Pets in Rental Housing

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It’s not always easy to find an apartment when you have a pet. Landlords have the right to prohibit animals from their buildings, apart from some exceptional situations. And even when pets are allowed, some conditions apply.

Important! This article explains your rights and responsibilities when dealing with your landlord. Some municipalities have rules about what animals are forbidden on their territory or how many animals you’re allowed to have. It’s best to check with your municipality before getting a pet.

What does the Civil Code of Québec say about animals in rental housing?

The Civil Code of Québec is silent about this. But your lease and the rules of the building will state whether 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 pets are allowed.

  • Rules of the Building

Some landlords have rules that tenants in the building 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 usually state whether pets are allowed. 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 your lease says.

  • Your Lease or Building Rules Don’t Prohibit Animals

If the lease or building by-laws do not prohibit animals in the building, then you can usually have an animal

  • Your Lease or Building Rules Don’t Prohibit the Kind of Animal You Want

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.

  • Your Lease or Building Rules Prohibit Animals

If the lease or the building by-laws clearly state that animals are not allowed, then you must obey this rule. The landlord can insist that you respect the terms of your lease even if your pet doesn’t cause any harm or even if you’ve had a pet for a long time without complaint by the landlord. But nothing stops you 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.

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

In some cases, a tenant needs to own an animal to help cope with a disability. This is an exception that overrules a lease because it is based on the Charter of human rights and freedoms. A landlord must accept this, unless it causes the landlord a serious problem.

In addition, the Régie has ruled in some cases that a tenant can keep a pet because of its therapeutic benefits.

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.

Use Your Apartment Responsibly

You must use your apartment in an appropriate and reasonable manner. For example, it might be unreasonable to share your two-room apartment with twelve cats even if nothing in your lease or building by-laws prevents it!

Not Change the Use

This means you can’t use your apartment to breed dogs, 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 Harm Other Tenants

This is a matter of common courtesy. For example, 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 do this in two situations:

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

The landlord can insist that you respect your obligations. For example, the landlord can require you to do the following:

  • keep your cat inside if it has a history of using the courtyard as its litter box
  • keep your dog on a leash so it won’t disturb the neighbours
  • clean your cat’s litter box regularly so the smell does not go into other apartments

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

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 the landlord resolve the situation within a reasonable period of time. If the landlord does not act on your letter or fails to change the situation, you can file an application at 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 they can prove they acted in a responsible way.