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The complete guide to temporary housing

By Isabelle Ladouceur-Séguin|10 min|September 2021

The complete guide to temporary housing

There are many situations that can result in a temporary rental: a move, a trip or a disaster to name a few. It's important to know what options exist for housing while you look for a more permanent solution.

This guide provides answers to all your questions about temporary housing. It explains what it is, how to choose the right temporary housing option and where to find it.

What is temporary housing?

It is a place to stay while travelling or during a transition, usually for a few days to a few months, or up to 2 years. There are 2 types of temporary rentals:

  • Short-term, for a few days to a few weeks.

  • Medium-term, from 1 month and up to 2 years.

Not sure how long your stay will be? No problem! It is not always necessary to give a departure date.

You can also rent a temporary accommodation without signing a lease. All you have to do is provide your payment information (e.g., credit card number), contact details and, in some cases, a deposit. There's no need to bring your own furniture as temporary dwellings are furnished. Many are also equipped for cooking, laundry and cleaning.

All you have to do is move in!

Who is temporary housing for?

Temporary accommodation is for people who need to find a place quickly for a short or unknown period of time.

Here are the groups that most often use it.

1. Tourists

Unsurprisingly, tourists need temporary accommodation when travelling. They have several options to choose from: hotels, motels, bed and breakfasts, cottages, youth hostels, etc.

In general, tourists only stay for a few days or weeks in their temporary accommodation. Many prefer to eat out so they don't need a fully equipped kitchen. It's not uncommon for them to settle for a room with a bathroom.

That said, the supply of fully equipped tourist accommodations is increasing. This is thanks to new online platforms that allow property owners to rent their units to tourists. The latter then benefit from a few perks:

  • possibility of several bedrooms, for large families
  • access to a kitchen to prepare meals
  • access to a laundry room to wash clothes
  • larger living space

However, this type of accommodation isn't without controversy. Constant comings and goings, parties that disturb surrounding neighbours, rising rents prices, housing shortages... Some residents and administrators take a dim view of renting to tourists.

As a result, the Province of Quebec and several cities have taken steps to restrict this type of rental. To avoid problems, it's best to check that the accommodation you have chosen complies with local regulations.

2. Newcomers

This includes both immigrants and people moving to a new city. In either case, newcomers rarely have a permanent home awaiting them when they arrive. During their search, they often resort to temporary housing.

This gives them time to choose the best place to settle. They can then slowly explore the city's neighbourhoods. And look for services such as grocery shops, pharmacies, daycare centres, schools and public transport.

3. International students

In 2018, 15% of international students in Canada were located in Quebec. And there were 3 times as many as in the early 2000s!

Although they may be considered newcomers, international students have specific needs. For example, some of them will never need to find long-term housing. In fact, only 60% plan to apply for permanent residence.

Many international students choose to live near their university for convenience. Often on their own, they may prefer to live in shared apartments or university dorms. This helps save money and offers more opportunities to socialise.

In general, they stay in their temporary accommodation for a few months to a few years. In addition, many return to their home country during the summer semester. To save on rent, some choose to sublet their accommodation. Or they find another one for the fall semester.

4. Disaster victims

Fire, water damage, vandalism, natural disasters, mould, infestation... When a disaster occurs, it can be inconvenient - or even dangerous - to stay home. Victims and their families are often relocated to temporary accommodations, where they stay until their home is ready.

Because of frequent delays in construction or renovation, disaster victims often need to extend their stay. This is why insurance companies often deal with disaster relief companies that specialise in relocation. This gives them the option of prolonging the rental period during the course of the trip.

5. Workers

Whether on business, in training or on a temporary contract, some workers have to travel long distances. And they need temporary accommodation while they are away.

For short periods, a hotel room may do the trick. But for longer stays, fully equipped accommodations are more practical and economical. Workers can cook for themselves and do their own laundry. They also benefit from more storage and leisure space. In some cases, they can even choose to live there with their families.

6. Young adults

Whether students or workers, young adults often need transitional housing. When they leave home, most have a limited budget.

Some young adults want to save money to buy property. Others need a cheap place to live while they study. And many have to live on a shoestring while they find a stable job.

Temporary accommodation is an interesting option for them. There is no need to buy furniture or appliances: the unit is already furnished! You also don't need to sign a formal one-year lease. You may have to give it up or terminate it after a few months anyway.

