The Hidden Crisis of Pet-Friendly Rentals in Canada
In Canada, the regulations around whether landlords are allowed to deny rentals to tenants with pets is regulated at a provincial level – meaning each province has it’s own set of rules around this.
However, even in provinces where landlords are not permitted to deny a tenant a rental because they have a pet, many landlords are still hesitant to rent out their properties to pet owners, meaning that anyone looking to own a pet and find a place to live faces an uphill battle.
With pet-friendly rentals often costing a premium, requiring high damage deposits and non-refundable pet fees, as well as restrictions on the height, weight, breed, number and types of pets allowed, Canadian renters are facing a crisis.
Even if they can find a pet-friendly rental, can they afford it? Is the alternative having them give up their beloved pet, or facing homelessness? Many shelters across Canada also don’t allow pets – resulting in pet-owners living in their cars to be able to keep their pets.
According to Nicole Frey, Founder of Canada’s Animal Food Bank, the lack of available and affordable pet-friendly housing creates a hidden crisis.
“We’ve provided pet food, and sometimes temporary fostering, for pet owners who are facing eviction with their pets and who are unable to find affordable pet-friendly housing.
We’ve also provided pet food for pet owners who are spending most of their pay cheque on the rent for their pet-friendly housing.
Someone said to me recently, if you can’t afford a pet, you don’t deserve a pet – and I challenged them to rethink that because if the pet owner chooses to surrender their pet, the cost burden of caring for that animal then falls on already at or over capacity rescue or animal shelter.
Rescues and shelters are heavily reliant on donations from the general public, and so now we’ve just displaced the cost burden but also added the mental and emotional toll on both the human and pet of being separated.”
33% of renters have had to give up a pet because they couldn’t find a pet-friendly rental
In a survey by the ASPCA, 33% of renters have had to give up a pet because they couldn’t find a pet-friendly rental. A staggering 25% of animals surrendered to the BCSPA were surrendered because their owner couldn’t find a pet-friendly rental. The lack of pet-friendly rentals has no boundaries and even rural areas are not immune.
In major cities, like Vancouver, where there is already a rental and housing shortage, there are even fewer rentals that allow animals.
In Montreal, every July 1st there is a mass surrender of pets to rescues and shelters due to the pet-friendly housing shortage. Known as Moving Day, this tradition results in hundreds of pets being abandoned or surrendered every July. Low vacancy rates only add to the problem and make it impossible for pet-owners to find affordable housing, forcing them to make the heart-breaking decision to surrender their pets.
Even pets registered as Emotional Support Animals (ESA’s) don’t have rights under the laws to be permitted to live in rentals that are not pet-friendly. Only registered Service dogs have legal rights to tenancy.
The impact on mental health
All of us who own pets will tell you the benefits they have to improving our emotional well-being and lives in general. Pets have been shown to provide extensive emotional and physical health benefits, as well as a sense of security.
Now imagine having to choose between being homeless to keep your pet with you, or surrender your pet in order to find a place to live. That is the choice that many people are faced with when looking for housing. Pets provide a reason to keep trying, unconditional love, loyalty, and companionship. So with all of this to consider, why are landlords so hesitant to rent to pet-owners?
Why are landlords are hesitant to rent to pet-owners
A lot of landlords are hesitant to rent to pet-owners because of irresponsible pet-owners who give all pet-owners, even those of us who are responsible, a bad name. They don’t want to deal with damage from the stains, smells, and other messes that can come with an unruly pet. Landlords may also be worried about their liability if an animal bites someone on their premises.
There’s always going to be some bad apples out there who spoil it for everyone else. However, what these landlords need to understand is that there are benefits to renting to responsible pet-owners.
According to a FIREPAW study, there is no statistically significant difference in damage between tenants with pets and tenants without pets. They also found that tenants in pet-friendly housing stay on average 46 months versus 18 months for tenants residing in rentals prohibiting pets.
Responsible pet tenants and responsible landlords
Pet-owners can and often do make excellent tenants. Renting to pet-owners opens to pool to more potential renters than you would without allowing pets. You may also find pet-owning tenants are more responsible (because they know the hardship of finding a pet-friendly place), and are interested in longer leases.
Ensuring the landlord and renter agree to a set of written and clear pet policies in their lease agreement can help ensure a good landlord-tenant relationship.
These policies should include an agreement that any damages done by the tenant’s pet(s) will be repaired by the tenant, not the landlord; an understanding that tenants should not leave animal waste on or around common areas, and that the pets should be on leash, and well mannered, in all common areas. Please, Never ever leave your dog to bark and whine while you aren’t home.
What can I do to help ensure no pet-owner has to choose between their pet and a place to live?
We must work collectively to change the views and attitudes that come with pet-owning tenants. There are two sides to the coin – we need to pressure the government to mandate not allowing pets to be a disqualification from renting.
We also need to ensure that pet restrictions in leases don’t cause discrimination about certain breeds, types and sizes of pets that continue to result in surrenders or homelessness. But we also must ensure pet-owners understand what it means to become a responsible pet tenant.
Consider signing the Animal Food Bank’s petition regarding the need for a national pet-friendly certification program for both landlords and tenants that would encourage and qualify pet-friendly landlords and tenants, along with a national pet-tenant registry.
Together, we can make a difference for pets and their guardians.
Updated: Feb 24, 2023
Originally published: November 21, 2023