There are many BC communities where the rental market is competitive and demand exceeds supply. If you don’t fit the profile of a “desirable” tenant, it can be a struggle to find a good, affordable housing option.

Landlords often see pet owners as being less desirable tenants because of concerns about damage, odor, noise, safety, or conflicts with other tenants. Even cat owners are at a disadvantage, let alone applicants who have a larger breed dog with a conflicted reputation.

The SPCA has an excellent and useful tool kit on pets and rentals, including a sample letter to landlords, a template for a “pet resume,” and several FAQs on the topic.

A few additional thoughts on the topic of pets and renting, especially when the breed of dog might be a consideration:

  • Be realistic. If you live in a tight rental market and have your eye on a flashy downtown loft, you may have to revise your expectations. When there are multiple applicants, the landlord is often going to choose the pet-free option to avoid the risk and perceived hassle of renting to pet owners. Unless you have a generous housing budget, it might be worth focusing your time and energy on less in-demand properties.

  • Enlist friends and family to put the word out for you. Create an online profile or classifieds ad for easy sharing that showcases you and your pet as great tenants. Post in dog-related groups – maybe even offer a gift card or a donation to an animal-related charity if someone provides you with a successful referral!

  • Put some money aside. You may have to offer a pet deposit or be open to higher rental rates in order to be competitive.

  • Consider private rentals or suites. A condo or apartment building with a blanket pet policy isn’t going to change their rules for one renter, but an owner renting out their own suite may be open to negotiation.

  • Personally check any laws that might apply to you. If the landlord lives in a multi-unit building, insist that you personally review any bylaws or rules that are in place. Do not rely on the landlord’s personal “okay” for your pet or their understanding of which pet restrictions apply. Don’t assume that because other dogs live in the building, yours will be permitted – some residents may have private arrangements or have been “grandfathered.”

  • Create a file for your pet. The SPCA toolkit has a template for a “pet resume” and reference form. Ask your vet, trainer, dog walker, former landlord or anyone else in a position of respectability who can vouch for your dog’s good citizenship to fill out the form or provide a short letter of reference.

  • If the breed of dog might be an issue, think carefully about how you want to broach the topic. On one hand, you may not want to brand yourself as a “pit bull” owner in the initial introduction, giving any prejudices the chance to rear their heads before any real conversations start. Many dog owners have rescued or mixed-breed dogs and can’t even say with certainty what their dog is or isn’t.

    On the other hand, if a landlord has a strong reaction to the breed (or perceived breed) of your dog, there is no point in wasting anyone’s time or causing conflicts down the road by being evasive. You may want to talk about general pet policies and describe your dog’s individual temperament before asking the landlord if he has any breed, size or other restrictions that might affect your pet.

    Even if your landlord seems easygoing, do not dodge any potential breed issues. Your landlord could meet your dog and love him, but change his tune if a neighbour starts complaining about your “pit bull” and he feels deceived. It is best to have a clear conversation from the outset.

  • Similarly, if your dog has behaviour challenges, don’t be deceptive. For example, if you know your dog is a barker, don’t tell the landlord she’s quiet and mellow. Once again, this is a fine balance – you don’t want to belabour a topic that might not be an issue, but you also don’t want to oversell yourself and risk bad feelings or eviction down the road. You may want to emphasize things like your established relationship and past successes with a trainer, and let the landlord know you will be receptive to any feedback she/he or any neighbours have to ensure that your dog is seen as a good neighbour.

  • If the landlord has reservations about your breed of dog, but is open-minded, this is where your pet resume and references can come in handy. The SPCA also has a tool kit for property owners/managers:

  • If you move into a rental property and any pet-related conflicts arise, or you are presented with any new pet restrictions, call the Residential Tenancy Branch to clarify your rights and obligations as a tenant.