As the Vancouver housing market continues to sizzle, renters have been feeling the heat, particularly pet owners.
We talked to B.C. SPCA Stakeholder Relations Office, Melinda Mennie about this issue. According to her, people have it tough when they're looking for a rental, because a lot of rental listings say "no pets" and for those who already have an animal in their life, this makes them feel like they already have a disadvantage:
Finding rental housing is not easy in Vancouver - and if you have an animal with you it is even more difficult.
According to a report by Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation the apartment vacancy rate in B.C. fell last year to 1.8 per cent from 2.4 per cent in April 2014.
Vancouver Condos by Kenny Louie
The pressure to find a place to live can forces some pet owners to surrender their animals to places like the B.C. SPCA, Mennie said about 20 per cent of province-wide surrenders to their organization was related to housing issues.
In Vancouver it is higher. For Vancouver I looked at it last year and it was closer to 40 per cent.
She also added it's not always easy to verify why people surrender their animals.
The problem for pet owners was so large that City of Vancouver Councillor Tim Stevenson put forward a motion that would require landlords to allow pets on their rental properties.
The motion states:
- Over half of Vancouver households are renters, and the city of Vancouver is home to more than a quarter of the rental housing for the entire province;
- The vacancy rate in Vancouver over the last 30 years has averaged 0.9%, making it difficult for tenants with pets to find suitable rental accommodation;
- It mentions, the Province of Ontario as an example, where it's not allowed for landlords to ban pets in rental housing.
- Supporting renters is a priority for the City of Vancouver, as part of the 2011-2021 Housing and Homelessness Strategy;
CEO of the B.C. Landlords Association, David Hutniak, said the organization had been involved in the consultation by the City about the motion, because they "as owners of the property, have the rights or should have the rights to decide whether or not we wish to have pet-friendly buildings."
According to Hutniak, the majority of landlords in the Association wanted to have the right to deny pet owners on the grounds that they offer a service to the greater public
We are really in the business of providing housing for people and we take that responsibility really seriously. We house 30 per cent of British Columbia so that is really our focus is on the issue that British Columbians have safe, secure, sustainable rental housing.
We checked Reddit for discussions about this issue and and landlords are not are happy about the motion. In a discussion about an article "Dog Owner Calls For Pet Friendly Change to B.C. Tenancy Laws" published by the CBC, one Redditor u/nogami, who is renting out this place, says he's sell his property if the motion goes through:
"Redoing the flooring in my 1br+den rental suite would probably cost $3500. As soon as I can tell potential renters that the deposit is the full amount of redoing flooring, they get to bring pets in. If the government ever tries to force it on me, my rental property is on the market the next day."
There were also some very discriminating comments on the thread, such as this one by /u/Rdub, who thinks pet owners shouldn't have any rights at all:
The entitlement of pet owners in this city knows no limitations. First it was people bringing their dogs into places they have absolutely no right being (Restaurants, grocery stores, everywhere, etc.) because their precious little "Floofy" couldn't possible wait outside like an animal is supposed to, and now they want to dictate what other people can and cannot do with their own property? Owning a pet is a choice, not some kind of inalienable human right. The law should not be misused in order to accommodate pet owners choices. If you cannot afford to live where you want to live while owning a pet, you shouldn't have gotten a pet in the first place.
On the other hand, /u/rainman_104, who is a landlord, said that both sides should have some rights in this and both should be respected, because in the end, you should get to know your tenants and their pets before you decide to let them live on your property:
Personally, I allow my tenants to have pets. Sometimes I hear their dog bark a bit but he's fine. Not obnoxious. They keep the place clean and tidy and I like their dog. I'm not terribly worried about them.I judge the tenant by what I see and the dog they have. They always pick up after the dog, and are good respectful people. I consider them a welcome part of my extended family because I like them. It isn't always the case with some tenants. I had one tenant that asked me to get a cat and I waived the pet deposit. He then went and got another one. Scratch marks all over the walls from the cats trying to climb fucking walls. It was a gong show. He cleaned it up but his exit got really messy.
One redditor, /u/grantmoore3d, who is also a tenant, told about his struggles when trying to find a place to live in Vancouver and compared it with living in Ontario:
Having spent two years in a rotting, moldy and bug infested basement because it was the only place I could find that would rent to me because I own a dog... it would be nice to see the laws change in a way where it's less restrictive for pet owners. Two years of searching and I finally found a place... seriously was a depressing and unhealthy experience for me, and I'm sure many others can relate. I lived in Ontario with the same pet for years in a decent place without issue. Landlords cannot prevent pet ownership in other provinces and it works just fine. There's no reason for it to be different here.
