Metro Vancouver pet owner demands changes to rental rules

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WATCH: Pet owners can have a tough time finding a place to rent. But as Nadia Stewart reports, one woman is calling on the province to change things – Mar 10, 2016

Finding an apartment in Metro Vancouver is no easy task these days, but finding one that’s pet friendly? Good luck.

For the last several week, Jess Nelson has been trying to find a place to rent for her and her dog, Red. She said she’s gotten nothing but rejection.

“When I mentioned I had a dog, he hung up on me,” said Nelson, describing a recent conversation with a landlord. “He said ‘NO PETS!’ and he hung up and that was sort of my point where I [thought] this is crazy. I don’t think this is fair.”

A quick search on paints the picture: once a prospective tenant sorts listings by pet-friendliness, their options decrease dramatically.

Nelson said she’s having a bit more success finding a pet friendly space in North Vancouver. That city is also the only one in the region where the vacancy rate did not shrink last year. Compare that to Vancouver, where it hovers just below one per cent.

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According to the BC SPCA, 20 per cent of the animals dropped off at their shelter is by owners facing housing related issues.

“There’s been a lot of talk about potentially increasing the pet deposit as well, but I don’t necessarily think that’s fair for tenants either,” said Nelson.

However, landlords say renting to pet owners isn’t an easy decision.

“I agree that everyone has a right to a home. I’m not sure that right extends to including pets,” said David Hutniak, Landlord BC’s CEO.

He said they love animals too, but regardless of how well-behaved a pet is, units have to be maintained – and that often means replacing flooring once the animal moves out.

Hutniak says the cost to a landlord is often greater than the damage deposit paid by the tenant. He’s calling for a conversation, but not a change in legislation.

“We would not want to see some draconian change in regulation, but like I said. We’re not insensitive to this and while there has been some dialogue on this issue, I don’t know that we’ve been engaged by all the stake holders to look for solutions,” said Hutniak.

Nelson rejects the argument that pet ownership is a choice and a lifestyle. She said it’s increasingly becoming a luxury.

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“I don’t really like that argument with regards to this being a lifestyle choice. It definitely is but I don’t think it should be exclusive to one group within society.”

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