Pet owners need not apply

Vancouver renters
 face the worst pet discrimination in Canada

Tia Kutschera Fox // Opinions Editor
Illustration by Janice Callangan

It happens almost every time: you’ve found a decent apartment you can afford, in an area near work, and it seems perfect. Then, at the bottom of the Craigslist ad you notice two terrible, familiar words: “no pets”.

When you click on the “cats okay” or “dogs okay” option, rent prices rocket upwards beyond your budget and the options are cut down to a sad handful of spaces for rent. Welcome to Vancouver, the least pet-friendly city in Canada.

Let’s run some numbers. As of 2015, Vancouver’s vacancy rate was 0.8 per cent. To put that into dramatic perspective, the national average was 3.3 per cent. The housing crisis isn’t news to anybody, but something even less talked about is the increasing discrimination pet owners face when trying to find a home for themselves and their fur-babies.

In 2015, Vancouver Magazine took a sample of 600 rentals on Craigslist across Canada’s big cities that had both “cats okay” and “dogs okay” ticked. They found 20 per cent of Calgary listings, 15 per cent of Montreal, eight per cent in Toronto, and just five per cent in Vancouver. It’s become so bad that in 2015 half of the pets the Vancouver SPCA takes in are from owners surrendering their pets, and 45 per cent of these pets were surrendered because of housing-related reasons.

This is a ridiculous amount of discrimination. No landlord can legally post “no children,” and yet children can inflict far more damage to a home than a pet. There are not many stories of dogs scribbling on pristine white walls with indelible markers or burning carpets for example.

While comparing children to pets may seem unfair, more and more people are choosing not to have children due to the expense, and are turning to pets as an alternative. According to a Harris Poll, 95 per cent of pet owners consider their pets to be part of the family. And a Harvard study found correlation between owning pets and lowered stress, cholesterol, and risk of heart disease. So, pets can clearly be important.

Maybe landlords don’t care about the physical and mental well being of their renters, but they should care that on average, pet owners stay 48 months while a non-pet owner stays an average of 18.

Some landlords have learned to take advantage of this statistic, such as Judy Guth, a landlady in California who has a “pets only” policy. That’s right, you can only rent an apartment in her building if you have a pet. Up to two dogs and three cats. Of course, most of her tenants have lived in the building for over a decade so there’s not much luck in renting with her. The only oddity to the situation is that if your pet dies, you have to go adopt another ASAP or else you have to move. Really.

While Guth’s policy is probably way too extreme for most situations, something in between that and the no pets insanity of Vancouver would be ideal. There are landlords in Vancouver who disagree, saying the solution is to build more rentals. While yes, that would certainly help, the problem is that many of these buildings get bought up and then sat on, never to be rented out. Ontario changed their rental laws years ago to be less discriminatory against pet owners, and they have not seen a significant increase in damages or problems with pets since then.

So, Vancouver landlords, throw in that expensive damage deposit (we will pay it), click “cats and dogs okay” and be prepared for some of the happiest, healthiest, and most loyal renters in the city.

 

 

2 Comments
  1. Great story. Perhaps you haven’t heard about the work Pets OK BC is doing on this. We have collected 10,000 signatures on paper, petitioning the province to change the laws. We also have an online petition and nearly 10,000 followers on Facebook. Check us out. Get involved with the community, all across BC, standing up for our rights.

  2. This has gone on long enough. We need to repeal the pets bylaw completely. Landlords have pushed this rule to the nth degree. Eliminate the pet damage deposit as well, we have been paying a damage deposit for years which will suffice and for which we have received not a penny in interest , but landlords still raise the rent every year to the maximum amount allowed.
    Enough!

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