- Are we forcing landlords to rent to tenants with pets?
- What about allergies? Some people are allergic to pet dander.
- Do pets invariably cause damage? Why do so many landlords cite damage as a primary concern?
- Will Vacancy Rates Become Worse if the ‘No Pets’ clause is removed?
- How does a pet-friendly policy affect my property value?
- How do “No Pets” policies affect Women’s Safety?
- MY HOUSE, MY RULES… right?
- Are tenants with pets less responsible or reliable than tenants without pets?
- Do pets routinely cost a landlord “thousands and thousands” of dollars?
- Do “No Pets” policies harm people?
- Do kids cause as much damage as pets?
- Is a companion animal a privilege or a right?
No, we are not taking away any landlord’s right to choose their tenant. We are advocating for a balanced, individualized approach that will reward responsible pet guardians and penalize irresponsible tenants who cause legitimate problems, including but not limited to allergic reactions, excessive noise or aggression. The current widespread ‘no pets’ policies treat everyone the same, regardless of rental history, penalizing the many for the mistakes of the few.
Removing the ‘no pets’ provision from the Residential Tenancy Act (RTA) would mean that landlords still have the right to choose tenants without pets, but we want to point out that this is a misguided approach to screening tenants. Despite the widespread stigma, tenants with and without pets cause nearly identical amounts of damage on average (‘Companion Animal Renters Study’, 2004). That is not our opinion, that is a fact based on peer-reviewed research on the subject (Carlilse-Frank et al, 2005). Extreme cases of damage can been found amongst all tenants, whether they have pets or not. Humans are the problem, not the pets. More is said on this matter in other answers below.
The main effect that removing the ‘no pets’ policy will have is that tenants, including homeowners in Strata buildings and mobile home parks, will have the right to a companion animal in their home, as long as they don’t negatively impact Quiet Enjoyment of others, which protects against allergies, excessive noise, and aggressive behaviour. Tenants who violate this provision risk eviction. We consider this a sensible solution, because tenants not causing any problems are protected, while irresponsible tenants are penalized under the law.
It’s true that a very small portion of the population (there are no accurate estimates) have allergies to animal dander. However, there is a fundamental problem with this argument. Landlords don’t care. They say they care, but it is a in fact a red herring. The B.C. Supreme Court upheld long ago that landlords are under no obligation to protect tenants from allergic reactions, which is exactly how landlords want it. Can you imagine all the different allergens landlords would be responsible for protecting tenants from in shared spaces? Peanuts, pineapple, strawberries, mould, perfumes and fragrances, flowers, certain plants, and yes, pets. The fact is in buildings with individual ventilation in each unit, this has proven sufficient to prevent needless suffering by tenants, regardless of the allergen.
But some people claim to be “deathly allergic!” While we certainly don’t want to overlook any potentially life-threatening effects of our policy proposal, we have to be realistic. In 28 years, no one in Ontario, or anywhere else in the world to our knowledge, has died from exposure to animals in housing. You can also rest assured that a mere 1% of all 800,000 complaints received annually by the Ontario tenancy board are pet-related.
All that said, we actually do think landlords should be required to rectify avoidable situations through improved management, and we can look again to Ontario for how it deals with the ‘pet allergy’ issue. The Quiet Enjoyment provision is at the centre of their approach: if a tenant is being adversely affected by an allergy to a (neighbour’s) pet, then that is grounds for a hearing that would determine whether an order to remove the animal or be evicted is necessary. It’s this kind of middle ground that we hope will provide the best possible outcomes for the greatest number of people.
Firstly, all tenants have the potential to cause damage, and according to extensive research on the subject, there is no substantial difference between tenants with pets and those without (Companion Animal Renter Study, 2004). To understand the concern, we have to think a bit about sociology and the politics of fear. Fear causes us to make all sorts of irrational decisions.
