Condos and Pets in Ontario
You may be surprised to know that Ontario landlords aren’t allowed to ban tenants from having pets. While it’s common for landlords to put clauses into rental leases that prevent tenants from acquiring or keeping furry friends, these clauses aren’t binding, which means it may not be legally sound to refuse to rent to pet owners.
However, a condo declaration may prohibit pets. If you’re new to condo conventions, a declaration is a document that states all the rules and regulations that those who live in a condo building must follow.
Changing the terms in a declaration is usually tricky and involves the support of a large majority of owners in the building. Provisions in the condo declaration should also outline the use of security deposits, such as whether the landlord will use it to cover pet damages to the rental unit.
If a condo declaration prohibits the presence of pets in the building, landlords are within their rights to refuse to rent to a tenant with pets. There are other protections for landlords, too. For example, if a landlord is allergic to a pet, they may be able to evict a tenant. If an animal is aggressive and threatening to a landlord, eviction may follow as well.
There’s a famous saying that most disputes in condo buildings arise from either people, parking, or pets. Pets are a touchy subject between landlords and tenants because they can be disruptive, but they are also usually loving creatures that bring their owners joy.
This guide will provide an overview of when landlords may place restrictions on pet ownership in Ontario condos, as well as what a landlord may do with a security deposit of a pet-owning tenant. Remember that while reading this guide is a great starting point, this isn’t a legal document and shouldn’t be relied on as such. Consult the Ontario Condominium Act and the Residential Tenancies Act for more help.
Here are the answers to some common question about pets in condos.
Question #1: What kind of pet restrictions are permitted?
According to Ontario’s Residential Tenancies Act, landlords can’t insert clauses that outright ban pets from buildings. As mentioned earlier, condo owners can get around this by having pet banning provisions written into a condo declaration itself.
Other sources of condo legislation include by-laws and rules, which may be easier to modify than the declaration. Remember that these types of terms will apply equally to all tenants, and may not be applied selectively. You can’t refuse to rent to a tenant with a particular pet based on personal affinity.
While the outright ban of pets in condo declarations is not typical, there are usually some restrictions put on the size and breed. Pets are allowed, conditionally, in most condos.
For instance, it’s common to stipulate that tenants may not have more than two pets, or pets larger than the size of a large dog. These kinds of restrictions are usually based on common sense, to prevent livestock in units, for example.
Question #2: Can pet behaviour be restricted?
It’s common for documents that outline condo regulations to include terms about how pets can behave in a rental unit. A loud dog that barks through the night could affect the sleep of other tenants, leading to a decreased standard of living for multiple tenants.
An intimidating dog in common areas could make tenants feel unsafe.
It’s important to take action if pets are violating the rules. If you don’t enforce violations in a way that is consistent, tenants can become used to terms not being enforced, which can lead to rulings in their favour.
You should ensure that the same standards apply to all of your tenants and try to avoid making special exceptions that can lead to grey areas.
Question #3: Can pet deposits be charged?
Alongside security deposits, it’s fairly common for landlords to charge a pet deposit to protect themselves from pet-related damages to a rental unit. These security deposits may be either refundable or non-refundable and are often a hoop that pet-owning rental applicants must jump through. A pet deposit is typically issued on top of security deposits as further protection against damages to a rental unit.
However, it may surprise you to know that pet deposits and pet rent are not permitted in Ontario, though some landlords continue to charge them.
Landlords are able to charge one month’s rent in advance as a security deposit, and they can charge a key deposit to protect themselves from locksmith charges. However, tenants have the right to refuse a pet deposit in Ontario.
Question #4: What about service animals?
There are special protections in place for tenants who require service animals, which is why it’s important to ensure you’re familiar both with Ontario’s Condominium Act and the Human Rights Code.
Even if a condo’s declaration prevents dogs of a certain size or breed, they may be permitted if they are a seeing-eye dog and a tenant is visually impaired, for example. If you refuse to rent to a tenant based on the type of service animal they have, you could face legal consequences.
In this case, it’s important for tenants to be upfront and communicative about their disabilities and needs to ensure their pets are allowed. Few Ontario landlords would take issue with a tenant owning a service dog to assist them, but a dispute could emerge if the dog’s role isn’t made clear in advance.
Question #5: How do I enforce the rules?
If a tenant breaks the pet rules in your condo, the pet can be ordered to be removed, either through the court or through a private process. If the dispute is taken to court, the court will evaluate whether there has been a clear violation of the terms of a condo’s declaration.
If a condo’s declaration doesn’t contain terms that have been clearly violated by the tenant in question, the judge could side with the tenant. Rules that prevent all pets are sometimes seen as being draconian. For this reason, it’s important to ensure a clear violation has occurred before taking action.
Beyond the removal of a problem pet, a landlord who takes their tenant to court may also seek to recoup the legal fees involved.
The Bottom Line
One of the keys to being a successful landlord is setting out clear expectations and rules for your tenants to follow. It’s important for these rules to fully adhere to Ontario’s landlord-tenant laws and the Residential Tenancies Act, and for them to be rooted in respect and care for your tenants.
As a general rule, putting pet-related terms into a condo’s declaration is a good way to protect yourself legally if you wish refuse to rent to tenants with pets.
If you’re looking for help managing your Ontario rental property, get in touch with the team at AMR Property Management. We’ve been providing expert property management services for more than two decades, and we can help your rental property thrive.