Find Housing

“Brock Commons Tallwood House” by Michael Elkan, CC BY-NC 2.0

Start now, not later.

One of the best tips I got out of Jumpstart in my first year at UBC was to apply to upper year housing as soon as the first week of classes. I remember thinking: “hey, what’s the rush? I barely just got here”, so I brushed it off. Annoyingly, the reminder came time and time again from my upper year friends to “make sure I got on the waitlist as soon as possible”, and a few months later, I was glad I listened.

Now, as an orientation and transition leader, I have gotten the privilege of speaking to many students, and one topic that came up frequently was the housing application and when, where and how to send an application. “What if I don’t even know if I want to stay on campus?”
 
This guide will contain information on planning ahead for upper year-housing so that you know all of the deadlines, tips and tricks on looking for and securing a spot on campus or off-campus, whichever is your preference!
 
Disclaimer: this resource guide is based on my personal knowledge and experiences, so please contact UBC housing with any questions you might have! – Sara, IKBLC Assistant
 

The UBC housing application is different from the general admission application and should be filled separately. It has two different application types depending on contract length:

  • Year-round housing (May-April) is a great option if you are planning on staying here for the summer.
    • The waitlist for UBC year-round housing can take up to 1.5 years.
    • Year-round housing applications are rolling, so they can be submitted year-long. However, most offers are sent in March and are dependent on your waitlist number. Therefore, earlier applications have higher chances of getting an offer.
    • Some residences have age requirements.
  • Winter session housing (September-April) is for the academic year only.
    • If you are a first-year student, you have a guarantee of getting a housing spot in designated first year residences as long as you apply at the same time as your general admission application. Applications open in September and are accepted until July. Keep in mind that only about 10% of upper-year winter applications receive an offer.

Submitting applications requires you to pay a fee, but you can submit applications for both types of housing above without paying the application fee twice provided you apply for them both within 14 days. When you’re ready to apply, your application can be submitted here.

 
As you complete your application, you will be prompted to rank the residences by order of preference. While doing so, remember to take into account your budget and be mindful that different residences have different fees.

    • For example, don't pick a studio in one of the more expensive residences if you know you might not be able to afford it. The benefit of applying a year early is that you have a chance to budget accordingly and plan out your expenses in advance.
    • If you have questions about budgeting and finances, do not hesitate to contact your enrollment services advisor and they will help you plan accordingly. Don't worry, it's not imperative for you to have a complete idea of your dream residence in order to submit your application because you will have the opportunity to change your residence choices after the application has been submitted.

 

When I was filling my year-round housing application, I remember drooling over the sea views of accommodations in the most expensive residences while making my residence list. After meeting with my enrolment services advisor, I quickly realized that this was not the most-budget friendly approach: it was smarter to only put down residences I knew I would be able to afford without going significantly broke (even as a student). You will only be placed on the waitlist of the residences you choose as your preferences, and these choices will impact the type of offer (and fees) you get. Thankfully, I was able to find a dream residence within my budget and loved it so much, I would not change my current spot in residence for any other one.
 
After all this, you are ready to submit your application. Don’t hesitate to email UBC housing if you have any questions at yearround@housing.ubc.ca.
 
Once you’ve successfully sent in your application:

  • Lay back and relax, most housing offers come in March ☺
  • Check the housing website frequently to monitor your wait-list numbers.
  • Prepare your deposit: if you get an offer you will be required to pay a deposit in order to accept your offer, so make sure to save up the deposit amount and have it ready.

The housing guide for living off campus can be found here and gives you an overview of the different neighborhoods close to UBC and the pros and cons of each one. It also gives you some things to consider and your rights as a tenant.

After you’ve read the guide, here are a few considerations to help you start your search:

Home Styles & Furnishings

Decide on the housing style that suits you.

  • Basement suites are an amazing budget-friendly option.
    • However, they can be noisy, cold, dark and sometimes have low ceilings. If you’re not planning on spending a lot of the day-time inside, they might be perfect for you.
  • Apartments can be affordable and sometimes have amazing views.
    • However, they can also be noisy, as noise can come from both above and below.
    • If choosing an older apartment, remember to check for mould or insect conditions.
  • Houses
    • Ideal if you want to live with a group of friends. However, you might want to think about how you will establish boundaries.
    • If choosing an older house, remember to check for water damage, mould or insect conditions.
    • Double check your responsibilities with the landlord. For example, if there’s a yard, who’s responsible for its upkeep?

    Photo by Andrew Mead on Unsplash, Unsplash License

  • Is it Furnished? Double check whether the place is fully furnished, partially furnished, or unfurnished.
    • If unfurnished, devise a plan for getting important furniture such as a bed and a study desk.
    • Make sure that safety equipment is available, such as fire alarms and carbon monoxide detectors. If they're not provided, you may wish to have a conversation with the landlord about setting them up.
    • You want to make sure you have a heater, a stove, a washing and a drying machine.
    • If furnished, evaluate and test the appliances and furniture provided.
      • Should you need appliances that are not provided, will you be able to afford them in addition to rent?
      • When doing your walkthrough of the rental with the landlord, make sure any damage to the landlord's furniture or equipment is recorded.
  • Utilities: Take into account utilities (electricity, internet, heat, gas, etc.) while drafting your budget.
    • Are they covered by your rent?
    • Heat: If you’re like me, and like your room to be at 20℃ at all times, you might want to make sure you have control of your own thermostat. Check where the thermostat is located, and whether you as the renter will be allowed to change the temperature as you like.
    • Internet: Is there wifi? If yes, how well does it work? If you need an ethernet connection, where are the ports?
    • Electricity/Gas: In BC, this utility is called "BC Hydro." These bills come every 2 months.
    • Do you use cable? See if that is an available utlity.
  • Renovations: Take account of the renovations that need to be made prior to move-in.
    • For example, if the paint has cracked, make sure the landlord repaints the place.
    • If not, make sure your contract includes a statement attesting the damage is not your responsibility.

