Renter's Guide

How honest tenants really are about their pets

A survey of 1,404 pet owners reveals that almost one in 10 renters choose not to tell their pet-averse landlords or neighbours about their fur-babies
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Smart look of the dog. A curious dog. Jack Russell Terrier on a leash. Expressive dog eyes look into the lens. A pet. Four-legged friend. Close-up portrait of a dog.

North American renters are scared of getting evicted from their apartments because of their precious pooches, curious kitties and cuddly friends, a recent study revealed. But even with this fear, the vast majority of tenants are upfront about their pets

A survey of 1,404 pet owners by Zolo found that almost one in 10 renters (8.53%) choose not to tell their pet-averse landlords or neighbours about their fur-babies. Another 18.48% don’t actively hide their pet-friends, but also opt not to disclose their fur-parent status. More than two-thirds (66.40%) of tenants made a point of telling their landlord or neighbour — their No. 1 reason: “I’m a happy pet-parent.”

Does your landlord or your neighbours know about your pet- (7)
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Most renters with pets just want to be good tenants

Based on survey results, most renters just want to be good neighbours. More than half of survey respondents (55.16%) reported that the primary reason for disclosing their pet-parent status was either because they are on “really good terms with landlord or neighbours” or simply because they “wanted to be a good tenant or neighbour.”

Another quarter (24%) chose to disclose because they “didn’t want to violate the lease or building rules.” While more than a fifth (21.78%) of survey respondents freely disclosed because they were “confident the law is on my side.”

Reasons to disclose or not disclose having a pet (3)
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Source: Zolo

Advice to friends and family: Don’t lie…that much

When it comes to passing on hard-won knowledge, more than a quarter of respondents (26.86%) admitted they’d recommend family and friends to “lie about having a pet.” But don’t fret too much, as this hard-won advice isn’t about overtly lying as it is about embracing the sin of omission. As one respondent explains: “It’s listed in my lease that I have cats. However, the maximum number of cats allowed per the management company is two and I have three. So I am technically lying.” Another respondent explains, “my landlord knows I have one pet, but really I have five.” Apparently, North American renters want to be good tenants, but don’t want to be limited to the maximum number of fur-babies they can love.

Tell a family member or friend to lie about a pet-
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Source: Zolo

That bond is big and scientifically documented

There may be some valid reasons for this desire to love more than one (or two or three or four…) pets. In a recent study, co-authored by Emily Sanford, a Johns Hopkins University graduate student, a link between dogs and their owners was established through a stress-test. The researchers placed dogs on one side of a see-through door, where they could see and hear their human companions. During timed intervals, their human companions would alternate between crying and humming “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.” Overall, about half the dogs came through the door, but when responding to their owner’s cries, these pooches came four times faster.

There’s more evidence. Fifteen years ago a study was published in Anxiety, Stress & Coping Journal that showed that compared what happened to a stressed-out group of adults when they were told to hold and pet a rabbit or turtle, versus the toy forms of these animals. The study revealed that the toys had no effect. But stroking a living creature, whether hard-shelled or furry, relieved anxiety. Even better, this stress-busting effect worked whether or not the person liked animals or not.  

In another recent study about horses, published in 2015 in the Frontiers of Psychology, researchers found that the act of grooming and petting horses or leading one around a pen reduced the impact and effects of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in both children and adolescents.

The best part is that many of these studies show that the positive impact of pets isn’t limited to cuddling and petting. A study published in the Western Journal of Nursing Research, showed that when people at an Alzheimer’s-disease facility dined in front of aquariums with brightly coloured fish, they ate more, got better nutrition and were less prone to pacing. They were also more attentive and less lethargic.

What type of animal companion do you have
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Source: Zolo

The law is not on your side

But even with all the scientific documentation on the power and importance of pet-connections, the law really isn’t on the side of pet-loving tenants. In March 2018, Angus Reid released a survey that found only 37% of respondents agreed that landlords should not be able to refuse to rent to people with animals. Sixty-three per cent sided with the landlord’s right to refuse to rent to pet owners.

“For people who currently have pets, the need to find a pet-friendly landlord limits the number of options available when apartment-hunting — a problem that becomes all the more acute in highly competitive rental markets such as Vancouver and Toronto,” Angus Reid said in its report.

Finding accommodation as a pet-lover

So, what’s a tenant to do? First, learn your rights. In most Canadian provinces, landlords have the right to refuse pets. (For more, see our map on the rules and regulations that govern tenants with pets.)

Then, consider searching for suitable accommodation. According to the Zolo survey, current and prospective tenants look for the following (multiple responses allowed):

What I want in my next rental suite or home
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Source: Zolo

Turns out landlords can learn a thing or two about renting to pet owners. According to Practical Apartment Managment author, Edward Kelley, 65% of pet-owners earn more than $50,000 per year. Not only do pet owners earn a decent living, but many stay longer in their rental suites, due to the difficulty in finding suitable accommodation.

If your a landlord looking to market your unit to a stable tenant base, consider what these tenants are looking for and then advertise accordingly. In order of preference, tenants want:

  1. A place I can afford, based on my budget (60.89%)
  2. A pet-friendly building / rental suite (48.14%)
  3. Easy access to outdoor space for me and my animal companions (35.82%)
  4. Private outdoor space, such as a yard, deck or garden (34.31%)
  5. Well built units / suites, so I don’t have to worry about noise (30.95%)
  6. A building / suite that doesn’t charge a premium for a pet, such as pet rent (30.16%)
  7. Access to a communal dog / pet / bike wash area (11.75%)
  8. A building / suite in a neighbourhood filled with other animals (11.53%)

Zolo’s numbers came from an online survey of 1,404 North Americans that was carried out from August 10 to August 12, 2018, and has a margin of error of +/- 2 percentage points.

Romana King
Romana King

Romana King is an award-winning personal finance writer and the current director of content for Zolo. King has contributed to business and lifestyle publications including, Toronto Sun, Maclean’s, MoneySense, Globe & Mail Custom Content Team, and Toronto Star. She is a passionate speaker about financial education and engages her audience on a variety of personal finance topics from kids and money, home buying and selling tips, and estate and investment planning. King won the 2015 SABEW Business Journalism award and is currently nominated for a COPA 2019 award, Best Service Article, for her annual project Best Deals in Real Estate. As editor of CI Top Broker, King guided her magazine to obtain its first KRW Business Journalism nomination, and she was part of the small team in 2011 that helped MoneySense win Magazine of the Year at the 34th annual National Magazine Awards.