A Vancouver Renter’s Plea


We received the following heart wrenching letter on March 22, 2016.

To whom it may concern,

I’m a renter and my family has recently welcomed our second child! We are now a family of 6 – Dad, Mom, Toddler, Baby, Dog & Cat. We rent because we don’t have a down payment for a home that’s big enough for all of us. We need a minimum of 3 bedrooms. We won’t be having anymore children and our cat & dog are our family.

I’m writing this because for the past year we have been searching for a home for the 6 of us to rent in Vancouver. 1 full year of searching. The added stress to my pregnancy was terrible. We needed a bigger home for the humans that had at least 3 bedrooms, of course, but that wasn’t our biggest issue. Our dog is 60 pounds. She is far from a large dog, she’s a medium dog. She’s a mix breed that we rescued from the SPCA because we love dogs and believe a house isn’t a home without pets.

My husband and I grew up with homes full of pets; dogs, cats, hamsters, fish and bunnies. We both agreed that the memories we both had from animals in the home were extremely important to us for our kids. Our dog is wonderful and is my toddlers best friend. The idea of sending our dog back to the SPCA is out of the question. Our dog is our family.

Our cat was rescued from VOKRA years ago and my lap is never cold because our cat takes the job of “snuggler” very seriously. I have cried into our cats fur several times because it looks like we might have to send both our pets back to the very shelters we saved them from.

I’m writing this to you because my family finds itself in a horrible position: we can’t afford to buy a home in this city, but we also can’t rent in this city because not all our family members are welcome. “No pets” has become the normalcy in rentals and this means my toddler will lose his best friend and I will lose my lap warmer. Right now our current home allows all 6 of us, but it’s just too small. We need to grow into a bigger home, except there isn’t one that allows all of us to live in. Something has to give.

In Ontario a landlord has to accept your entire family – including your pets, why doesn’t British Columbia do that for us? We are not loud or messy or irresponsible. And yet, we can’t find anywhere to live in the city my husband and I both grew up in. We are getting to the point that both our dog and cat will be returned to the SPCA and VOKRA. Please help us. Please fix the housing crisis that this city faces. We can afford to live here as renters, we just aren’t all welcome.


A Vancouver Renter

32 thoughts on “A Vancouver Renter’s Plea

    • The problem isn’t that they can refuse you. They simply don’t rent to you. They can have my prospective renters and and totally legally allowed to choose the tenant with no pets, or service animals.

      • This is about property rights, people: you cannot “force” a property owner to rent to someone he/she doesn’t want to rent to, not if the term private property has any meaning. I am a renter and a pet owner myself and I fully sympathize with the situation of pet owners looking for a place to live when they can’t afford to buy a home (and actually there are many condo stratas that don’t allow pets, either, so it isn’t just a renter’s issue). I have been lucky to find an affordable place where I can keep my cat. But we have to be realistic too. Pets can do a shocking amount of damage to a property if owners are not responsible with them. I know a property owner, also an animal lover, whose rental property received tens of thousands of dollars of damage from cat urine seeping into the hardwood floors. Laws can say a landlord must not discriminate against pet owners, but the final decision of who to rent to is still up to them, and if they’ve had one bad experience with pet owners they are not going to risk it again. As pet owners we are never going to have total security until we can purchase our own homes. Considering how much it costs to rent any decent-sized accommodation in Vancouver now, I don’t understand why people with good jobs continue to rent there for year after year, throwing thousands of dollars down the toilet every month…if they really can’t afford to buy a home that’s big enough perhaps they should consider relocating to somewhere more affordable, if they can get an equally good job there, or live in the suburbs and resign themselves to a super-long commute every day, as so many do. Vancouver is the most expensive city to live in in Canada, and that’s not likely to change any time soon. It’s not the city it used to be. I doubt if 3-bedroom apartments even exist in Vancouver, let alone are affordable to buy or rent.

    • Technically emotional support animals aren’t looked at as guide animals. I’ve tried with my dog, but I’m unable to have her live with me currently because there are no laws in place to protect her, and if I was to bring her here, I would become evicted. Even though I have a doctors note, and was told other wise. If it says on the lease no pets unless permitted by landlord, then there is nothing that can be done unfortunately. Even with a doctor’s note.

