Ten days ago, Dan Waters dressed his dog up as a duck and posted a photo in an ad on Craigslist in hopes of attracting a new landlord in Kitsilano.
The ad was part of his search for a new home for him and his 50-pound dog, Phoebe.
Waters’ unusual stunt is the result of an unpleasant fact of life for Vancouver pet owners, especially owners of large dogs. Pet owners have fewer options, with only 13% of apartment listings allowing big dogs. Even when people find a landlord willing to rent to them, it will be costly. An analysis of recent Kitsilano apartment listings showed that any units allowing pets cost an average of $220 more than the rest.
Waters is planning to move to Kitsilano from his home in Langley in May, but he is already frustrated that so few apartments allow dogs.
“It sucks because there’s a lot of places that look great, and then the last thing you notice is ‘no dogs’. It’s like, ‘Damn that would have been perfect for me.’”
The cost of your furry companion
Owning a pet can be pricey, when you take food, veterinary bills, and grooming services into account. Having to pay extra for an apartment adds to this cost.
Amy Morris, the policy and outreach officer for BCSPCA, is familiar with pet housing issues, especially in a highly desirable area like Kitsilano.
“If you have money, even if you’re a renter in Vancouver, you will be able to find pet friendly housing” says Morris.
However, many people don’t have an extra $200 per month, and can’t afford these extra costs. In 2012, 1,562 pets were surrendered to the BCSPCA because of housing issues, like increased rents and evictions. Of these, 224 pets were big dogs, like Phoebe.
No puppy love from Vancouver
Pet rentals are more of an issue in a city like Vancouver, where 36 per cent of residents own one or more dogs.
There are services that specialize in helping pet owners find homes in Vancouver, such as PetRentals.com run by Janelle Laycock.
“Out of all of the cities I’ve been doing this in, Vancouver is the least pet-friendly city.”
Laycock is a landlord herself. Even though she loves dogs, she hasn’t always allowed pets in her own rentals. The reason? New carpets.
“If you have carpets in your place, all it takes is the dog to go to the bathroom once, and it’ll cost $3,000.”
Now that her carpets are no longer brand new, Laycock is allowing pets in her rentals.
Realtors in the city are well aware of the concerns of landlords over pets.
“Some people don’t want pets regardless because of potential damage to the property,” said realtor Peter Coppard.
Tenant associations are caught in the middle, trying to balance the interest of residents with pets and those without.
One loud dog can be infuriating for everyone else in an apartment building.
“It could be the aging senior with 15 cats, or the man with pit bulls,” said Tom Durning, of the Tenants Resource and Advisory Centre.
“All it takes is one irresponsible pet owner and the whole building is gone.”
Pets in rentals is a provincial decision
In June, 2013, Vancouver approved a motion to support renters with pets.
Unfortunately for Vancouver pet owners, it’s up to the province to implement a pet policy.
Regulations on pet rentals vary from province to province.
Unlike B.C., Ontario requires landlords to allow renters to have pets. The law is meant to prevent discrimination against pet owners in the province.
The Ontario Residential Tenancies Act states that, “A provision in a tenancy agreement prohibiting the presence of animals in or about the residential complex is void.”
But there are loopholes for landlords who wish to keep pet owners out.
Landlords can ban all pets if there is one tenant in the building who is allergic to them. They can also ban pets if they cause problems for tenants.
“Not an option to part with her”
Waters has received a few replies from the Craigslist ad with Phoebe dressed up as a duck.
But he is still looking for the perfect new home, trying to convince skeptical landlords that his dog won’t be a nuisance.
“No matter how well-trained your dog is, people pretty much assume that it’s going to pee on the floor,” says Waters. “I think that in general, it might just be easier for a landlord to say ‘no pets’ than to deal with the possible things that can happen.”
“If it ends up me needing to live somewhere that I don’t necessarily want to, that’s kind of the route that I’ll take. But it’s definitely not an option to part with her.”
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