'Tis the season of "la rentrée" for students of all ages in Quebec. Some schools will reopen their doors as early as August 25th, while others will grace their students with a few extra days of vacation by starting after Labour Day. For newly arrived students from abroad though, la rentrée can be particularly stressful, for obvious reasons. Add to this stress the possibility that , depending on where they are from, they may be entering a grade that is lower, or higher, than the academic level they just completed at home. Or, parents may find that their plans to register their child for kindergarten are thwarted by the fact that their child does not meet the cut-off age as established by the Ministry of Education. In Quebec, a child may enrol in kindergarten if he or she is five years old by September 30th of that year. Therefore, if your child is born on September 29th, your child will be one of the youngest, if not the youngest in the class. Whereas, if he is born October 1st, he will be one of the oldest. Parents of children whose birth dates fall on either side of this cut-off date, and parents who are concerned that their child will not be challenged enough simply by moving up one grade in their new Quebec school, have the option of obtaining a "dérogation" or waiver from their school board. The waiver is essentially a permission granted by the school board for the child to be advanced a year, despite being on the wrong side of the cut-off date, or if the child is found to be particularly gifted (though this is very rare.) This permission is granted based on a psychological assessment of the child's mental and emotional readiness for this leap. For some, this is an attractive option. Others would never consider it. Whatever your position, for an international student, it is an important option to know about because it may help ease the transition to a new curriculum. For more information about obtaining a derogation, or waiver, visit the English Montreal School Board - derogation web page.
One of the many attractive features of living in Montreal is the wealth of quality rental accommodation that is available close to downtown. In fact, Montreal has the highest tenancy rate of any Canadian city. This has lead to the development of a set of strong tenant protection laws. In Quebec, there is a public body, responsible for administering and ajudicating tenant and landlord disputes. It is the Regie du Logement. Their site has lots of information about the rights and obligations of both parties as well as an explanation of the standard lease form.
If you are renting in Montreal, you should know your rights and obligations so that you can negotiate the best deal and not be taken advantage of. This is particularly important to newcomers. For example, did you know it is illegal for a landlord to ask for more than one month's rent in advance? In fact, one month's rent is the only thing a prospective landlord can ask for; no damage deposit, key money etc....
Another feature of renting in Quebec that often surprises newcomers is that there is a legal lease period in Quebec that runs from July 1st until June 30th of the following year. That means that the majority of rentals change hands within a 24 hour period. This frenzy of moving activity can cause a lot of headaches when trying to book an (affordable) mover or sourcing moving supplies.
Most landlords will know if their properties will be available to rent for July 1, around the month of April, or three months before most leases expire, when tenants must usually give notice of non-renewal. In other words, if you have the choice of searching for a home to rent in the spring or fall, spring time will always be the time of year when the most inventory will be on the market for you to choose from.
To learn more about the ins and outs of renting in Quebec click here.
The spring real estate market is in full swing. If you take a quick drive around Westmount, you will see quite a few for sale signs. While the headlines around the globe describe various real estate meltdowns, or slow downs, Canada generally, and Westmount in particular has not suffered the same ill fate. To the contrary, the real estate market is quite hot with decreased inventory pushing prices up. A good source of detailed data on the market is made available by Andy Dodge, a local real estate appraiser. He contributes regularly to the local paper, The Westmount Examiner, and you can also visit his website. Suffice it to say, that owning a home in Westmount is becoming increasingly difficult as prices continue to climb. However, this upward trend is proof that investing in Westmount real estate is a safe bet, if you can afford it.