    • Unless the dog is registered with the Justice Institute of British Columbia, no one has to acceptte ESA status. you require a physician to sign an application indicating that you require an ESA for such and such reason. That was best that NDP could do at this time…

  1. Can we make a petition to change it? I too have two cats and am struggling to find a bigger house to rent because of the no pet ads…

  2. I hear your dilemma and being a landlord, we have always allowed pets. However, EVERY person, family that we have rented to has had damage beyond the damage deposit with the last one leaving without notice or rent for the month of march. So far it has cost us 4 trips to the dump, at least 80 man hours to clean and still no rent for the month of March. All the appliances in the house had doggy do under it and urine on every visible corner and walls. The laminate floors damaged beyond repair. They now need to be replaced. The blinds were chewed beyond repair. Unfortunately it has gotten to the point where we cannot afford to rent to pet owners or, we will need a minimum 1 full month’s rent and require pet references from previous landlords. This person came with personal references regarding the dogs etc but that did not prevent this from happening. There is the reason that landlords have had to move to the “no pets” rules. We are in the North Okanagan and I have heard many people state this exactly.

    • James I am in the same boat. Not as severe as you are descibing but certainly beyond the damage deposit. For me my house is everything and as it becomes more and more expensive with extra taxes, registration fees for legal suites and additional share paid for services there is no amount of money that you can charge to make up fir all of it…renters do not necessarily appreciate all of that…

    • @Val Lodder – first, thank you for being willing to rent to those with pets for so long. I have personal references, business references, pet references and STILL have offered $1,000.00 extra with a NO INTEREST provision for that payment as my ‘pet deposit’. This indicates my confidence in my pets’ behaviour, as well as my own behaviour in being a pet guardian (I have two dogs). Once, because my pet care giver was irresponsible, I had to replace a house’s front door (my german shepherd dug deep grooves into in whilst trying to get outside to relieve herself. She went into the bathroom to do her business, bless her). Other than that, none of my pets have caused damage – so thank you, Val, for being so willing for so long. I am very sad you were taken advantage of.

  3. Animals cause damage and smell. I had a dog and am a renter but I disagree with forcing everyone to allow pets. You are unable to buy a house because of the choices you made in life. The choice to have kids (even having them accidentally is your choice/mistake), choosing to have a dog and cat knowing full well people aren’t always fans of pets. These choices were yours, only you can be held accountable! Trying to force your stinky pets down someone else’ throat who owns a house and made better choices in life is absolutely ridiculous. If you own a house, you make the calls, renters have enough rights as it is. I don’t own a house but will in the future and wouldn’t dare…ever allow someone to try and dictate the rules in my rental suite, outside of the obvious rules which are in place for good reason. You are the problem with society, people who make shit choices in life and expect the world to change it’s rules to match your short-comings, this is insane. The real estate prices in Vancouver and surrounding areas are insane, absolutely insane. This issue needs to be dealt with, I do agree with that. I hope your family find comfortable digs and is healthy and I wish you all the luck in the world. Own your situation, you are there because of the choices you made, people should never have to change for you….

    • This is a horrible reply – have some compassion. The letter is from a family – husband, wife and kids. Had this couple had no children the chances of them being able to afford to buy a place in this city is unlikely. I am a pet owner. I am a responsible pet owner who is upfront when filling out applications for housing and is clean and courteous in the way I keep my apartment. In no way do I accept being labeled as someone who “makes shit choices” or is “the problem with society”. You sir and your negative attitude are the problem. No one is forcing anyone to change. WE are asking for equal rights when it comes to renting. No one is arguing pet deposits, damage bills or the likes. We are asking for somewhere to live that accepts us and our pets. I pay for my housing, clean up after myself and my pet and pride myself on where I live. Why should I be stereotyped? Please rethink your wording next time you comment. Your ignorance is astounding.

      • Yes it is a horrible reply. Obviously that person has no compassion or love in his/her heart. I have 3 bunnies of my own that I rescued and 2that I’m bunny sitting and a cat. Our animals don’t smell. Bunnies don’t smell at all! Maybe they should have some meth heads and drug dealers move into their house and then we’ll see what smells! People are so quick to judge others choices. Who the hell are you to judge? You have no right to judge another’s choices. What a creep!