When we look at facts, we realize that concerns are often conflated, even when based on personal experience. If pets invariably caused excess damage, then homeowners wouldn’t so commonly have them. Over half of Canadian households have pets – 37.7% cat(s), 29.1% dog(s) (CFHS, 2012) – a majority of Canadians would not put themselves at financial risk if damage was such a concern. A responsible tenant is less likely to cause damage with or without a pet, just like an irresponsible tenant is invariably going to be more likely to cause damage. The actual difference between tenants with and without pets, amounts to an average of $39 US (Companion Animal Renter Study, 2004). Damage can be caused by so many different sources that singling out pets as a cause for concern is alarmist behaviour.
The problem is that for decades we have only heard horror stories. Notice how suddenly so many people are concerned, or even consumed by, the threat of terrorism? It is constantly in the news. The fact is, unless you live in a war zone, you are more likely to die from a car accident than a terrorist attack. Car crashes caused 2,546 deaths in Canada in 2012 (Crash Problem), and 1.25 million deaths worldwide in 2010 (World Health Organization). How many years have you been safely driving a car, despite the risks? While there are examples of some landlords having to replace flooring or other major expenditures, the chances are actually very low. That is why landlords are expected to have insurance, just like when you get behind the wheel as a motorist. Incidents are very rare, and you need insurance to protect your investment.
Absolutely not. This is unsubstantiated fear-mongering propagated by the corporate landlord lobby. Ontario has enjoyed the pet-friendly legislation we seek since 1990, without repercussions to the rental stock. Don’t believe us? Vacancy rates are far higher, nearly across the board, in Ontario, and it is also more affordable than BC. In other words, there is no correlation.
If there was any truth to this vacancy rate argument, then it would actually work in our favour. A sudden influx of properties hitting the market because Landlords preferred to sell rather than rent to tenants with pets, would have a positive impact on supply, and the many renters who are currently locked out by pet restrictions, would have more freedom in where they choose to buy.
We should point out that homeowners renting basement suites or other rooms in the house, have a legally defensible reason to disallow pets, because they are effectively renting shared accommodations. Same applies for roommate situations; nobody is forcing anyone to live with animals without their consent.
Pet-friendly properties are in greater demand, especially ones without size restrictions, and are therefore more desirable and valuable. The absence of “no pets” policies in condominiums is correlated with an 11% higher resale value, according to a study of over 19,000 real estate transactions in Florida over a two year period, the largest study of its kind (Lin, Allen and Carter 2013).
We are glad you asked, because this is not talked about enough. According to the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies, more than 40% of women experiencing domestic violence, with pets at home, significantly delay their escape to safety, if it means leaving a pet behind. This leads to women staying in abusive relationships up to seven times longer, according to the BC SPCA. With the vast majority of housing off limits to people/families with pets, this keeps countless women in danger. Even women’s shelters will rarely allow women to bring their pets when they flee, with only eight of Canada’s 450 shelters allowing pets. Thankfully the BC SPCA has a program that provides for the temporary sheltering of companion animals when women are escaping domestic violence, however it is capped at two weeks, so for women put in that position, knowing how difficult it can be to find an affordable, pet-friendly home, the barrier remains. It is for these reasons we say anti-pets is anti-women, and we see this issue intersectionally. Dogs at home in particular also increase safety for women and children, seniors and of course men too, and deter if not prevent property crime.
Unfortunately for property owners, they do not get to call all the shots. Tenancy law is handled differently in every jurisdiction. In BC, the province regulates the relationship between landlords and tenants, using the Residential Tenancy Branch to ensure compliance by both parties. At present, the Residential Tenancy Act gives property owners in BC complete authority over whether their tenants are allowed to have companion animals of any kind, but this is not the case everywhere. Ontario gives renters the right to have pets, as long as certain conditions are met, and has done so successfully for the last 27 years. This individualized approach rewards good behaviour and penalizes irresponsible renters instead of everyone. More recently, on October 8, 2017, Australia changed their laws, for the first time giving renters the right to have pets. Tenants who are denied this right by a landlord may choose to appeal the decision.
