For some Canadians, owning a pet is one of the most important aspects of their lives. Whether it be a dog, cat or possibly an exotic bird, the truth is these animals become part of the family. We take them with us wherever we go — including rental unit after rental unit — even if finding a pet-friendly rental proves more difficult than their potty-training.
But renting a unit with pets in Canada isn’t so straight-forward. From B.C. to Newfoundland, each province and territory has their own rules and regulations surrounding landlords rights to refuse pets and to charge additional funds (sometimes called pet rent or pet security deposit). Although it’s not legal for landlords to charge your dog or cat rent, in some provinces they can certainly prepare for any damages your furry friends may cause.
Wild-west when it comes to rules around renting with pets
Whether or not a landlord can charge a pet deposit — a refundable sum of money provided at the start of your tenancy — or pet rent (monthly, non-refundable payments) depends on what province you live in. That’s because landlord and tenancy issues fall under provincial jurisdiction.
For renters, rules can change from one province to the next and, as long as the landlord is complying with the laws, from one building to the next.
For instance, landlords in B.C., Manitoba and the Northwest Territories can charge as much as half of one month’s rent as a pet deposit. So, if you pay $800 per month in rent, landlords in these two provinces and one territory can demand as much as $400 up-front, before you move into the unit.
In Ontario, landlords can charge up to a full month’s rent for a pet deposit.
All other provinces and territories do not have set rules and regulations for these types of transactions — which means it could go either way.
For instance, the Saskatchewan Government allows landlords the choice of charging tenants either a pet deposit or pet rent — but not both. If a Saskatchewan landlord specifies that the pet fee is “non-refundable,” then the pet fee you pay at the start of your tenancy is not part of your security deposit and you will not get that money back.
Sounds harsh for renters in Saskatchewan, but there is a silver lining. If the total pet deposit and security deposit exceeds one month’s rent, the excess amount is immediately refundable to the tenant and may be deducted from rent by the tenant. Good to know.
Paying for damage with a pet deposit
In all provinces, a landlord can offset the damage caused by the tenant or the tenant’s pet using either the security deposit, the first and last month’s rent (which is paid up-front, at the start of a tenancy in some provinces, like Ontario), or the pet deposit or fee.
Keep in mind, in most provinces, the landlord is not required to return any part of the pet fee or deposit, even if the damage caused to the unit is less than the amount of the fee that was initially charged.
Damages in excess of the pet fee or deposit may be claimed against the security deposit, and against the tenant if the damages exceed the amount of the security deposit. (However, a landlord will have to apply through provincial Small Claims Court to try and get additional money from owed by the tenant for damages.)
Is it illegal to deny rental to you and your pet?
Right, so you’re prepared to pay a bit extra in order to keep Fido, Pickle and One-Eyed Jack the parrot in your family, but now the potential landlord is refusing to rent you the unit. Is that even legal?
As with most tenant issues in Canada, it depends where you live.
If you’re trying to rent a unit in the Northwest Territories, Nova Scotia, PEI or Ontario, the landlord is allowed to deny a tenant a tenancy, if that tenant has pets.
In Alberta, B.C. and Saskatchewan, a landlord can deny a potential renter a unit due to pets, but only if the lease clearly stipulates that this is a policy. If the lease doesn’t state that pets are not allowed, then the laws are clear: You can move in, with pets, and face no repercussions.
This was good news for Courtney Thomas, a renter in Calgary, Alberta. She was the proud fur-mama to three pets: a cat and two rabbits. When she first started to look for a rental suite she noticed some difficulty in finding a rental unit that would allow for her animals. “We currently rent a unit with a landlord who is completely comfortable with our pets — but before this place, we struggled to find options.” Thomas understands the concerns of landlords but also knows the pain of being a responsible tenant and fur-mama. The two are not mutually exclusive, she explains.
What’s a fur-parent to do in finding a pet-friendly rental?
While provincial tenancy laws and regulations will stipulate the general rules that apply, keep in mind that certain kinds of property will have additional restrictions and legal obligations. For example, some condominium buildings won’t allow pets, even if the provincial rules have no restrictions on pets in rental apartments. In this situation, a tenant must follow the rules of both the province and the condo or face lawful eviction.
Still, as a general rule of thumb, the lease in any province on any unit will typically have the final word. But even in provinces where rules appear to give landlords more options for denying pets, keep in mind that sometimes all it takes is a simple conversation. Talk to the landlord to see if you can both reach an amicable agreement — one that allows for your pets and protects their asset (the rental unit). Just remember, that whatever is discussed and agreed to verbally, should be put in writing.
It’s hard enough finding a good quality place to live within a certain budget, nevermind being denied because of a furry family member. Still, for most people looking for an accommodating landlord and a good unit that’s pet-friendly is worth the challenge.
For a quick reference on what laws govern which province and territory, check out our “Guide to Renting with Pets Across Canada” map.