    • I am a former renter with animals, and not all renters with animals leave the place a disastrous mess. Some people with pets do indeed have higher living standards than others, and to judge all because of the crappy ones is unfair. One of my cats used a door jam as a scratching post, literally had to be replaced, which I told and paid my landlord to fix when I moved out. I feel for this couple..perhaps this couple should look into a townhouse further out of the city where it is more affordable for young families, to build equity, but still keep their beloved pets

    • Your %100 right. Why have a dog when your not fully stable it’s not a fish it’s like a baby with more rules . And why do you need 3 bedroom for 2 young baby’s ?
      Btw I’m sure your toddler will get over it quick
      Sorry for sounding like a dick but your in the wrong.
      Plus clearly your not looking well enough
      Check the pet box on your search on Craigslist there’s loads of pet friendly houses around 🙂 hope that helps

    • Are you kidding me James?who the hell are you to say they made bad choices, you have no clue who they are or what choices they made. Not being able to afford to buy a big enough house in this crazy market in Vancouver does not reflect poorly on them it reflects poorly on our city. Having kids is a choice as is having animals, but who says it’s a poor choice. You have no clue what these people are dealing with in their lives or why they are where they are. My family and I rent a townhouse, we were going to buy but my husband got very sick and has been off work for two years so we can’t afford to buy and even when he goes back to work we are limited because of the crazy price of everything. My point is you have absolutely no right to judge these people and their choices, unless you are perfect, which judging by your message, you are far from perfect

      • I think the point he was trying to make, however crudely, is that people should be responsible for their own choices, and accept that some of the choices they make are going to place limitations on future choices. That’s not judging; it’s just stating reality. I chose not to have kids because as a single person I can’t afford it and didn’t want to depend on welfare, and/or be forced to live in some horrible neighbourhood and try to raise a child there because that was all I could afford. I would love to get a second cat to or a small dog to keep my cat company but I can’t afford that, either. I have lived and worked overseas previously and loved it but I probably can’t do that anymore because I chose to adopt a cat. It’s highly unlikely that I would be able to take her to another country with me and find a place where we could both live there (in many countries in the world, eg. Japan where I lived before, rules against pets in rental accommodation are even more severe than they are here, even if you can manage to import a pet with all the health laws they have in place), and I would not leave her here even if i could find someone willing to look after her for up to a year, which I can’t. But I knew that when I adopted her. I also knew it was going to change my options about where I could live. There are sacrifices involved in choosing to have either children or pets. I wish our world was a kinder and friendlier place so we didn’t have to make such sacrifices when making choices based on love, but it isn’t.

    • “You are unable to buy a house because of the choices you made in life.“ Sounds like your parents made a bad life choice! YOU,

  4. Offer the next land owner a sizeable pet deposit to wave the no pet rule. I think you will find success. If you have well behaved pets you will get your money back. Two months rent paid up front should do it.

    • I simply offered a flat $1,000.00 deposit, and told them that unlike the first and last month’s rent cheque, they didn’t have to work out interest for it when I left, I’d be fine with simply the $1,000.00 back. It proved i was confident in my 2 x dogs, 1 x elderly cat’s behaviour and that I was financially sound. We lived there happily for 4 years. I made the same arrangement with the next two places I rented (16 years and two years), then I was lucky enough to buy into a pet friendly strata. My life wouldn’t be what it is without dogs. They keep me whole.

  5. My husband and I are always looking for new apartment buildings that would take pets! We live in a great place, but only allows cats. I have two cats, but I have always wanted a dog back since mine passed away 5 yrs ago. I saw the other day the apartment buildings on Main Street not far from terminal…they are called Bosa4rent.com. They even do rent to own! They allow pets and seem like a great rental company from what I’ve heard.

  6. i own a townhouse in port coquitlam, they allow pets. i don’t own any pets. but after a dry spell when it rains all you can smell outside is dog pee and we had to hire someone to pick up poop because so many of these dog owners are irresponsible. the dog below me (it is a stacked townhouse) is either barking when a dog or person walks by or howling for an hour if he is left alone. i now understand ‘no dogs allowed’ not every dog owner in the building is a poor pet owner but enough of them are that there should be dog free buildings so that the rest of us don’t have to suffer with lousy pet owners.

    • We’re so lucky in our building; the caring culture has been carefully crafted. Folks that work from home will help with the dogs who’s parents go outside the home to work. Today, I had 3 dogs (one is mine) lounging in the sunshine on my patio. No need for a howling, anxious dog in this building. In 24 suites we have 5 resident dogs, 2 foster dogs, a ferret and I’m not sure how many cats, I’d guess maybe 4. Nobody smells, we are respectful of the families that are afraid of dogs, we try to educate, help and support each other. We’re neighbours. We pick up the crap that’s left behind by others, and the garbage too, because…this is our neighbourhood. We live right across the street from a hospital, so many folks pass through. But we know the regulars. We smile at each other and say good morning because….we are neighbours. This is our community. Sometimes folks need some help, sometimes I need help. Keep giving and passing good things forward. Maybe you could offer to give the dog a pee break, or have a visit with you if they’re scared and anxious. Maybe. i get your point though. If there’s an unhappy dog in the building, I struggle to concentrate on anything – everything else! I get distressed by the neighbours dog, also. But over time, as they learn more and more about living with another species, it seems to get better every day. Good luck!

