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‘Pretty much screwed’: B.C. tenant slams lack of pet-friendly rentals

Pet clauses are banned in Ontario, but landlords in B.C. can prohibit pets in their rental units

Courtney Collins was shocked after moving to Greater Victoria from Ontario and discovering that most B.C. rentals say “no pets” in their listings.

“In Ontario, you don’t see that on ads,” said Collins. “I don’t understand.”

After moving to her mother’s home in North Saanich in 2021 with her three cats, Kitten, Leo, and Morgy, she decided the flaw was within the residential system rather than her owning “too many pets.”

According to the B.C. Residential Tenancy Branch, Canadian law does not recognize having a pet as a human right. In Ontario, pet clauses are specifically banned. However, landlords in B.C. are within their rights under the Residential Tenancy Act to prohibit pets in their rental units. This excludes renters with a disability who rely on an animal in connection with their disability.

Andrew Sakamoto of the Regional Tenancy Branch media centre echoed the sentiment.

“Under the Residential Tenancy Act, landlords are totally within their rights to restrict pets,” said Sakamoto.

This domino effect can impact not only the pet owners but also the shelters. Collins, who works with local rescues, says it has increased the number of stray cats and dogs she tends to.

“There a lot of people who come into the SPCA, not just because of COVID when everyone got a pet but because people simply can’t find homes that will let them have pets,” said Collins. “Cats, dogs and fish even.”

She says it’s put a stereotype on pet owners, and while she agrees with some of the reasons, she added that people in B.C. seem more concerned with materialism than companionship. Collins says she even often sees unhoused people with pets, mostly dogs.

Working in renovation construction herself, she says that in her previous rental suites, she has paid for any necessary renovations out of pocket.

“It could be the most disgusting building, still no pets allowed,” said Collins.

Frustrated with the lack of adequate housing, she sought feedback from local landlords online and was even more disappointed with the responses she received.

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Victoria resident and landlord Michelle Leblanc says she wouldn’t rent out a suite to pet owners or those with young children because of the potential cost of repairs and utilities.

“The risk to our home isn’t worth it. We haven’t even touched on all the other risks like increased chance of fire or flood, or any other possible damage that could occur with the best of tenants,” said Leblanc. “It’s not worth it to wipe out over a year’s profit for a risk I don’t have to take.”

Collins says a middle ground can be reached between tenants and landlords.

“Maybe people can meet in the middle somewhere and pay higher deposits. I’ve been seeing a lot of abandoned animals, and it’s quite sad,” said Collins.

On Oct. 10, the provincial government announced that more new homes for people would be approved faster by removing paper-only application barriers that allow people to apply for secondary suites online. Despite more housing soon to be available, since it is up to the landlord’s discretion to allow pets, many have still been left without a place to call home.

Collins eventually found a reasonable suite in Saanich, but said the journey to get there was disconcerting.

“It’s just ridiculous,” said Collins. “I find that B.C. has a huge sense of entitlement. It’s already hard enough to rent and it’s expensive, and then if you have pets, you’re pretty much screwed.”

READ MORE: Fall toxins pets should avoid: BCSPCA