7. People going through a life transition

After a separation, divorce, or conflict, you may need time to settle down. You can rent a temporary home while looking for a more permanent solution. This option offers flexibility and peace of mind.

You can then do things at your own pace and within your means. There is no need to spend large sums of money at once to furnish your temporary accommodation. It already has all the furniture and appliances you may need. And in some cases, temporary housing even comes fully equipped.

Choosing the right type of temporary housing

There are plenty of short- and medium-term accommodations to choose from. Here is an overview of each type.

1. Hotels

They have been a favourite among tourists and business travellers for ages. But that hasn't stopped tourist apartments from competing for their business. Are hotels still a good option today?

The answer is yes... if you don't stay more than a few days or weeks, and if your budget is flexible.

Pros

Hotels are often located in major cities and near airports. Many offer amenities such as breakfast, room service, swimming pool, gym, etc.

Cons

Hotels rent by the night and are more expensive than other types of accommodation. At best, you can negotiate a weekly rate. You also do not have access to a kitchen to prepare your meals. If you are on a tight budget, skip the hotel.

2. Motel rooms

A typical motel room includes a bathroom and cable TV.

Motels are designed for travellers who are travelling by car. That's why they are often found near highways. You can usually park directly in front of your room.

Pros

Motels are often cheaper than hotels. The atmosphere is informal and relaxed. They are ideal for motorists who want to find a cheap place to stay on the road.

Cons

In general, motels offer fewer services and amenities than hotels. Often located on the outskirts of cities, they are also harder to get to from larger urban centres. And like hotels, they rent by the night and sometimes by the week. For the medium term, this option can be expensive.

3. Bed and Breakfasts (B&Bs)

Smaller than hotels and motels, B&Bs offer only a few rooms. The rooms are located in the owners' main residence.

B&Bs are generally found in rural areas or on the outskirts of cities. The atmosphere is informal and friendly.

Pros

The hosts often know the area well and can make useful recommendations. Breakfast is usually included.

Cons

It can be difficult to find a room in a B&B in summer - the peak tourist season. And since you're staying in your host's home, there can be more restrictions. For example, in terms of noise, arrival and departure times or use of common areas. Finally, shared bathrooms are common. And you rarely have access to the kitchen.

4. Furnished cottages

Furnished cottages are often located in the countryside, well away from major cities. Some border a lake and allow for swimming or water activities. Others are close to ski resorts.

Pros

You usually rent the entire cottage. This means you have access to a fully equipped kitchen. Many cottages are large enough to accommodate families or groups.

Cons

Cottages are often rented well in advance, so it can be hard to find one with a few days or weeks notice. They are also more expensive in the summer.

5. Tourist rentals

Thanks to new online platforms, anyone can rent their home to tourists nowadays. With thousands of rentals available, it's easy to find a one that suits your needs and budget.

In this case, you rent the entire unit. In addition to a bedroom, you have access to a kitchen, a bathroom and a living area. Amenities vary from one unit to another.

Pros

Because of the large number of units available, you have plenty of choice. All you have to do is find one that meets your criteria (area, number of bedrooms, cost, etc.).

Cons

Although the tourist accommodation industry is highly regulated, there are too many tourist rentals for authorities to monitor. In addition, they are often rented well in advance and for short periods. Few are available for long, continuous periods.

6. Specialised services

Some companies offer temporary accommodation to specific groups of people:

  • disaster victims
  • elderly people who are losing their autonomy
  • caregivers looking for respite
  • women in need of assistance
  • etc.

For instance, the Sinistar platform connects disaster victims, their insurance companies and property owners. It's designed for the specific needs of the post-disaster industry: short- and medium-term stays, extensions, legal documentation, etc.

Pros

Specialised companies know their clientele well. This means they can offer temporary housing that is tailored to their clients' needs. Some services are even free. For example, if an insurance company or the government covers the bill.

Cons

Each specialist service is different. There is no one disadvantage that applies to all of them.

7. University (or student) housing facilities

University dorms are designed to provide low-cost accommodation for students. But did you know that many rent out their accommodations to the public in the summer months?

Pros

In general, student accommodations are suitable for low budgets. Located within walking distance of the university, they are often close to the city centre, making them easily accessible by public transportation. And in some cases, you can rent an entire unit with several rooms for your family.

Cons

If you're not a student, you can only stay there in the summer. Also, there isn't always a fully equipped kitchen or bathroom in the units. They may be shared between units on the same floor.

