Pet owners say discriminating landlords distorting vacancy rates

Erika Lagyjanszki is about to make the move from Toronto to Calgary to start her business as a wedding photographer and a new life with her boyfriend.

Looking for a place should have been a breeze for the two given the uptick in vacancy rates in Calgary as of late.

In fact, according to the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corp. (CMHC), in the Calgary CMA, the overall apartment vacancy rate increased year-over-year from 1.4 per cent in April 2014 to 3.2 per cent in April 2015.

“The increase in the vacancy rate was a result of the universe of rental apartments in Calgary rising at a faster pace than demand for rental units,” said Christina Butchart, principal market analyst with CMHC.

“In-migration to the city was lower over the past year, easing growth in the demand for rental apartments. At the same time, the number of rental apartments in the Calgary CMA increased, as almost 900 apartments were added to the rental universe.”

However, despite the variety of living accommodations available, Lagyjanszki found it difficult to find a landlord who would accept her other roommate – a two-year-old husky/collie cross Bailey.

“The landlords at a lot of the places my boyfriend and I looked at said no pets were allowed at all,” she said. “And the ones that did allow pets wanted an extra $500 non-refundable deposit.

Knowing Bailey, paying an extra $500 is unnecessary. She’s not destructive.

“It’s already expensive enough because you have to put down first and last month’s rent.”

A request for an additional pet deposit is not unheard of, said Gerry Baxter, executive director of the Calgary Residential Rental Association. Given the issue of pets is not included in the Residential Tenancies Act, the decision to allow pets is often a contractual agreement between the landlord and the tenant.

“Because it’s a contractual issue between landlords and tenants, it can vary from landlord to landlord,” said Baxter. “There’s no guideline or standard.”

Baxter said many landlords refuse to rent to people with pets because of the damage the animal can incur on their properties. This can include a ban on all pets, not just traditional companions like cats and dogs.

“I knew a landlord who rented to someone who had a pet ghekko that was fed live crickets,” said Baxter. “The crickets escaped and the building had an infestation. It costs thousands of dollars to bring an exterminator in and clean the building.”

While Baxter acknowledges the majority of pet owners are responsible people, it’s the irresponsible ones that make it hard for landlords to trust them.

“We all know there are people who bring in pets and allow them to run the house,” he said. “It’s evident when you go through those houses and the mess you see. We’ve seen basements full of dog excrement and backyards that are destroyed because the owners didn’t clean up after their pet.

“It’s because of these irresponsible pet owners why many landlords won’t allow it. The sad part about this is it makes it really hard for the majority of people who are responsible.”

One of those people being Lagyjanszki.

While her boyfriend is already settled in Calgary, Lagyjanszki is hoping to join him in October. Only thing? The place he is living in now doesn’t allow pets.
Lagyjanszki is hoping a talk with the landlord might convince them to change their mind and policy about pets. If not, she says they’ll have to look for a new place.

“The only option would be to break the lease and try and get a pet-friendly place,” she says. “Giving away the dog is not an option. She’s a part of our family.”