Both sides are angry and both sides certainly have their rights. But the solution is not that simple.
Morning Sunlight by Robert Couse Baker
We talked to a Vancouver resident and the person behind PetRentals.com, Janelle Laycock, who thinks that government intervention in the market was not the answer. She also said that even though it's illegal to block people from having pets, there are number of ways to get around that legally:
All a landlord has to do is find someone in the building who is allergic to animals and then they can deny pets for that building. If they don't like animals they can treat you badly. They could refuse to renew your lease. There are a lot of things a landlord can do if they don't want pets, even if the law says that they have to allow pets.
Laycock said that as a landlord she too was reluctant to rent to pet owners, despite having a dog herself. Her reason is that pets simply do cause damage:
Usually they don't, but if you have carpet they only have to go pee on it once, and if the owner leaves it to sit for a while, there is going to be a big pee stain on the carpet that you can never get out. So, if you have brand new carpet in the place and a dog goes and pees on it that can cost thousands of dollars to replace. You are never going to get that out of a tenant.
Hutniak said that was one of the major concerns with landlords in the Association and that a pet deposit doesn't solve anything, if the pet indeed causes any damage:
In a building or a unit where a pet is allowed to reside, invariably at the end of that tenancy, the retrofitting of that unit for the next tenant is significantly greater in that it requires yanking of carpet, redoing the floors, etcetera. etcetera and frankly that pet damage deposit is quite inadequate to cover those additional costs.
On the other hand, Mennie pointed out research that indicated tenants with pets stay longer than those without pets. She said on average a pet owner would stay 46 months in a rental unit compared with just 18 months for non-pet owners.
She also advised taking a chance and making a good impression on a landlord, because sometimes letting them get to know you helps:
I have heard stories of people who first saw a place and really liked it. They made the effort to try and contact the landlord and provided things like a pet resume, for example, they provided references for their animal. They provided things like an agreement on grooming, that they would brush their cat or make sure that their nails are trimmed. Sometimes landlords will say 'no pets allowed' but if you show up with a nice, friendly dog sometimes they will change their minds.
So what choice does a pet owner in Vancouver have if they want to find a rental apartment?
PetFinder.com recommends the following for pet owners looking for a new rental property in Vancouver :
The SPCA also provides advice for pet owners, landlords and even strata councils when it comes to sealing a deal on a rental unit. They offer a "Renter's Guide" with samples of pet resume, pet reference form and a lot of other helpful tips, which you can find on this link, but here the most important basic tips from the guide:
Q: HOW CAN I GET A LANDLORD TO SAY “YES” TO ME AND MY PET?
Some tools to give you a better chance of securing pet-friendly housing include:
- Preparing a pet resume with references, obedience training certificates, veterinary medical insurance, and photos.
- Many landlords will ask to meet your pet to have assurance of your ability to be a good caregiver.
- Some companies provide coverage for damage caused by pets, and a letter demonstrating to landlords that a tenant is a responsible pet guardian (try searching for “veterinary medical insurance for renters” online).
- Approaching a potential landlord about pets can be difficult, but with the right set of tools and the story of your challenges in finding pet-friendly housing, land- lords will be more likely to be compassionate to your circumstances.
Q. CAN A LANDLORD ASK FOR A PET DAMAGE DEPOSIT?
Yes, a landlord may require a pet deposit when the tenant has a pet at the start of tenancy, or later when the tenant acquires a pet.
Q. HOW MUCH CAN A LANDLORD CHARGE FOR A PET DAMAGE DEPOSIT?
Landlords can charge a one-time deposit of up to half of one month’s rent, regardless of the number of pets a tenant has. This deposit is in addition to the normal security deposit.
Q. WHAT IF THE TENANCY AGREEMENT IS SILENT ON PETS?
If a tenancy agreement does not address pets, the landlord cannot require a pet deposit.
Q. HOW OFTEN DURING TENANCY CAN A LANDLORD INSPECT A PET-FRIENDLY UNIT?
Once per month, in order to assess the condition of the unit. You could even offer a probationary period, where your landlord checks more frequently for the first month or so.
It's not easy finding suitable accommodation in Vancouver in this market if you have a pet. Mennie says that as a pet owner herself she sympathized with those who are trying to find accommodation in the rental market:
If I didn't own my home I don’t know what I would do. They are part of my family. It is really, really difficult.
But don't think it is impossible. Sure, it can be a bit trickier for pet owners, but there are a lot of things you can do to improve your situation and get a nice place to live both for you and your pet. Just be persistent, follow the tips listed above and don't give up.