The regulations surrounding what rules a landlord can enforce regarding pets in their rental unit fall under provincial jurisdiction. As such, there are a variety of laws nationwide that govern precisely what recourse an owner has when it comes to enforcing a pet policy.
In British Columbia, Section 18 of the Residential Tenancy Act, allows landlords to restrict pets completely, or set limits on the number, size, or type of pets a tenant can have in their rental unit. The Act also allows a landlord to require a pet damage deposit of up to 50 percent of the monthly rent that can be used at the end of a tenancy to repair any pet-related damage to the unit.
Given that as a landlord in British Columbia, you have a real, enforceable, say regarding pets in your rental unit, let’s have a look at the pros and cons of welcoming Fido into your investment property.
Many landlords instinctively understand that having a pet in your rental home can cause significant additional wear and tear on the property. However, there may be several good reasons for allowing your renters to have an animal companion in the space.
It can be frustrating to go through the process of continually renting out a property. The credit checks, interviews, and references required to get a reliable tenant in place and paying your investment costs can be immense. Owning a pet tends to make a tenant more adverse to relocating. As a result of high levels of pet restriction, a pet owner that finds a landlord willing to allow them to have their best friend living in the unit, are much more likely to stay put longer. A FirePaw study found that tenants with pets, in pet-friendly housing, stay an average of 46 months compared to 18 months for tenants residing in rentals prohibiting pets.
Pet Owners Are Responsible
Of course, there are going to be irresponsible pet owners. However, by and large, in our experience, we’ve found that pet owners tend to be very reliable tenants. The likely rationale is that pet owners have taken on a voluntary duty of care to their furry friends and will work hard to keep their living space clean and orderly. It also doesn’t hurt that dogs and cats tend to become accustomed to routine quickly. Walk-time and dinner-time need to happen regularly at the same time of day and have a way of making more disciplined humans in the process.
Your Reputation as a Community Landlord
The vacancy rate in Vancouver is less than one percent, which has meant many people are struggling to find adequate housing. By restricting pet ownership in rentals, landlords have inadvertently helped push the burden onto the BCSPCA. Their records indicate that over 1500 animals, every year, are surrendered to their shelters for “housing related-reasons.” When tenants have a hard enough time finding a home for themselves, they may be forced to abandon a beloved pet if they can’t get a reasonably priced pet-friendly space. Allowing conscientious pet owners can help ease this societal burden.
When a tenant has a pet, they will likely return to the property quite frequently to care for the animals’ needs. Having regular activity at your rental unit tends to discourage any criminal activity from targeting your property. Not to mention that most burglars would prefer not to contend with a sleeping dog.
Honest Landlord-Tenant Relations
Even though a landlord can take action against tenants who attempt to circumvent a no pet policy, the commitment people have towards their animals, coupled with tight rental vacancy means that tenants are much more likely to have secret pets. By being open to discussing pets, within reason, a landlord can trust that their tenant will come to them before introducing a pet to the property. It also gives the landlord the ability to set some limits and collect a pet damage deposit.
Of course, pets are not people, and if they are not well trained and supervised, it is possible that allowing pets in your rental property will come with additional costs. You will want to consider these Cons before moving forward with your pet policy.
Even if a pet is well trained and doesn’t cause any significant damage, there is a good chance that they will add extra wear and tear to the property. Animals very often scratch wood floors just walking around, wear spots in carpets where they choose to lay down regularly and occasionally have accidents on the floors. The regulations allow landlords to collect a pet damage deposit, but it can only total 50 percent of the monthly rental price. Replacing worn-out flooring is likely to exceed the deposit.
That fact is pets smell. If your tenants are not conscientious about keeping the odour under control, your property can start to stink, and the scent can be hard to get out later. If you permit a tenant to have a pet in the unit, be sure to keep the numbers in check. One dog isn’t so hard to keep up after, but five are going to leave an aroma that is harder to remove than patchouly oil.
The Comfort of Other Tenants
If you own a property with multiple units, allowing pets in one suite may limit the tenants that can rent the others. Very often, severe pet allergies will preclude a potential tenant from renting in a multiplex that has pets anywhere in the structure. There is also the possibility that pet smells will become persistent in the common areas leading to increased tenant grievances. Of course, it only takes one loud or disruptive pet to cause surrounding residents to complain or seek alternate accommodations.
If a resident dog were to bite someone on your property, the laws are such that it is unlikely you would have to bear any responsibility. However, if you do allow pets, it is worth having a conversation with your insurance provider to ensure you’re covered in the event something happens. Also, ask that your tenant provide you with a copy of their ‘tenants’ policy,’ and insist that they have proper pet coverage in place.
So What Should you Do?
In our experience, we’ve found the best policy is to be flexible—to a point. If the prospective tenant’s interview goes well, their references and credit check come back in good standing, you might want to ok pet privileges, for a single dog or cat. Many tenants today are even compiling a CV for the pets. The BC SPCA now provides a Tool Kit that also includes a sample Pet Resume to help pet owners convince would-be landlords that their animal isn’t going to be a problem.
We’ve found that if a potential tenant goes out of their way to demonstrate that their pet is a safe bet, it says a lot them as a tenant. We would, however, recommend that if you are going to allow pets, put all the stipulations in writing upfront, including types and numbers of animals. Even if you would be open to more furry friends, this ensures that a conversation needs to happen first. You don’t want to wind up with an unexpected zoo.
It’s essential also to remember that the restrictions landlords can impose on pets, do not apply to Guide Dogs or Service Dogs. Landlords cannot prevent a tenant from having a Registered Service Animal in the unit and may not discriminate against prospective tenants who require such an animal.