Know the pet rules before renting, says Bernie Winter

Anyone who has house hunted with a furry friend in tow knows that finding a pet-friendly rental in Edmonton can be a tricky task.

In a fight between landlord and pet owner, fluffy friend often loses, expert cautions

While finding a pet-friendly rental can be difficult, it's not impossible with the right research, says condo expert. (CBC)

Anyone who has house hunted with a furry friend in tow knows that finding a pet-friendly rental in Edmonton can be a tricky task.

"There's just a lot of factors, and it comes down to everything from allergies to damage to property," said Bernie Winter, an expert in condo law and co-founder of the Alberta Condominium Owners Association.

That damage can include increased wear and tear on floors and walls, as well as a build-up of pet dander in the carpet or ventilation system.

The animal's behaviour when its owner is not home can also deter landlords, she said.

"It's maybe a little overdone," she said on Friday.

According to Winter, research is the best thing a prospective renter can do to find a pet-friendly property without too much ado or expense.

All condo buildings must be registered as either pro- or anti-pet, and once registered, that rule becomes an enforceable bylaw, Winter said.

"So in a condominium, there's a lot of protection for owners who have a neighbour with a pet who's a problem," she said.

However, individual condo owners renting out their property can still say 'no pets allowed' — even if the building itself is pet-friendly, she cautioned.

On the flip side, condo bylaws that disallow animals trump any individual condo unit owner who is OK with a tenant having a cat or dog — that's where the research comes in, Winter said.

"Don't move into a place thinking, 'Oh well, just because I saw a cat on a balcony, I'm OK,'" she cautioned. "Do your homework and find out for sure what the rules are."

Taking responsibility for your pet

In her experience, Winter said there are more condo buildings that are pet-friendly than pet-adverse.

Non-condo rental buildings, however, tend to be less animal-friendly, she said, and even those that permit pets may cap the percentage of units with animals. Alternately, pets may only be allowed in main-floor units.

And then there's the question of pet fees.

Many rental management companies require a non-refundable fee from any tenants bringing a cat or dog into their unit, Winter said.

"People that have those pets — that pay the $900, that $500, whatever it takes to have that pet in that building — they take care of that pet," Winter said.

"I think the biggest piece that people have to remember is, if you have a pet, become a real responsible pet owner," she said. "That's what's causing the problem — the few that are not responsible pet owners."

Any owners found breaking the rules — whether by having a pet in a condo where it is not permitted by bylaw, or by sneaking one into a rental unit — can lead to administrative headaches for everyone involved, she said, and usually don't end in the pet's favour.

"If there are pet rules, know what they are and respect them. Don't challenge them, because you're going to lose," she warned.


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