Pets and tenant rights – changes are needed!

March is a month when many tenants must decide whether or not they will renew their lease. If you decide to move and you have a pet, it is important to make sure that you can take your best friend with you. Unfortunately, many pet owners abandon their companion when moving because they have difficulty finding a new apartment that accepts animals.

This mainly affects low-income families, who face more limited housing choices. The situation is devastating, not only for the families but also for the animals themselves. The SPCA hopes that raising collective awareness will help bring the much-needed changes.

The problem is primarily due to the absence of legislation in Quebec regarding the presence of animals in rental units. By contrast, in Ontario, any lease clause “forbidding the presence of animals in the residential complex or its immediate vicinity” is considered null and void by the 2006 Residential Tenancies Act.

As the Quebec Civil Code is silent on this subject, only the lease will inform you on the right or interdiction of having a pet in your home, with a few exceptions (animals who assist persons with disabilities or who are therapeutic aids). To avoid any unpleasant surprises, be sure to also check the building regulations, as they may prohibit the possession of animals. These internal rules are part of the lease and the landlord is required to give a copy to the tenant before the lease is signed.

If there is no provision or prohibition contained in the lease or in the building regulations, the owner cannot prevent the presence of your animals unless he can demonstrate that your pet is disturbing the neighbors or causing damage in the apartment or the building. Regardless of the situation, and whether you have a clause or not in your lease, your landlord can never force you himself to get rid of your pet. He must always go through the Régie du logement.

Suggestions to facilitate your search for an apartment

  • Plan your search in advance: Don’t wait until the last minute to begin your search. Start looking for a pet-friendly unit as soon as possible – preferably six months before your planned moving date.
  • Provide references: One or more letters from previous landlords are the best references for you and your pet. They can testify that you are responsible and that your pet is well behaved and didn’t create any problems. You can also ask your vet to write you a reference letter.
  • Present your pet: When visiting apartments, bring photos of your pet and your current home to show the landlord that your companion didn’t cause any damages. You can also ask him if he wants to meet your pet. This can be beneficial, especially for dogs, to demonstrate that yours is calm and well behaved. If you have completed courses in dog training with your pet, you can also show the landlord the certificate of completion.
  • Talk beforehand: If you have pets, we recommend that you speak with your landlord before signing the lease to avoid future problems. If the landlord accepts your pet, ask that he specifically adds this to your lease in writing.
  • Be flexible: Visit several neighborhoods, places and different types of properties. This will improve your chances of finding a suitable place to live with your pet. The less restrictive your are in your requirements (other than being pet friendly), the easier it will be to find a new apartment.

If you already live in an apartment that accepts pets, before deciding to move, examine all possibilities and make sure you absolutely need to leave. It is not always simple to find another one that will welcome your companion.

Tenants’ responsibilities

Each owner is responsible for the actions of their pets and the damage they cause. The right to keep an animal must not cause trouble to your neighbors, such as: noxious odors, unreasonable noise such as constant barking or meowing, or unsanitary conditions such as build up of fecal matter or urine, or damage to your apartment or your neighbors’ unit, etc. With or without a pet, the tenant obligations remain the same, including:

  • Keep the property clean and in good condition
  • Comply with the municipal by-laws regarding pets and salubrity of the premises
  • Behave in a manner that doesn’t disturb the normal enjoyment of other tenants or the landlord
  • At the end of the lease, must return the unit to the landlord in the same condition in which the tenant received it

How you can help

“We believe that the law should not penalize pet owners, but should instead focus on responsible ownership. As the vast majority of pet owners are acting in a civilized and respectful manner, it’s inconceivable that they can be deprived of the ability to keep their animal, even if he is not causing any nuisances and is being properly cared for,” said Alanna Devine, Director of Animal Advocacy for Montreal’s SPCA. “The clause forbidding pets is unfair and discriminatory, and we believe that the provincial legislator should take action quickly in this matter, in an effort to create a balance between the rights of landlords and tenants.”

Landlords who don’t accept the presence of animals in their rental housing are the cause of a large number of abandonments. During moving day season, the number of animal abandonment at the Montreal SPCA almost triples, jumping from about 600 to 1,600 per month. Please make sure that:

  • You follow our “Keep Families Together” Campaign and take action by clicking here.
  • If you are forced to move for financial or other reasons and are having difficulty finding pet-friendly housing, please send us your story by email at:

Here are a few helpful links

  • Click here for the Régie du logement website.
  • Click here to view Jean Turgeon, Esq’s text (Faculty of Law – Université Laval) in which you will find more information regarding your rights and recourses in reference to pet ownership (house, condo or rental unit) – text available in French only.
  • Click here for the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about this issue and our “Keeping families together” Campaign.


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