Too often I hear of people who are giving up their beloved family pet because the landlord enacted a new no-pet policy, or because they are moving into a rental property that has a no-pet policy. Less often, I also hear from owners who allow cats but require their nails to be trimmed.
Before you agree to a rental policy that costs your family, interrupts your life, and harms your pet, there are a few steps you need to take.
Know your rights
Did you know that, as a tenant, you have certain rights? Each area will have its own set of rules and statutes for tenants and landlords, but don’t just assume that your landlord is following these rules. Make sure you know what your rights are regarding your lease and pets before you have to do anything.
For example, did you know that in Ontario your landlord cannot evict you or force you to dispose of your pet unless it is dangerous, causing excessive noise, damage to the unit, or allergy problems? Even if you signed a lease with a no-pet agreement, you cannot be evicted. The no-pet clauses are considered invalid under the law and the only way you can be evicted for having a pet is if the Landloard and Tenant Board of Ontario determines that the pet meets one of the criteria above. This means that while the landlord may choose not to rent to someone who has pets, Once your rental has started and you have moved in, you cannot be evicted for having pets.
Laws will vary depending on where you are, but don’t be intimidated into disrupting your life or your cat’s life when the law may be on your side. To be informed.
Don’t capitulate, negotiate
If local laws won’t protect you and your pets, then the next step is not to give up and give in, but to negotiate and educate owners.
Most owners who do not allow pets or require cats to have their nails trimmed have these policies because they are concerned about property damage. Noise, allergies, and crowds in common areas like the lobby or front law can also be a factor.
As a responsible pet owner, it is worth trying to educate the owner on why these policies are wrong and unnecessary. If you can provide reasonable alternatives so that your landlord can feel that your interests are sufficiently covered, you may be able to convince them to change their rental policies.
- Acknowledge your concerns. Be courteous and reasonable and let them know that you understand their concerns and respect their desire to maintain a clean and undamaged building.
- Explain the normal behavior of a cat. The people who create the policy may not be familiar with the behavior of cats. Explain that cats can easily be trained to use a scratching post instead of the mat, and that cats instinctively prefer to bury their waste in clean sand rather than deposit it anywhere. Explain that cats do not tend to scratch walls, doors, and trim, and that even an untrained cat is more likely to scratch a tenant’s furniture than to destroy the unit itself. Let them know that you will provide a clean litter box and suitable surfaces for your cat to scratch.
- Let them know that your cats are spayed / neutered. Explain that spaying / neutering eliminates undesirable cat behaviors that may concern them, such as howling, marking of territory with urine and feces, fighting, and attracting stray cats to the area. Let them know that these behaviors are typical of intact animals and that theirs have been corrected.
- Assure them that your cat will be in a carrier or on a leash whenever it is in a public area. Free-running animals can be dangerous and a nuisance. Assure them that they will keep your cat under control at all times.
- Explain what clawing is and that it often results in other undesirable behaviors. Many people do not understand what nail removal is and have no idea that it can result in another, even more undesirable behavior, such as urinating outside the litter box. Make it clear that nail removal is unnecessary and cruel and that if you are concerned about the cat scratching, there are alternatives, such as Softpaws. [http://www.softpaws.com/], which I would be willing to use.
- Provide documentation to support your claims. Provide supporting evidence from reliable sources to back up what you are saying. Best Friends Network offers many great resources for tenants who are required to get their nails removed: http://network.bestfriends.org/celebrateclawsnotdeclaw/news/16849.html. If your landlord requires nail trimming, talk to your vet; They may be able to provide you with a document or letter that supports your stance against claws.
- Offer to pay an additional security deposit. Reassure them that while your cat is trained and you do not expect it to destroy anything, if the cat damages anything in the unit, you will be responsible for repairing or replacing it. Show that you are serious about it by offering to pay a larger security deposit.
- Remind them that a responsible tenant is a responsible tenant, and in the same way, an irresponsible tenant will cause problems even without pets. Your rental agreement should already cover problem tenants, such as those who cause excess noise, disruptions, or property damage.
- Offer to provide recommendations on writing a rental policy that allows pets but protects your building and other tenants. If you can do some of the basic work for them, saving them time and effort, they may be more willing to make changes.
Your last resort
If your landlord is unwilling to listen to you or work with you and insists that you get rid of your pets or remove their claws, then you have a difficult decision to make. It may be time to consider moving into a pet-friendly home, or if that is not feasible, you may need to re-house your pets. I don’t consider trimming your cat’s nails to be an acceptable compromise.
Ideally, you will be able to find a new place that allows pets in your rental agreement. Otherwise, individual-owned properties can provide more flexibility than large rental companies in pet policies; at the very least, you may find it easier to reach out to someone who has the power to make that decision.
If moving is not an option and you must rehouse your pets, do everything in your power to find a new home yourself, rather than leaving your cat in a shelter. All shelters have large numbers of cats and very few adopters, and your cat is at risk of being in a cage for an extended period or being euthanized if it is not adopted quickly. Use all the resources at your disposal: friends and family, community billboards, Freecycle (if your local list allows it), and Craigslist. You will feel much better knowing that your cat is going to a house instead of a cage and you will have a say in the type of house your cat goes to.
Contact your local government body that handles landlord and tenant laws and lobby them to create statutes that protect pet owners without compromising the safety and integrity of landlord properties.
By responsibly owning a pet and proactively promoting understanding through education, we can encourage landlords to set reasonable rental rules and reduce discrimination against pet owners.