Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ): Campaign against No-Pet Clauses

1. If landlords can no longer prohibit pets, how can they protect themselves against possible damage caused by pets?
Irrespective of whether a housing unit allows or prohibits pets, the tenant who resides in it is legally obligated to maintain it in good and clean condition. Indeed, upon termination of the lease, the tenant must leave the property in the condition in which it was received, with the exception of changes resulting from normal aging or wear. If the tenant fails to do so, the landlord may institute proceedings against the tenant and obtain compensation for the damaged property. Whether the damage to the property was caused by a pet or anything else, the tenant is liable. This state of affairs would not change if no-pet clauses were rendered null and void: tenants would still have the obligation to maintain their housing unit in good state and landlords would have the same recourse they currently have in cases where tenants fail to do so.

 2. What if other tenants are disturbed by noise or odors caused by pets – what is their recourse?
When living in society, particularly in densely populated urban areas, it is normal to experience a certain level of noise and odors. In fact, the Quebec Civil Code requires us to tolerate normal neighborhood annoyances. However, if the nuisance exceeds what is considered normal or tolerable, the law provides a recourse: any person who is experiencing excessive neighborhood annoyances can go to court to obtain an order for the disturbance to stop and may also claim damages as compensation for the inconvenience suffered. Similarly, municipal by-laws require citizens to ensure their pets do not disturb the peace and quiet of other persons, and therefore a tenant experiencing excessive disturbances due to another tenant’s pet can ask the city to intervene. As for odors, tenants are required by law to maintain their housing units in clean and good condition, and must also abide by municipal bylaws concerning cleanliness.

3. Even if the law already protects landlords and other tenants from any potential damage or disturbance caused by a pet, doesn’t the presence of a pet increase the risk of damage or disturbance?
As explained above, the law already protects landlords and other tenants from any potential damage or disturbance caused by a pet. Thus, it is difficult to justify a complete prohibition on pets based on hypotheticals. Prohibiting pets in a rental unit on the basis of hypothetical scenarios would be like prohibiting tenants from lighting candles in their apartment because there is a risk of setting a fire, or refusing to rent a housing unit to a couple with a newborn baby out of fear that the baby’s crying will create a nuisance. Everything hinges on the pet’s behavior and the ability of the pet’s owner to act in a responsible manner. If the pet does not cause any damage or disturbance, there should be no issue. If the pet does cause damage or disturbance, then the law already provides remedies.

4. What if the landlord or another tenant is allergic to pets?
It is important to note that only in the case of very severe allergies will the mere presence of a pet in one housing unit trigger an allergic reaction in someone residing in a separate unit. It would be reasonable, however, to provide for such cases in the law, were Quebec to do away with no-pet clauses. In Ontario, where no-pet clauses are null and void, a landlord may nonetheless evict a tenant based on the presence of an animal if the Landlord and Tenant Board is satisfied that the animal in question is, in fact, causing the landlord or another tenant to suffer a serious allergic reaction. Likewise a landlord can refuse to rent to a tenant based on the fact that he or she has a pet if the landlord can demonstrate that the presence of this pet would cause serious allergic reactions to someone residing in a separate unit. The SPCA would be favorable to the adoption of a similar exception in Quebec.

5. If a landlord doesn’t like animals and doesn’t want them in his or her building, isn’t it his or her right to prohibit pets?
Whether a landlord likes animals or not is a personal preference. It would be difficult to justify imposing such a personal preference on others, including one’s tenants, particularly in the context of housing, which is a basic human need. Would it be acceptable for a landlord who doesn’t like a certain type of music to prohibit his or her tenants from playing such music at reasonable hours and noise levels?  Probably not, as this would amount to an unreasonable and completely arbitrary interference in the tenant’s private affairs. Similarly, dislike of animals alone – in the absence of damage or disturbance – is not a valid reason to deny people housing or dictate how they should live their lives.

6. Many people have pets in housing units that do not permit animals… so what’s the problem?
It is true that many people have pets regardless of the no-pet clause in their lease. However, these pet owners constantly live under the threat of being forced to part with their animal or move, if their landlord finds out they have a pet and decides to enforce the no-pet clause against them. If the pet owner refuses to comply, it is an uphill battle, as the Régie du logement has a long history of upholding no-pet clauses, even in cases where the pet has caused no damage or disturbance. In some cases, no-pet clauses are used as leverage by unscrupulous landlords, who will threaten to enforce the clause against pet owners who demand necessary repairs or renovations, for example. Responsible pet owners whose animals don’t cause any damage or disturbance shouldn’t have to live under such constant threat of losing their home or being forced to part with their pet.

7. Why can’t people who have pets simply choose housing units that allow them?
Because only a very small minority of landlords permit pets (for instance, in 2015, according to the Corporation des propriétaires immobiliers du Québec, only 4,2% allow dogs), it can be extremely difficult for pet owners to find rental housing. For low-income individuals, who have significantly fewer options open to them, the difficulty is even greater. Unlike other types of contracts, which arise from a negotiation between both parties, the typical residential lease is what is known as a contract of adhesion: a contract in which the most powerful party imposes its conditions on the weaker party, without any negotiation taking place.  The extremely low vacancy rates seen in large urban centers, such as Montreal, essentially allow landlords to dictate the conditions of the lease and offer it on a take-it-or-leave-it basis, knowing full well that if the first potential tenant refuses, another more amenable tenant will come along. Thus, pet owners are unlikely to be able to negotiate leaving the no-pet clause out of the lease, even if their animals are well-behaved. This situation is unfair, especially given that housing is a basic human need.

8. Isn’t the real problem irresponsible pet owners – after all, they are the ones getting pets and then abandoning them?
Unfortunately, we at the Montreal SPCA are all too familiar with the problem or irresponsible pet owners who acquire an animal on a whim, without realizing it is a serious commitment, and then dump the animal when they grow tired of taking care of it. These people do exist and are serious contributors to the sky-high pet abandonment rate in this province. However, we also come across a fair share of heartbreaking situations in which responsible pet owners, who love their animals dearly and take great care of them, are forced to part with their pets simply because, try as they might, they simply cannot find pet-friendly housing at a price they can afford. Given that there are already so many homeless pets in Quebec, it is mind-boggling that good owners who desperately want to keep their pets are forced to abandon them.

9. What is the position of other provinces or countries on this issue?
France, Belgium, and Ontario have all judged no-pet clauses in residential leases to be unreasonable, abusive, and contrary to public order, and have consequently declared them null and void. In Belgium, this came about following a court’s finding that no-pet clauses infringe tenants’ fundamental rights to privacy and to inviolability of the home.

 

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