By TYLER BATTEN
Almost 500 Kijiji apartment rental ads in the K-W area alone state, “No Pets Allowed,” but, according to Ontario real estate law, most of these have no legal merit.
It’s early autumn and students are back in school; they’ve rented apartments and moved in — some into places smaller than dog houses. Many students have pets and many used to. We all know, or have heard of someone, who was threatened with eviction if they didn’t get rid of their pet.
But here’s a shocker: your landlord can’t evict you just because they don’t like your fuzzy friend.
“You can only evict a tenant if their pet is bothering other tenants, damaging the place or if the landlord is allergic to it and is living there,” said real estate lawyer Mark Weisleder, who writes a real estate law column for the Toronto Star.
The law originates in part two of the Residential Tenancy Act (RTA) where it clearly states that any provision regarding a no-pet policy in a tenancy agreement is void. If a tenant signs the contract it still has no legal merit.
The RTA does have clear boundaries.
“Condominium rules are different,” said a representative from the Landlord and Tenant Board of Ontario’s call centre, “so it’s possible that it would apply that you’re not allowed to (have a pet).”
Condos are essentially shared common properties where each resident owns a particular space in that building. They are chartered by a separate set of rules called the Condominium Act. A condo’s pet policy is decided by an association of owners and can be enforced even if the condo is rented out.
The Landlord and Tenant Board of Ontario is the authoritative body behind the RTA, and resolves most disputes between landlords and tenants.
”If you’re covered (by the RTA) than you do have protection regarding pets even if you signed a no pets clause. The landlord cannot terminate the tenancy just because you have a pet, but if the pet is causing a problem like with maintenance or damage or interfering with other tenants’ enjoyment by barking, under our act the landlord can get the tenant to stop the behaviour of the animal.”
For any realistic pet owner the difficulty is not winning the case in court, but in actually moving into an unfriendly pet apartment successfully.
Landlords can easily explain why they don’t want pets without breaking any rules.
The RTA only protects tenants from being evicted. It does not give any obvious suggestion on how to move-in in the first place.
“I know the law, I know how that stuff works,” said a landlord who’s currently seeking a non-pet-owning-tenant for his 33 Lilac St., Kitchener apartment.
“I had a bad experience with one dog a few years ago. It took a chunk out of my leg and now when I get near certain dogs and they start barking my allergies start acting up, especially my asthma.”
The Canadian Federation of Humane Societies’ most recent National Shelter statistic showed that 143,000 pets were admitted to shelters across the country in 2010.
That massive figure is caused by, in part, the two most common reasons for surrendering a pet to a shelter – moving and landlords not allowing pets, according to an American study conducted by the National Council on Pet Population.
The misconception that a landlord has the right to evict a tenant because of a personal preference is clearly all too prevalent.
Despite the RTA’s clear and exact wording on the matter, Kijiji still uses a search filter called “pet friendly” which allows users to choose their preference. Condominiums and apartments are compiled under one category so it’s difficult to tell who’s actually breaking the rules.
Kijiji representatives were unavailable for comment.
Pets are a part of a lot of Canadian families. In fact, recent figures suggest that over half of Canadian households have either a dog or cat and sometimes both. Many of these pets end up being surrendered to shelters simply because of tenant ignorance or landlord distortion.
By TYLER BATTEN