By: Daniel Frank
There is a lot of confusion when it comes to renting property in Ontario with pets. Many Ontarians believe it is illegal for landlords to discriminate against pet owners and that landlords cannot reject potential tenants for their pets. This is incorrect.
Landlords have the right to reject tenants if they suspect they will move in with pets. Landlords are free to screen and investigate whether or not their prospective tenants have pets. However, once a landlord accepts a tenant, in spite of any verbal agreements or contract stipulations, landlords cannot evict tenants for pet ownership under most circumstances.
As stated in section 14 of the Residential Tenancies Act "A provision in a tenancy agreement prohibiting the presence of animals in or about the residential complex is void." This means once a tenant signs a contract with a landlord, despite any provisions that limit pet ownership or promises made to the landlord, a landlord is powerless to enforce any provisions regarding pet ownership.
However, this right is limited and certain conditions exist where landlords possess the right to evict tenants with troublesome pets. If a pet is dangerous, disturbs neighbours, or causes damage to property, landlords can evict the tenant.
The most common pet complaint is in regards to allergies. If another tenant suffers severe allergies and is affected by a pet, the owner must find a way to ensure that their fellow tenant is not disturbed, or face the risk of eviction.
In order for a landlord to take action, the landlord first must bring the issue to the attention of the tenant and the tenant has the ability to mitigate the issue. If there is damage done to the property, the tenant can opt to repair the damage. If the animal is disturbing neighbours, the tenant might prevent the animal from being outside and limit its exposure to neighbours, if the animal is upsetting a fellow tenant’s allergies due to fur contaminating the communal laundry machine, the pet owner can do their laundry elsewhere.
Finally, for an eviction to take place, the landlord must obtain an order from the Landlord and Tenants Board of Ontario.
Drewlo Holdings Inc. v. Weber, 2011 ONSC 6407 has made it clear that landlords cannot use other contractual stipulations to harm or force tenants out of their properties due to their pet ownership. In this case, a landlord tried to increase rent for all of the pet owners renting his property, but not for any of the non-pet owners. The Court found that this was interfering with the right to reasonable enjoyment of the property by the tenants and detracted from their ability to lawfully use their property.
What this means is that landlords must be value neutral when it comes to pets. If a pets impairs the enjoyment of other tenants, then the tenant can be penalized. Similarly, if the tenant’s pet is causing damage to the property, the tenant can be sanctioned. If there is no damage, financial or otherwise, the landlord has no grounds to penalize a tenant with pets.
One area where these provisions do not apply is for condominiums. Condominiums in Ontario, as regulated by the Condominium Act, are allowed to pass bylaws that prevent its owners from living with pets. Condominiums are given the right to create their own regulations on safety, welfare and enjoyment of property, which has given them the authority to regulate pet ownership. The regulation must be explicitly stated in the condominium’s declaration. As more and more rental apartments in Toronto are in Condominiums, renters need to be aware that if their rental property has such bylaws, their pets might prohibited from their apartment.
It is important to also note that in Ontario, landlords cannot ask that a tenant provide payment other than first and last months rent. If a landlord requires a security deposit in exchange for consenting to pet ownership, it is illegal and cannot be enforced. If a tenant, however, offers a landlord to pay a security deposit in exchange for allowing them to move in with pets, one cannot renege on this agreement and this provision will be upheld.
Another caveat to this is that most municipalities in Ontario have their own restrictions on the number of pets that can live in any individual home. In Toronto for example, no dwelling can house more than three dogs, or more than six cats.
If you require assistance or would like more information regarding issues like this, please contact Devry Smith Frank LLP and we'd be happy to assist you.