Pets in Rental Housing

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Two weeks ago, you moved into your new apartment with your best friend, Rex, a big German Shepherd. Just as you were getting settled, your landlord knocked on your door to tell you that you have to get rid of your best buddy because he's too loud! But when you signed the lease, your landlord never mentioned that pets weren't allowed. Also, there is nothing in your lease that says you can’t have a pet.

In this article, Éducaloi explains your rights and responsibilities in this area.

What does the law say about animals in rental housing?

The law says nothing about this. The Civil Code of Québec is silent about animals in rental housing. Only your lease and the rules of the building will state whether or not animals are allowed.

  • Your Lease

The landlord can insert a statement in the lease prohibiting all or certain animals. When you sign a lease, it’s up to the landlord to tell you whether or not pets are allowed.

  • Rules of the Building

Many landlords draw up a list of rules that tenants must follow. The landlord must give you a copy of these rules (sometimes called by-laws), because they are considered part of your lease. They will most likely state whether or not pets are allowed in the building. By reading these rules, you can avoid any unpleasant surprises.

Do I have the right to have an animal in my apartment?

It depends on what the lease says.

  • No Restrictions Mentioned
    If the lease or building by-laws do not prohibit animals in the building, then you can have an animal.
  • No Specific Restrictions
    If the lease or building by-laws do not clearly prohibit animals, the landlord cannot forbid you from having a pet.
    For example, if the lease states that dogs are not allowed in the building, you can reasonably conclude that you're allowed to have a cat
  • Clear Restrictions
    If the lease or the building by-laws clearly state that animals are not allowed, then you must obey this rule. Nothing is stopping you, however, from trying to convince your landlord to allow pets. If she won't change her mind, you can take the matter up with the Régie du logement (rental board.)
    But if you do, be aware that it is up to you to prove that the restriction on pets is unreasonable. You should know this kind of restriction is not generally viewed as unreasonable. Even if your pet isn’t causing any damage or noise, the landlord can still insist that you respect the restrictions in the lease.

Are there any exceptions that would let me keep an animal even if the lease says that I can't?

Yes. There is one exception that overrules the lease because it comes from the Charter of human rights and freedoms.

In some cases, a tenant needs to own an animal to help cope with a disability. For example, it would be hard to imagine forcing a blind person to give up a guide dog simply because pets aren’t allowed in the building. As long as accommodating the situation is reasonable, a landlord would have to agree to the tenant having a dog.

What are my obligations if I have an animal?

Your obligations as a pet-owning tenant are the same as those of any other tenant. By law, you have the following obligations:

  • Use Your Apartment Responsibly
    You must use your apartment in an appropriate and reasonable manner. For instance, it may be considered unreasonable, for instance, to share your two-room apartment with twelve cats!
  • Not Change the Use
    This means you cannot turn your backyard into a shelter for dogs or your apartment into a foster home for abandoned animals, for example.
  • Ensure a Peaceful Environment
    This obligation means that you must limit any unwanted contact between your pet and the other tenants. Also, if your dog barks for hours on end when left alone, it probably disturbs the other tenants and prevents them from enjoying the peace and quiet they have a right to expect.
  • Maintain Comfortable and Sanitary Conditions
    This obligation means that you must do a reasonable amount of cleaning in your apartment. So if you have one or more animals, you must keep them clean to avoid any unpleasant smells or other inconveniences.
  • Not Disturb Other Tenants
    This is a matter of common courtesy. If your cat damages a neighbour’s plant, you should either replace it or pay for it.

Can the landlord demand that I get rid of my pet?

Yes. The landlord can ban your pet in two cases:

  1. The lease or building's rules say animals are not allowed in the dwelling.
  2. You don't respect one of your obligations (see the previous question).

In the second case, the landlord can insist that you respect your obligations. For example, she can require that you do the following:

  • keep your cat inside if it has a history of relieving itself in the courtyards
  • take your dog with you when you go out because it barks while you're away
  • keep your cat litter clean to avoid unpleasant odours in the building

The landlord or other tenants can apply to the Régie du logement for an order cancelling your lease if your failure to respect your obligations causes serious damage. This could happen, for example, if your dog is chewing the window frames and scratching the floors, or if your cat is clawing the carpets.

My neighbour’s pet is a major nuisance. What can I do?

You can first try to reach a friendly agreement with your neighbour. If the situation does not improve, you should notify your landlord of the situation.

You can write your landlord a letter describing the problem and insisting that she resolve the situation within a reasonable period of time. If she does not act on your letter or fails to change the situation, you can file a complaint against your landlord with the Régie du logement (rental board).

You can ask the Régie to order the landlord to compensate you for the harm caused to you by the other tenant. Compensation can come in many forms: a reduction in rent, cancellation of the lease, or the payment of damages (money). The landlord might be able to avoid paying damages if she can prove that she acted in a responsible way.

Important !
This article explains in a general way the law that applies in Quebec. This article is not a legal opinion or legal advice. To find out the specific rules for your situation, consult a lawyer or notary.