P.E.I. Humane Society wants landlords to 'open their doors' more to pet owners
Being charged an additional rental fee for owning a pet is not legal on P.E.I.
Charlottetown's tight rental market can be even tougher for pet owners, and the province's Community Legal Information group wants to make sure renters know their rights.
Community Legal Information, formerly called CLIA, is reminding Islanders that so-called "pet deposits" are illegal on P.E.I. This is additional money requested by landlords because a prospective tenant has a pet.
Eliza MacLauchlan, a tenant support worker with the group, said their office has heard that some people are having difficulty finding rentals when they have pets.
"People might ask for things that would otherwise not be acceptable," said MacLauchlan, of the difficulties that arise with a vacancy rate close to zero.
Landlords can legally charge the first month's rent, as well as a security deposit equal to or less than that amount, said MacLauchlan.
However, they cannot charge pet deposits, "key deposits," or charge both the first and last month's rent up front, MacLauchlan said.
Pet deposits are legal in some other parts of the country, said MacLauchlan, so she understands why some people are unsure about the regulations on P.E.I.
Pets without a home
Some people aren't able to find housing that will even accept a pet, and this could mean giving up a beloved animal.
The P.E.I. Humane Society has to deal with the consequences of this. Last year, it received 105 animals that were surrendered because of owners' difficulty finding housing.
So far this year the number is 57, and the society only expects it to increase, which can put a stress on the organization.
"It's not only very sad for the owners, but it's extra resources for the P.E.I. Humane Society," said Jennifer Harkness, development manager for the society.
Harkness herself was not aware that pet deposits were illegal on P.E.I. before CLI posted on social media about the topic, and said not many people at her office were aware.
She said she hopes the knowledge will start to change the tenant and landlord relationship on P.E.I.
"I'd like to see landlords open their doors more to pet owners," said Harkness.
"I think they can be very responsible tenants. And they can stay longer than most because they know they have secure housing for their pets."
'There's something that's wrong there'
If a tenant is aware they have been charged a pet deposit, they can apply to the office of the director of residential rental property to get it back, MacLauchlan said. Renters can contact that office at the Island Regulatory and Appeals Commission for more details.
She also said that if people suspect their rent or security deposit is being increased because they have a pet, they can contact CLI or the residential rental property office at IRAC for more information about the law.
"Well $1,000 with no pet, $1,500 with a pet? OK, there's something that's wrong there," said MacLauchlan.
Community Legal Information plans to hold additional workshops around tenants' and landlords' rights and responsibilities in September.