Is your pet keeping you from renting the place you want?

Is your pet keeping you from renting the place you want? Vancouver councillor looks to improve tenants' rights

Vancouver Coun. Tim Stevenson has a pet peeve when it comes to rental housing and landlords.

And this Tuesday, he will table a motion that the city consult the Seniors Advisory Committee, the BC Apartment Owners and Managers Association, and the next Renters’ Roundtable to obtain recommendations to improve tenant's rights when it comes to keeping pets in rental buildings.

Stevenson, who has represented Vancouver’s West End as both a councillor and MLA said he hears horror stories all the time about people with pets who can’t find a place to live.

“Right now it is up to the whim of the landlord if you are allowed a pet,” Stevenson said on Wednesday. “Right now there is nothing to stop a landlord banning pets.”

One of the problems with landlords refusing to allow pets in the rental unit is the number of pets that are abandoned or turned over to the SPCA, adds the colourful politician.

“The SPCA says it has a real problem with abandoned pets,” he said.

And while the Residential Tenancy Act is provincial, Stevenson wants to lobby Victoria for changes to the act to allow for pets in a rental property.

“Many people say it is extremely difficult to find a place that allows pets,” he said. “I’m just trying to find a way to break down the barriers.”

Pet owners, Stevenson feels, are far more responsible these days, and he thinks the provincial statue should change with the times. “The time has come to talk about it at a provincial level and find a pragmatic reasonable solution.”

Amy Spencer, of the Rental Housing Council said the tenancy act was changed in 2004 to better meet the needs of pet owners. The changes allowed for a landlord to get a damage deposit of half the month’s rent, in case the dog chews or destroys some of the property.

“We know most pet owners are responsible pet owners,” she said.

Spencer points out many of Vancouver’s landlords have a rental suite in their house and may not be able to house a pet because of things like allergies. “This is a very personal choice for most landlords,” she said. “Having a pet also depends on the type of building.”

April Fahr of the advocacy group HugABull said they hear stories all the time of dog owners being turned down for a rental unit because of their pooch. “The rental market is so competitive and the landlord will pick and choose whether he wants a pet,”she said. “Vancouver is a hard city to live in if you have an animal.

“I think it is unfortunate that people do face this type of discrimination.”

She has a few suggestions for dog owners who are looking to secure rental housing. “Put together a resume on your pet,” she said. Fahr also advises people to take their dog to meet the landlord.

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