British Columbia

Dog owner calls for pet-friendly change to B.C. tenancy laws

A dog owner in North Vancouver, B.C., is calling for changes to the province's tenancy laws to allow pet owners access to a broader supply of rental housing.

Landlords say pets can cause expensive damage to property

Jess Nelson and her dog, Red. Nelson says she's having trouble finding a dog-friendly home to rent. (CBC)

A dog owner in North Vancouver, B.C., is calling for changes to B.C.'s tenancy laws to allow pet owners access to a broader supply of rental housing. 

Jess Nelson has been looking for a home for herself, her boyfriend and her dog, Red. 

She says they're currently living in a small, one-bedroom apartment and she's hoping to find a place with more space within her price range — $1,500 a month, preferably close to transit and a dog park. 

"There's just really not a lot out there," she said. 

Under B.C.'s tenancy laws, landlords have a right to enforce something called "quiet enjoyment." It means living in an environment free of potential nuisances such as allergens, barking and other noises. 

Frustrated by the lack of pet-friendly places, Nelson crunched the numbers on Craigslist.

Jess Nelson says she wants B.C.'s tenancy laws to be more inclusive for pet owners. (CBC)

She says in Vancouver, only eight per cent of listings fall within her price range and allow dogs. In North Vancouver, that number rises slightly to 13 per cent. And of those, many only allow small animals.

If landlords don't specify if they allow dogs, she says she phones to ask.

"There was one day where there were 10 in a row that said no," she recalled. "That was frustrating."

Nelson says she and her boyfriend are good tenants with stable jobs, and her dog is well-behaved and doesn't bark. Still, she says most landlords won't even agree to meet her and Red.

"I actually had one guy yell at me on the phone," she said. "He said, 'Absolutely no pets!' and then hung up."

As a homeowner and landlord herself — she recently bought a place in Whistler with a suite she rents out — Nelson says she practices what she preaches and allows renters with pets.

"In terms of the value of pets in people's lives and communities ... it's really important," she said.

"It's something that the provincial government needs to look at in terms of what's the framework they can establish to making sure tenants aren't being discriminated against or really restricted."

Nelson says she's approached two North Vancouver MLAs about the issue, and hopes to see tenancy laws change. 

Pets 'left out in the cold'

Geoff Urton with the B.C. SPCA says Nelson is not alone in her predicament. 

"Pets are the ones that are left out in the cold in many cases. Across B.C. it's the number one reason that pets come into us abandoned by their owners," Urton says. 

The B.C. SPCA's Geoff Urton says pet owners can make great tenants. (CBC)

He says about 20 per cent of the pets surrendered at the shelter are there because their owners couldn't find a pet-friendly home. 

As a landlord himself, Urton says he's had a lot of success renting to pet owners. 

"Ultimately, I think there's a lot of misinformation out there about the risk that pets pose for rental suites." 

He points out landlords can charge an extra deposit for pets, and in his experience, many pet owners are stable, long-term tenants. 

The right to choose tenants

Property owner association LandlordBC. says it's sympathetic to pet owners, but landlords should be able to choose which tenants they want.

"The most important issue is we have other tenants in the building," said the association's CEO, David Hutniak. "We have to ensure they have the right to quiet enjoyment."

LandlordBC CEO David Hutniak says pet owners pose too much of a risk for some landlords. (CBC)

He adds that, for some, renting out to pet owners is too much of a financial risk.

"If there are pets in the building, invariable there's more damage," he said, pointing out that the additional pet damage deposit often isn't enough to cover costs like ripping out carpet. 

"If all pet owners were responsible, perhaps it might be a different conversation."

With files from Kamil Karamali


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