Landlords and tenants typically fight over rent, repairs, and noise.
And there’s also the issue of pets.
In B.C., landlords are the boss when it comes to companion animals. Landlords can prohibit pets; they can also restrict the size, kind, and number of pets. They can even demand a pet deposit and impose pet-related rules.
Landlords have the law on their side. Until legislation is changed, tenants can only plead that they be allowed to have pets.
This is why it will be interesting to see what pet-related recommendations will be made by the Rental Housing Task Force formed by the B.C. NDP government last spring.
The panel had to come up with suggested improvements on a range of issues pertaining to both the Residential Tenancy Act and the Manufactured Home Park Tenancy Act.
Spencer Chandra Herbert, NDP MLA for Vancouver–West End, heads the task force, which has two other members, Ronna-Rae Leonard (NDP, Courtenay-Comox) and Adam Olsen (B.C. Greens, Saanich North and the Islands).
The panel wrapped up public consultations on July 6 and will be working over the summer to come up with proposals by the fall.
Not surprisingly, animal lovers and the rental industry are at odds in their respective representations to the Rental Housing Task Force.
Chandra Herbert and Leonard had a phone consultation with a group that has been working to end restrictions on pets. Eliot Galán, cofounder and Vancouver-based organizer of Pets OK B.C., said the province can follow Ontario, where tenants have a default right to have pets.
“It’s nearly impossible to find a place to live just by having a dog or a cat,” Galán told the Georgia Straight in a phone interview.
An online petition by the group states that 75 percent to 97 percent of rentals have no-pet policies. According to Galán, pet restrictions hit low-income renters the hardest. They have to choose between losing a home and giving up their pets.
“I just consider that, you know, unconscionable,” he said.
A. G. Kemp and Associates Inc. is a Victoria-based outfit that provides various services to the rental industry. Company president Al Kemp wrote to the Rental Housing Task Force to suggest that landlords should retain the ability to decide about pets. In his letter, Kemp noted that current legislation provides landlords “flexibility” to “accommodate the needs and desires of all their renters”.
Asked to comment, Kemp explained that forcing landlords to accept pets puts them in an untenable situation, especially when they have several tenants, as some people are extremely allergic to or terrified of animals.
“There are tenants who don’t like animals, and when they go looking for a new place, they want a pet-free building,” Kemp told the Straight by phone. “So there is no difference in wanting a pet-free building or wanting a smoking-free building, in my opinion.”
In 2000, then B.C. NDP Vancouver-Kingsway MLA Glen Clark introduced a member’s bill to ensure tenants could have pets, with some limits. Clark, who had resigned as premier the previous year, stood on the floor of the legislative assembly to say that his measure “ends discrimination against pet owners by landlords”.
“It’s an issue of fairness,” Clark said. “If a pet or owner is not responsible, they can still be evicted. The bill allows landlords to remove pets for end-tenancy agreements if the animal is noisy, aggressive, destructive, or flea-ridden.”
The NDP government of the day didn’t consider Clark’s bill beyond first reading.