Moving Day in Montreal
One of the first things you need to learn about Quebec as in immigrant, is that Quebec likes to do things its own way. Ask why something is done the way it is, and often you won’t find an answer better than ‘because… Quebec’. Quebec is quite literally a law unto itself. No matter if the rest of the world has a standard way of doing things. Who cares if being different leads to a mountain of unnecessary red tape? Quebec is proud of doing things differently. If you don’t like the inconvenience well, you know where the airport is.
This is part of what has created a vibrant and unique culture that is far removed from the rest of North America. There are amazing locations to visit and many opportunities to be had. Montreal is a city that is versatile and always ready to change with the harsh and unforgiving seasons. It’s a great place to live… it can also be a massive pain in the ass.
There are double the taxation forms to submit – for both Canada and Quebec. It takes an extra year minimum in the naturalisation process as Quebec insists on doing its own immigration checks before allowing you to even start an application for residency in Canada. The strong sense of national pride can mean dealing with people who are exceptionally rude should they detect that your French isn’t both fluent and native to the region. There are a whole lot of other things that can be incredibly painful and frustrating at times.
One of the strangest notions (at least for anyone not from the region), is the concept of ‘Moving Day’. As the name suggests, this is the day of the year when ‘everyone’ in Quebec moves house or apartment. Yes, THE DAY. July 1st. Quebec actually has a single day where the vast majority of residents who move that year will move. All together. I kid you not – almost all leases in the province start on July 1st every year for historical reasons, and landlords align with this date.If you sign a new lease at a different time of the year, it will generally end, and a new yearly one will begin, on July 1st. This doesn’t mean that absolutely no one moves at other times of the year. But there is a massive difference in the availability of accommodation and number of renters that are searching compared to the moving period.
For landlords it’s a great tradition. Their tenants vacate at a convenient time of the year. To make life even easier – Quebec laws and regulations state that tenants who do not wish to renew a lease must communicate this to their landlord a full three months before the end of their lease. THREE MONTHS! Not the paltry month’s notice that we give elsewhere. Otherwise the lease is automatically renewed whether they like it or not. This means that by April 1st landlords know if they need new tenants for the upcoming year.
For those that wish to move however, it’s not quite so convenient. At the start of April tenants have notified their landlord of their intent to depart. Now they have exactly three months to find somewhere else to move. Along with everyone else that is looking. Within the first couple of weeks in April the market begins to be flooded with available properties and the apartment-hunting frenzy begins in earnest. It’s a race to find the best places. Many are barely advertised. Instead of easily eliminating accommodation options based on accurate photos and rental details, you waste precious time viewing buildings that are a no at first glance.
It’s manic. A frenzy of searchers crossing the city in search of the right home. Until suddenly all that’s left on the market are grossly overpriced money pits, or dilapidated wrecks of buildings that are bound to be hazardous to your health. Hopefully you snapped something good up before it was too late. Didn’t you?
Now you move on to the next phase of moving in Montreal. Relocating all your belongings at the same time as everyone else. Moving companies are booked up many months in advance of moving day. They charge astronomical amounts for their service due to the artificially inflated demand for that one day. All forms of rental trucks and vans are unavailable for at least a month before and after the big day. You may have to beg, borrow or steal transport in order to complete a move on the designated day. Instead of celebrating the national Canadian holiday on July 1st, you will spend your long weekend packing and cleaning and hauling heavy boxes up and down long flights of stairs.
Even for Quebec, Moving Day is an insane concept. We’ve moved house countless times before and are not unfamiliar with the upheaval involved. Still, the rental market in Montreal is without a doubt the most stressful experience we’ve encountered to date. Oh how I missed the relative ease of packing up and moving country with professional movers as I filled boxes and the children decorated them. The only positive note is that residents of Quebec know what moving day is like. There are many kind souls who will volunteer their time, transport and energy to help their friends and even strangers out. Moving day will show you some of the worst things about living in Montreal, but it will also introduce you to some of the best people who live there.