British Columbia

Most Canadians support landlords' right not to accept pets, survey suggests

A survey from Angus Reid Institute published Thursday suggests Canadians are more likely to side with landlords on the contentious issue, which has been the subject of petitions and calls for change.

Almost two-thirds of Canadians say landlords should not be forced to accept pets in their buildings

Canadians love their pets, but when it comes to whether rental properties should be pet-friendly, they largely agree that the landlord should be leader of the pack. (Eleni Alina/Shutterstock)

It's a question that has given Canadians pause: should landlords be forced to accept renters with pets?

A survey from Angus Reid Institute published Thursday suggests people mostly believe landlords should be able to keep pets out of their properties despite petitions and calls for change to the status quo. 

"Even in the big cities, we note there is a sense there is something to property rights," said Shachi Kurl, executive director of the Angus Reid Institute.

"I think this comes down to: should landlords be compelled to do it? Should they be forced to do it?

"What we note is there isn't necessarily the widespread support for compelling landlords to have to be able to take animals if they really don't want to."

Every province and territory in Canada allows a landlord to refuse to rent a unit to someone with a pet. (CBC)

The survey found almost two-thirds of survey respondents agreed landlords should be able to keep pets out of rental buildings.

Among landlords surveyed, that number rises to 76 per cent; perhaps surprisingly, renters surveyed were split down the middle.

Advocate questions results

According to the pollster, every province and territory in Canada allows a landlord to refuse to rent a unit to someone with a pet, but activists are seeking to change that. (In Ontario, a "no pet" provision is void and tenants can take in pets once a lease is in place, providing the pet is not dangerous or causes allergies.)

Eliot Galan of Pets OK BC, who has been lobbying for changes to B.C.'s rules, says he questions the survey's findings.

He says they don't mesh with his own group's research that show most British Columbians favour an end to no-pet rules.

Eliot Galan, co-founder of Pets OK BC, lived in a van with his dog in 2015 after being unable to find affordable, pet-friendly housing. (Eliot Galan)

"We have gained a tremendous amount of support across the whole province," he said.

"If these polls shed any accuracy over public opinion, I just think we have a lot of work to do to convince more people that this really needs to change."

He says for some tenants pet ownership can result in homelessness if they have to move and can't find a place that will allow their companion.

He says he has experienced that first-hand.

"Pets are vital parts of our family and our companions," he said.

"So when I came up short finding a place to live, it was a no-brainer. I wasn't going to give up my dog.... She's my best friend."

'Property rights need to be considered'

LandlordBC CEO David Hutniak said he has great sympathy for stories like Galan's, but he still opposes any sort of mandatory duty for landlords to take in pets.

"The issue at the end of the day is health and safety for our other tenants … and the additional cost we invariably incur with damage to our units," he said. "Individual property rights need to be considered here."

He says renters, especially those with allergies, appreciate having some buildings without pets.

And, he adds, many rental units do accept pets. More landlords are seeing that allowing them can improve their bottom lines, he said.

But Hutniak contends the real issue is a lack of rental supply, which limits options for renters.

"Until we have all levels of government firing on all cylinders to basically address the supply shortage ... then there will obviously be some of these situations where people can't find suitable rental housing," he said.

The Angus Reid survey was completed online between Dec. 7 to 14, 2017, by a representative randomized sample of 5,413 Canadian adults. It has a margin of error of plus or minus two percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

About the Author

Liam Britten

Digital journalist

Liam Britten is an award-winning journalist for CBC Vancouver. You can contact him at liam.britten@cbc.ca or follow him on Twitter: @liam_britten. Liam contributes to CBC Vancouver's Impact Team, where he investigates and reports on stories that impact people in their local community.

With files from Angela Sterritt