Environment & Access

Assess the safety, affordability, and accessibility of your neighborhood.

  • Emergency Preparedness: In case of danger, what will getting help look like?
  • Consider transit time and the frequency/routes of buses.
    • UBC students pay for a Translink (public transport) pass with their tuition fees. This makes transit relatively affordable.
    • Find the right balance between convenience, distance and budget. For example, are you okay with long bus rides after long rainy days?
  • Consider the noise level in your neighborhood.
    • Is the place next to a busy road or a construction site that might make studying impossible?
  • Think about what getting food will look like.
    • If you’ll be cooking a lot, are there enough grocery stores next to the place?
    • Check the affordability of the grocery stores available. You want to make sure that your grocery shopping expenses will fit into your normal shopping budget.
    • If you will be eating out a lot, are there enough healthy options in the neighborhood?
    • Restaurants and food delivery services can be relatively expensive in some places, so you also want to check their affordability.

Photo by Scott Graham on Unsplash, Unsplash License

Budgeting

Decide on your final budget.

  • Establish a budget including all possible costs, from furniture and utility fees to your online shopping needs. As always, if you have questions about budgeting, don’t hesitate to contact your enrollment services advisor.
  • Check out our IKBLC Assistant Keli's blog posts for more information about budgeting!

Finding Rental Listings

As of April 2021, these are popular sites that I have seen where you can look for a place to live. I do not particularly recommend any of them but they are a good starting place providing you take precautions to stay safe (see below for tips on avoiding scams!):

You can also ask your friends if they know anyone who is looking to sublet, or if anyone they know is leaving their current rental space. Even when you're renting from a friend, it can be beneficial to fill out a tenancy agreement, just in case something goes wrong down the road.

Beware of Scams!

As you browse through these websites, remember to stay safe from scammers because not everyone posting there will be doing so with the right intentions. Therefore make sure to use these guidelines designed to help keep your wallet safe:

  • Do not pay a deposit before visiting the premises. Many scammers put a place up for rent and require people who are interested to pay a deposit to secure the rental.
  • Search for owner information and ask for the identification of anyone you consider sending money.
  • If it seems too good to be true, it’s too good to be true. Housing in Vancouver can be expensive, so if you see a posting of an entire apartment for $300 a month, you’re dealing with a scammer.
  • If your landlord asks for cash only payments or wire transfers, it’s very likely that you are dealing with a scammer. Take extra precautions to ensure you are protecting yourself.
  • Know your rights. Make sure your landlord is preparing a tenancy agreement that follows all of the provincial guidelines.

 
After you have chosen a few options that match your preferences, make sure to visit the place before signing a contract. This is not an optional step because you want to make sure that all of your criteria are actually being met. This is also a great way to test the heat yourself, assess for damage, check for insect problems and try out the appliances.

Ask Questions: If you're visiting the rental space before signing the contract (as you should be doing), it helps to ask some questions about the space. Here are some examples:

  • Why is the previous tenant leaving?
  • How can you contact the landlord, if you need their help? What is their availability?
  • Are there things the landlord prefers? (e.g. Avoid laundry after 10PM, no loud music, no smoking, etc.)

Another option you might want to consider is subletting from a student who already has a housing contract using the UBC housing forum (or UBC Facebook groups). Last summer, I was able to secure a sublet for the whole summer in one of the nicest residences for a fraction of the cost I would have paid as a contract holder. In the summer, many students with year-round housing contracts don't stay in Vancouver, leading to many available sublet options!
 
Sublets need to be at least 30 days long and need to happen during an eligible session (usually summer terms). The sublet contract is drafted by both the UBC contract holder and the sublessee and usually includes the general terms of the sublet agreement and a security deposit.
 
You can find available sublets on the UBC Housing Forum and on UBC Housing Facebook groups. As with every transaction happening online, take all the necessary precautions to stay safe from scammers. You should take a look at the above section on looking for off-campus housing to know what questions to ask the person subletting, and for things to look out for in a rental space.

  • Room switch requests
    • If you would like to change your UBC housing assignment after you receive your offer, there is a possibility for you to switch with another student’s assignment. You will have to find another student who’s willing to switch with you and email UBC housing to complete the switch.
  • Save up and purchase kitchen utensils (pots, pans and the like)
    • Tip: If you are a first-year student (or a future contract holder), start saving for pots, pans and other basic cooking utensils as soon as possible. They can be quite expensive if not accounted for while budgeting. I had to find approximately $125 dollars out of budget to buy the essentials at the beginning of second year. Had I taken kitchen utensils into account since first-year, I would not have had to cut other things from my budget to account for that.
  • Check the housing website for preparation measures and a list of items to bring in preparation for move-in day.
  • Optional: Contact roommates to figure out move-in day and decorations.
    • Tip: If you prefer to live with your friends in a unit, there's also a section under "Roommate requests" on the housing application where you can indicate so. You will need to do this while applying.