8. Shared apartments

More and more people are choosing to live in shared apartments. And that's not just young people! This can be a good option if you're looking for temporary housing for the medium term, especially if you're on a tight budget.

Pros

You share the costs (rent, electricity, furniture, etc.) and the upkeep with others. You are also less likely to feel lonely.

Cons

Renting a room in a shared apartment often involves signing a formal lease. This makes it unsuitable for short-term stays. Also, you have to share the kitchen, bathroom and common areas with housemates. Not to mention the chores and expenses! Sometimes this can cause problems and even conflict between housemates.

9. Youth hostels

Popular with backpackers, youth hostels usually have dormitories or semi-private rooms. Many have lockers available for travellers.

Pros

The hostel is an economical option. In general, it's easy to reach on foot or by public transport. In addition, you can often rent a bed at the last minute. The proximity to other travellers makes it easy to meet new people.

Cons

Proximity also means a lack of privacy. In youth hostels, not only are the bathrooms shared, but so are the rooms. And there isn't much secure storage for your belongings. For the medium term, this option can be impractical.

10. Campgrounds

Who doesn't have fond memories of camping with family? Whether it's to enjoy nature or to save money on accommodation, camping is an interesting option during the warmer months (May to September).

Pros

Campgrounds are often very affordable. They also offer basic amenities such as drinking water, toilets, showers and electrical outlets. For an additional fee, you can sometimes rent a tent that is furnished and equipped (stove, kitchenware, utensils, etc.).

Cons

In general, you need to be well equipped: car, tent, cooler, dishes, etc. Amenities are basic, shared and less accessible. So this solution is not suitable for the medium term. Plus, you often have to book in advance.

Where to find temporary housing

So you know what kind of temporary accommodation you are looking for. Now you need to find the right one for your needs. Here are some websites to check out.

Specialised services

Tourist accommodations

Rentals with lease

When to start looking

You never know when you'll need temporary housing. Sometimes you have no choice but to improvise. But if you have the luxury of starting your search in advance, you should do so. You'll have more options and will feel less stressed.

1. Newcomers

If you are moving abroad or to another city, book your temporary accommodation before you leave. This will save you many headaches! Especially if you arrive at your destination during the peak tourist season.

2. Students

If you need to find accommodation for the fall semester, start your search in late spring.

Are you on a time crunch? Don't panic! Many accommodations near university campuses are posted at the beginning of the school year. And many rooms become available in shared apartments during the summer.

What to look out for when seeking temporary housing

Unfortunately, not all landlords are responsible or well-intentioned. So renting accommodation - whether temporary or permanent - can be risky. To avoid trouble, listen to your gut and watch out for red flags. Here are a few to look out for.

1. Fraud

Scams are common in the world of temporary rentals. Here's how to protect yourself:

  • Wait until you're there before paying or signing a rental agreement. Sometimes photos are misleading or the unit does not exist.
  • Never make a deposit on the first visit. You may never see your money again.
  • Beware of photos that look too professional. They could have been taken from real estate websites to create a false ad.
  • Don't rent to a landlord who says he or she is abroad. Always meet them in person to close the deal.
  • Beware of offers that sound too good to be true. They usually are!

2. Unsanitary conditions

When you visit a temporary rental unit, be on the lookout for signs of unsanitary conditions. In addition to the lack of comfort, substandard housing can cause health problems. For example, asthma, infections or skin diseases.

Signs of mould

  • The paint on the walls is crinkled
  • The floor is warped or distorted
  • There are cracks in the walls or ceiling
  • There are stains on the ceiling or near the windows
  • There's a musty smell of dampness
  • On the outside of the building, there are cracks, missing bricks or joints, or whitish stains under the windows

Signs of infestation

  • You see insects (e.g. cockroaches, bedbugs)
  • There are rodent feces on the floor
  • There are objects that look gnawed (e.g. electrical wires)

Find the right temporary accommodation for your family

To do so, you need to know your specific needs. The perfect temporary accommodation is out there, you can rest assured. You just need to do some research.

For short stays, there are thousands of tourist rentals to choose from. They include hotel rooms, youth hostels and cottages. All you have to do is search on short-term rental platforms.

For longer stays or specific needs, consider checking out specialised services. Many are also free.

In any case, be careful and keep an eye out. You'll save yourself a lot of trouble!

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