1602. They are very knowledgeable and helpful.

With foresight and planning, you will find the perfect home to rent in Greater Victoria. Once you do, give us a call to reserve a truck and moving team so we can ensure your smooth transition.

Rental Listing Resources

Use websites that list rentals such as PadMapper

https://www.padmapper.com/apartments/victoria-bc/luxury

Kijiji is a good resource for recently posted rentals

https://www.kijiji.ca/b-apartments-condos/victoria-bc/c37l1700173

Point2 Homes lists Vancouver Island rentals

https://www.point2homes.com/CA/Apartments-For-Rent/BC/Vancouver-Island.html

Information on BC Rent Increases

https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/housing-tenancy/residential-tenancies/during-a-tenancy/rent-increases

Have you checked to see if you are eligible for the Rental Assistance Program (RAP)? Families qualify if they have a total before-tax household income of $40,000 or less, were working at some point in the last year, and have at least one dependent child.

https://www.bchousing.org/housing-assistance/rental-assistance-programs/RAP

If you are moving to BC, get familiar with your rights and responsibilities under the BC Tenancy law.

https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/housing-tenancy/residential-tenancies/starting-a-tenancy/tenancy-agreements