Tenancy Advice - Renting with Pets

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Tenancy Problems - Renting with Pets

Q: My husband and I rent an apartment in BC for the past year. As far as I know we have a "no pet" clause in our lease. However, several people own cats and dogs in the building & they have the same clause. We asked if we could have a small dog that was trained already and were told "no". Is it legal for the landlandy to tell us "no" when other tenants have the same clause and can have dogs for "no medical reasons"?
A: Pets! One of my favorite subjects. Everybody thinks a pet is a cute little puppy, or a cuddly kitten. Others like snakes and reptiles. One lady had a tiger that she performed with in her job as a stripper. I've seen numerous goats, pot bellied pigs, parrots, and quite a few farm animals that were turned into family pets - including one case where 3 full grown horses were living inside a rented farmhouse along with the tenant. (Hey! We're all God's creatures afterall, and besides, how would you like to have to stay outside standing up all night? And at 20 below too?)
My favorite is the full grown caimans (Central American cousins of the crocidile) living with a single male occupant in a two bedroom apartment in the West End of Vancouver. The fellow started out feeding the beasts small rodents and as they grew he had to make regular trips to the Fraser Valley to get chickens, and rabbits, and other small animals that were easy prey for his pals. The tenant kept (keeps cause I think he is still there) the apartment at 84 degrees Celsius because this is the optimum temperature for his pals. He also has a swimming pool arrangement in the living room 'cause the boys like swirling water. So that every body feels like it is a natural environment, there are big rocks in the apartment for the boys to hide behind, (the caiman are predators that eat in a frenzy much like sharks the internet says) and the tenant has added several tropical trees and plants to fill out the décor.
As best as I remember, every Wednesday night it's a food fest for the alligators, who have gained considerable size and weight since the early days. I was informed these fellows were over 8 feet long, but that includes the tail. They graduated from stalking and devouring small rodents a long time ago and now Wednesday nights it is the caimans against the chickens, rabbits, etc. The caimans always win.
The tenant maintained the South American crocs are pets, and were Ok'd by the original landlord. The decision in the case was that the tenant is allowed to keep these big fellows because they are confined to the apartment and the original manager said OK, although it seems pretty clear he didn't know these brutes would get to be 8 feet long. Anyway, the old manager apparently gave the OK. That was close to 20 years ago.
My reading indicates these carnivorous eating machines can live 35 and 40 years in captivity, so our friend has a few more years of quality time to look forward to. Naturally, the tenant doesn't have people over for cards, and dinner is out of the question. In fact, if the tenant gets sick and stops securing a food source for the boys I think there is a good chance the crocs will eat him if push comes to shove.
But your question is what I wanted to answer. So here goes: Yes, it is quite legal to have a 'no pet'clause in a tenancy agreement. What 'no pets'really means though is debatable. Does it mean that goldfish aren't allowed, which would be absurd, and anything that leads to an absurdity isn't enforceable according to the BC Court of Appeal.
The RTO FACT Sheet 112 says that landlords can include terms prohibiting and restricting the size, kind and number of pets a tenant may have. For the clause to be enforceable the landlord must be able to identify the reason for the restriction and how the restriction is necessary to bring about the objective.
If a tenant obtains or keeps a pet despite the restriction, the landlord must first issue the tenant a breach letter, identifying how having a pet is considered a material breach of the tenancy agreement. The landlord must allow a reasonable time for the tenant to remedy the breach, and indicate that failure to remedy will result in the issuance of a notice to end the tenancy.
In your case, if you obtain a pet and the landlord goes through with a breach letter and then a notice, and you dispute it, an Arbitrator could find that the landlord isn't applying the 'no pet'thing equitably because he allows some tenants to have pets and others not. In this case, the landlord would have to persuade an Arbitrator that the restriction is warranted - which goes back to the restriction being necessary to obtain the objective.
If the landlord wants to start enforcing pet restrictions throughout the complex he must give all tenants sufficient notice of the intention to enforce the pet clause. The landlord's actual ability to enforce the clause will depend on various factors including the period of time the clause wasn't enforced, the purpose, etc.
The Act allows an additional and separate deposit of up to one half one month's rent when a pet is introduced into a rental premise. If the landlord asks you for a pet security deposit it is a pretty good clue that he's going to let you have a pet - but get everything in writing to be on the safe side.


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