It is not that we are saying landlords should have no say. Property owners have every right to protect their investment. Our position is that due to the nearly impossible situation pet owners are faced with– disappearance of affordable options, near zero vacancy rates, frequent changeover in ownership of buildings that enact new no pets policies– the time has come for the government to intervene in the market, and remove the ‘unreasonable’ pet restrictions in rentals and stratas. Unreasonable means that there must be a legitimate justification, such as allergies, or proof that the animal is causing a disturbance, damage or being aggressive. All these conditions respect the Quiet Enjoyment provision, which is the responsibility of every landlord to uphold.
If you are a landlord with a no-pets policy, chances are you have never allowed pets. We highly suggest talking to other pet-friendly landlords about why they choose to allow their tenants to have pets. From what they tell us, incidents of damage are very rare, and at least just as likely with tenants without pets. In any case, the many benefits outweigh the relatively low risk involved.
The landlords who have burned by irresponsible tenants who neglected their animals certainly have reason to be upset, however having strict ‘no pets’ policies isn’t doing anyone favours, including themselves. Pet-friendly housing actually has higher resale value (Lin, Allen and Carter, 2013). For rentals, the most notable difference between tenants with pets and those without, is that tenants with pets stay in their rentals 250% longer (Firepaw, 2004), which drastically reduces turnover and related costs.
We hold the position that blanket ‘no pets’ policies are not only unjust, causing undue hardship to thousands of families every year in BC, but causes landlords to overlook some of the best, most responsible tenants out there.
No. Tenants with pets stay an average of 2.5 times longer in their tenancy agreements, reducing the burden of high turnover for landlords (‘Companion Animal Renters Study’, 2004). Renting to pet guardians is in fact more profitable, according to professional property managers. Certified Property Manager Natalie Brecher, writing in the Journal of Property Management, argues that “loyalty to pets can translate into loyalty to your property. Because they know that petfriendly housing is scarce, and because they tend to be dependable in other aspects of their lives, responsible pet owners generally rent for a longer period of time than residents who do not own pets” (2001, p. 109). The Canadian Landlord Association champions tenants with pets, arguing on behalf of landlords across the country that “there are a lot of tenants out there who have pets and it’s a terrific market for small residential landlords.” (“BC Landlords”).
We are not saying it never happens. Of course there are examples of excessive damage due to irresponsible tenants. The fact is damage in excess of security deposits is not only rare, but they occur for all kinds of reasons, and the rate of this happening for tenants with pets is no greater than tenants without pets (Firepaw, 2004). Studies prove that most damage attributed to pets is minor, and easily covered by a tenant’s security deposit. In the rare cases where a pet causes significant damage to a rental unit, insurance should cover amounts exceeding the deposit, after paying the deductible (in BC, deductible amounts are often far lower than tenancy deposit amounts).
Lease agreements may require tenants to purchase and maintain tenants insurance, which can cover the expense of damages (accidental or negligent) incurred by tenants (or the pets for whom they are responsible). Responsible tenants should recognize how this can protect them against the costs of accidents or negligence. In the absence of tenants insurance, landlords are able to make a claim on their business or homeowner insurance policies. Talk to your insurer to find out if your policy covers damage caused by pets.
From our research, most insurance companies do not differentiate between damage caused by a pet or human. If you are sincerely worried about potential high costs due to tenants keeping animals in a home that you own, it’s a no-brainer to seek out ways of managing that risk ahead of time, other than just saying “no” because literally any tenant can cause extreme damages. That would be the course of action of a responsible landlord – one who values their property enough to proactively take steps to protect it, rather than relying on discriminatory legislation.
Failing all of the above, losses due to damage may be claimed against reported rental income on a landlord’s tax return, and further remedies can be sought via a RTB resolution or court action. So in reality, very few conscientious landlords end up “out of pocket” for thousands of dollars caused by tenants’ pets. There’s simply no reason, from a risk management standpoint, to prohibit pets, considering how little damage they cause in most cases.
