Monday, 27 January 2014

Pets and Apartments: Are they a good idea in an apartment?

Pets and Apartments: Things to Consider Before Adopting a New Friend
The article below is being "guest blogged" by my assistant Heather C..  Heather, like all good assistants is invaluable.  Several years ago Heather was a student of mine in a Landlord and Tenant law course that I was teaching.  Through that experience and of course her own background, she has developed a keen interest in this area of law and the processes to follow.  Her administrative experience in all things Landlord and Tenant has allowed her the opportunity to guest lecture in my courses and she has recently begun an important position on a board of directors with a non-profit housing provider.  Her experience and insights in landlord and tenant law gives her opinion an interesting perspective that I value.  For topics associated with this blog I have invited Heather to write on issues of general interest and I hope she does so often.  Thank you Heather!  Michael K. E. Thiele

A month after moving in to our current apartment, my husband and I brought home our first pet. His name was Raxacoricofallapatorius (Rax for short) and he was a very cleaver little ferret. Two days in to pet ownership, we realized that having a pet in an apartment can present a unique set of challenges. For example, our apartment was going to sprayed for bedbugs and we needed to have Rax out of the unit for a whole day, Rax loved to play in the kitchen cupboards but they weren’t safe

Mustela putorius furo

and we had to install latches on all the drawers to discourage him from playing (which marked the doors), his litter had a real odour which was very noticeable in the small space so we had to try a few different brands and types of litter all of which we didn’t anticipate before bringing our little furry home. Owning a pet while living in a rented space can be very difficult sometimes, so I thought I would write a blog about some things to consider before deciding if a pet is a good fit for your current and future rental home.

I think the first thing to consider when deciding on a new pet in a rental situation is does your unit allow animals. Now there is a well known section (Section 14) of the Residential Tenancies Act (‘RTA’) which is the main legislation that deals with residential tenancies in Ontario, which states a ‘No Pets Provision’ of a lease is void. This essentially means that if there is a no-pets provision in your lease, it can’t automatically be enforced. So if your unit is covered by the RTA, you should be allowed a pet once you’ve started a tenancy. However, if you’re considering moving or starting a new tenancy a landlord can refuse to rent to you because you own an animal.

So once you’ve figured out that you’re okay to bring home a furry companion, you should consider the right type of pet for your living situation. This has more to do with your lifestyle and the type of unit that you live in. If you want an animal that has a lot of energy, like a dog, consider the amount of space you have for them to run and play, the amount of time that you are going to be able to spend with them, how much noise they can make and how easily that noise can travel to other units, if you’re in a multiplex, how difficult it is going to be to accommodate a bathroom schedule and how difficult potty training may be.  Although section 14 of the RTA states a no-pets policy is void, section 76 provides a list of three criteria a landlord could use to evict a tenant based on the actions of their pet.

The criteria are 1) The pet has substantially interfered with the reasonable enjoyment of the complex 2)  The animal has caused a serious allergic reaction for another resident and or the landlord and 3) The animal is deemed to be inherently dangerous.

The first criteria is very broad, this could be anything from a pet making noise (especially when left alone), damaging the rental unit (for example by chewing carpet, frequent accidents that effect flooring etc.), not pooper scooping or like the case could have been with Rax- the strong odour of his litter box and having to make changes to the fixtures in the unit (the cupboard doors). Thankfully for us, we were able to find a litter that worked well so with regular changing there were no complaints about the smell and we were able to avoid any issues with our landlord. Other issues and behaviours in individual animals are a lot harder to solve and some like your pet causing a neighbor to have a severe allergic reaction, you have absolutely no control over. In some situations, like with serious allergies, you must be prepared to either find a new home for you or your pet if things don’t work out.

Further it’s always a good idea to check with your city’s by-law department about their animal by-laws. By-laws often limit the number of pets per household, prohibit certain animals or breeds (for examples certain snakes and breed specific dogs like pit bulls) and require pet owners usually to register their animals with the city. Checking the by-laws will help you understand the types of pets to avoid and certain breeds that may be consider dangerous without any act having to be committed by the individual animal. Complying with all of your city’s animal by-laws is a must.

Also taking a look at your renter’s insurance policy, to see if there is a provision about coverage for any animal attacks or injury caused by your furry friend would be a good idea. Having a policy in place that provides coverage for any type of injury caused by your pet gives the landlord some confidence that they will not be held responsible for the actions of your animal and may prove to be a good bargaining chip, should an issue ever arise.

Although there no guarantees about a how pet will be behave or how someone may react to an animal, a thoughtful and careful review of your lifestyle and current living arrangements will help to pave the way to a smoother transition when bringing a new pet into your rental home. Do lots of research on the type of animal, breed and temperament of any pet before deciding on one and brining them home. Try your best to think of all the little things that a new pet can get into and come up realistic ideas on how to deal with the issues the might arise when training a new pet, this will go a long way if an issue should arise. Most of all be prepared to love whoever/ whatever you bring home and provide the best possible home for them.

1 comment:

  1. Very well written; Heather. I wished more people would be considered about their neighbour's as you do. Keep up the great work.



Any answers provided are intended to reflect the Law of Ontario, Canada. The answers are not legal advice and no one should rely on the answers provided as legal advice. The answers are intended to be general information about Ontario Law and are the personal view of the author based on the limited facts provided to the author. The answers may not be legally accurate and may indeed be contrary to the law of Ontario. Answers and conclusions drawn may have been different if facts had been shared that have not been disclosed in the comment/question. This blog is intended to assist people in learning about Ontario Landlord and Tenant Law. However, if you have actual legal problems this blog should under no circumstances replace proper legal advice obtained by retaining a lawyer or licensed paralegal to advise you. Nothing in this blog, comments submitted or answers provided, gives rise to a solicitor and client relationship. Comments are published as submitted and commenters should be aware that if they identify themselves in a comment that their identity will become public upon the comment being published. Comments that have been published may be deleted upon request to the author.

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About Michael Thiele

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Ottawa lawyer and partner at Quinn Thiele Mineault Grodzki LLP.  Graduate of Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario.  Called to the bar in Ontario in 1997.  Undergraduate degree at Colby College, Waterville Maine, U.S.A.