  7. I have 3 bunnies of my own, 2 I’m bunny sitting and a cat and there is no damage or smell. We take care of our babies. We clean and are proactive to what damage they may cause. We’ve been here for many years and our place is nicer than when we moved in. My bunnies have different areas in the house and bunnies never stink, as one writer said stinky pets! These are my babies and I would never leave them. I’m the momma and that’s how it will stay! And it certainly isn’t our fault that some of us can afford to buy a house in Vancouver. It seems that only certain people are privileged to buy a home here. There are also many people out there that won’t rent to you because you’re Caucasian. That’s what’s happening in Vancouver. People are way too greedy , out for themselves and to take whatever they can. There isn’t much humanity anymore. I wish I could help the family looking for some place to live with all their family! It’s time to get together and speak out and get things changed!

  8. As a landlord, there are always more than enough applicants who don’t have pets. They are making the choice to stay pet free to, in turn, widen their prospects. I think the problem here is most people expect it all. “I am going to have kids and pets and still get to live in the city and find a place I can afford and a place that’s big enough and it will accept all of us.” Nobody gets everything they want. We all make sacrifices. In order to live and work downtown, some people sacrifice having kids. To find a reasonably priced place, some people sacrifice having pets. To have kids, some people sacrifice living in Vancouver. These people maybe aren’t realistic in their expectations or flexible in their demands. We can’t expect an entire system to cater to us so we can keep our dog. It’s selfish. Add to that the flooring I’ve had to rip up because of urine stains and odors and the endless barking day and night. Our building is pet free and quiet!

  9. To all of the people out there that think those with children and pets (or elderly parents, or those who “chose” to go into jobs that don’t pay as well, or got sick-how dare they!) should just move further, or move away entirely. Imagine the city if that were so. An entire city made up of people who work only in high paying business or tech jobs or have private means. A city where jobs like EMTs and food workers, janitors, admin and care providers do not and cannot live. Even the most self righteous need to admit that if we make the city unliveable for those who do the nitty-gritty work and send them a 2 hour commute away they might just work where they live and “choose” to not commute in to make your latte or input your data. There are coffee shops and hospitals in Surrey and Maple Ridge too. All of the “nice” things that come along with Vancouver (like those fairly clean beaches) are staffed by people who “choose” to not make as much money as your house-buying self. We need these people and their work. They make the city run, so that you can carry out your high paying job without worrying about garbage or filing papers or muggings. And if we’re being really selfish, we need their children as future taxpayers, job providers, and care providers. If you have no children, it will be other people’s children taking care of you in your old age. If you don’t like the idea of creating and maintaining a society where all these types of useful people can live it should probably be you who moves- out of Canada.

  10. I think the only thing is to move. Things are changing here in Kelowna, BC. They are building apartments that are rented not bought AND they allow pets!!! Check it out. http://www.missionflats.ca. I am very lucky to have moved in this month (BRAND NEW) and I have 2 kitties. Get out of Vancouver and move to somewhere that allows you to live the life you want.

  11. As a renter with profoundly severe allergies who nonetheless loves animals, I can tell you it is also often difficult to find a rental that hasn’t allowed pets, even it they advertise that pets are not allowed. It’s always frustrating when I ask the question about how strict a landlord’s pet policy is, and I get the response, “What do you have?” So many people will sneak in a cat and then someone like me can’t rent that place until it’s been pet-free a year. Cats in the building? I am so sensitive, it would be problematic to live in the building even if my apartment were pet-free. I might consider a pet-free floor, provided air was not circulated from the pet floor. I would never be able to launder my clothes in machines that frequently had clothes in them with cat protein (hair, dander, saliva) on them. If I were a landlord, I could not allow furry pets in my home or I would be ill all of the time. Allergy shots and antihistamines only do so much for me, and I shouldn’t be forced to take them anyways. While I might be a severe case, even moderate cases are of concern. But I still believe there is a compromise and that some commercial rental buildings ought to allow pets, without enforcing that on everyone. I think there are ways to allow for people to have pets in rental buildings without creating another health (and rights) issue for those with allergies and/or landlords who do not wish to have pets in their building.

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