The reality is people are often faced with the choice between being homeless and keeping their family pet, or finding housing and surrendering to a shelter. In 2016, 1774 companion animals were surrendered to the BC SPCA alone, because of the lack of pet-friendly housing (BC SPCA). This number rose from 1500 in 2015, and 1300 in 2014. Evidently there is a rising problem, and families are suffering because of it. This does not even account for the countless number of families who had to give their companion animals to a friend, relative or stranger from Craigslist. Additionally, lack of pet-friendly housing is the most common reason for animal surrenders in BC, which is putting a strain on shelters province-wide.
Tenants with children actually cause 3.75 times more damage on average than tenants with pets (Firepaw, 2004). We absolutely support BC’s human rights code which protects children from being discriminated against in housing, so please don’t take this as us intending to paint children in a bad light. It’s important to expose double standards using a fact-based approach. It is our position that ‘no pets’ policies are inherently discriminatory and based on personal bias. The truth is damage can be caused by any number of sources, and property owners need to understand the risks involved with running a business of rental housing.
Under Canadian law, animals carry property status, however in the U.S. and France, the law recognizes that companion animals are a civil right. We need to respect that rights and laws vary from place to place and evolve over time, in accordance to what is culturally acceptable and relevant in any given society. Of course, given how difficult it is to change the status quo, the law in many cases has a long way to go to keep step with the times. “Owning” an animal is definitely not a fundamental human right, like food, clothing and shelter, but for most people, especially seniors, pets are family members, who have been shown to improve health and even extend life expectancy. Family pets are very commonplace in Canada – more than half of all households have a cat or dog (CFHS, 2012).
Many people are dependent for their mental and emotional well-being on non-human animal companionship. It has been established that pet companionship brings great health and economic benefits to our society (Klassen 2016; Clower & Neaves 2015). Many people who are forced to seek new housing due to renoviction or sale of a rental property face a staggeringly low vacancy rate in B.C., compounded by the “extreme discrimination” as the City of Vancouver puts it, pet guardians face in the housing market.
In addition, people living with disabilities who must have assistance animals living with them are discriminated against under the current laws in BC (Lovgreen 2016). We also have a collective obligation to the domestic animals we have, as a society, brought into existence as a result of the pet industry. Clearly, this is not about selfishness, or the choice to give a home to a nonhuman animal. This is about human rights, and about the rights of our dependent animals to live with dignity in the world we provide for them.
‘BC Landlords Pet-Friendly Rental Housing Campaign‘. Canada Landlords Association website. Retrieved 26 April 2017.
Brecher, Natalie (2001) Profitable pets: Making friends with fido and fluffy. Journal of Property Management 66(2), pp.108-110. ISSN: 0022-3905
Carlisle-Frank, P., Frank, J.M., & Nielsen, L. (2005) Companion animal renters and pet-friendly housing in the US. Anthrozoös 18(1), pp. 59-77. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.2752/089279305785594270
Clower, T.L., & Neaves, T.T. (2015) ‘The Health Care Cost Savings of Pet Ownership’. Human Animal Bond Research Initiative (HABRI) Foundation.
‘Companion Animal Renters Study: The Market for Rental Housing for People with Pets‘.Firepaw, Inc (2004).
‘Consumer Corner: Canadian Pet Market Outlook, 2014‘. Alberta Ministry of Agriculture & Forestry.
‘Grounds of Protection in B.C.‘ BC Human Rights Clinic.
Klassen, M. (2016) ‘Animals make Vancouver a friendlier, happier city‘. Vancouver Observer (January 21, 2016).
Lin, Z., Allen, M.T., and Carter, C.C. (2013) Pet Policy and Housing Prices: Evidence from the Condominium Market. Journal of Real Estate Finance and Economics 47, pp. 109–122. DOI 10.1007/s11146-011-9351-y
Lovgreen, T. (2016) ‘Pet-friendly rental laws help people with disabilities, says advocate’. CBC News (April 22, 2016).
‘Pet-friendly Housing‘. BC SPCA.
‘Living in fear: The violence link. BC SPCA.
‘Renting With Pets: A Guide to Ontario Rental Law’ Animal Justice, February 23, 2017.
‘Quiet Enjoyment‘ (2016) Residential Tenancies website, Province of British Columbia.