If you're renting with a pet, it'll likely cost you. Here's what to expect and what you can do
Calgary Humane Society says 100 animals a year surrendered due to renting restrictions
Looking for a pet-friendly rental? Expect to pay an extra damage deposit, monthly pet fees — or both — say many Calgary renters.
And be prepared to prove you're responsible.
"I would even go as far as to provide references for your pet — people that can speak to the known behaviour of that animal," said Anna-Lee Fitzsimmons, a manager with the Calgary Humane Society.
Calgary's tight rental market seems to be driving up the cost to have a pet, especially dogs, in this city. When CBC Calgary asked our text-messaging community about renting, the issue of finding pet-friendly spaces was one of the biggest.
One renter said she was forced to give up her two cats, another was on the verge of being forced to do so, and still others recounted facing additional pet fees of several hundred dollars.
Kaine Leikeim, 28, is apartment-hunting and hopes to find a place in the southwest that's closer to friends and family. Finding a pet-friendly rental is non-negotiable, they said, but it will likely mean an extra fee on top of the rising cost of rent.
So far, Leikeim — who uses they/them pronouns — said the going rate seems to be about $50 a month in pet fees or an extra $250 or so on top of the damage deposit.
"It just kind of adds on top of that pile that I have to have before I can even consider moving into a new place," said Leikeim, who has a short-haired rescue named Aurora.
Aurora is a needed companion; Leikeim refuses to give her up.
Not enough pet-friendly housing, says humane society
But some renters don't have the choice.
The Calgary Humane Society says about 100 animals per year are surrendered because their owners can't find a place to accept them.
"We don't find that there is adequate pet-friendly rental housing available for the community members that live here," said Fitzsimmons.
For their part, landlords say they have good reason to avoid renters with pets, or to charge a fee.
CBC Calgary heard from some who banned pets because they had a bad experience in the past, like a puppy that chewed on the furniture provided. They said the pets caused more damage than could be covered by a regular deposit.
The hot rental market these days means landlords can be choosy about who they accept, said Laura Atherton, founder of Efficient Property Assistants.
In some cases, that means screening out anyone who comes with a pet.
"The amount of people fighting for that one unit is much higher, and so the competition factor there is great," said Atherton, whose company provides administrative support for landlords.
She works exclusively with pet-friendly landlords — a specialization she developed after moving to the city 20 years ago and being unable to find a rental for her and her two dogs.
So what can pet owners these days do to navigate the rental market?
For starters, if a person is thinking about getting a pet, they should be aware of how it might affect their rental prospects, said Amara Thibodeau, who owns a dog and a cat.
Thibodeau spent a decade as a renter. When she moved in with her partner and they became a two-pet household, Thibodeau sent dozens of inquiries to landlords but only found a handful who accepted pets.
"I would say the majority of places don't allow pets and the ones that do, they all have a fee associated with them," said Thibodeau, who recently purchased a home with her partner.
It also matters what type of pet you have. Thibodeau found cats seem to be more welcome than dogs, and smaller dogs are more accepted than larger ones.
She recommends bringing photos to a rental appointment.
"If I could prove that my dog was under 20 pounds and obviously a small dog, that made it easier," she said.
But don't be discouraged
Even if a listing doesn't say it's pet friendly, apply anyway, said Leikeim. It might be possible to negotiate with the landlord during a meeting, especially if it's a homeowner renting out their basement suite rather than a property manager with a big company.
That's how Leikeim's brother found a rental that accepted his pet rabbits.
"He asked the landlord of his current place and they were like, 'Yeah, OK, that's fine, as long as you keep everything in good shape,'" said Leikeim.
Fitzsimmons recommends applying to suites that are not listed as pet friendly and striking up a conversation with a landlord. In that application, she suggests including a "pet resume." It should include:
- A photo of the pet.
- A written description.
- Vaccine certificates.
- Proof of spaying or neutering.
- References from previous landlords.
"There's a lot of different ways that you can provide evidence that you're a responsible pet owner," said Fitzsimmons.
Treat it like a job interview
Atherton, who also owns several rentals, agrees. She understands why landlords might be reluctant to rent to someone with a pet but believes people who are good to their pets are generally also good to their units.
The rental application and the walk-through are a person's chance to prove that, said Atherton.
As for landlords, give pet owners a chance to prove themselves, she says. Consider everyone to find the perfect candidate.
"And guess what? It might be a fantastic single lady with a Great Dane or a male senior with a little Yorkie, but let's not close the door because they have pets — let's open it first and see what happens."
As for Leikeim, they continue to browse apartment listings. But the reality is, they said, the cost of rent and pet fees means they likely won't be moving any time soon.
"It's definitely going to take me a little while to save up."
How are you managing in this tight market? CBC Calgary is looking at housing for our next community-driven reporting project. We'd love to hear from you.
What's your situation? What changes have you seen? What do you want us to tackle next?
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