No cats, my ass.
April 9, 2010 7:49 AM   Subscribe

WTF is up with "no cats" clauses in apartment rental ads? Can they really do this?

I'm aware that under the Ontario Tenants Act, no pets clauses in leases are considered void.

I'm searching for an apartment right now, and most ads have "no pets" listed in them, though this cannot be legally enforced (unless the pet is dangerous or poses a health problem for someone else in the building.) But when I've called about ads, people are really insistent on this. Absolutely no cats.

It's getting ridiculous. I have cats, like a huge proportion of people in this city.

What is the best way to about handling this? It feels dishonest and uncomfortable to simply lie by omission, but it seems like I won't be able to find an apartment in my desired area if I even mention cats.

More frustrating: the more expensive places are even stricter about this. I understand they want to protect their (expensive) property, but I also feel like if I'm paying a premium, I should at least be able to have a damn cat.

How do I deal with this? Lie? Argue? Not say anything? What have you done?
posted by Ouisch to Pets & Animals (34 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I don't know what to say, except it's best to respect the wishes of the property owners. It is, after all, their buildings you're looking to inhabit. You and your cats are not entitled to them.
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 7:57 AM on April 9, 2010 [3 favorites]

IANAL. However, as I read that statute, they can't enforce a "no pets" clause in a "tenancy agreement", which I take to be a lease - it says nothing about advertising. If landlords are only able to set up their preferred lease terms during the tenant selection process, then that's where they'll do it.

DO NOT lie, even by omission. You do not want to rent from a landlord where mutual distrust and dislike govern the relationship.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 7:58 AM on April 9, 2010

From here: The Residential Tenancies Act only applies once you've actually signed the lease. A landlord may legally refuse to rent to you if you have pets.
posted by wsp at 7:59 AM on April 9, 2010 [3 favorites]

Don't lie.

The reason the clauses exist is because cats aren't that straightforward. In order to rent to a tenant with a severe cat allergy after you leave with your cats they would have to repaint the entire place, possibly replace carpeting, etc. It's a serious problem.

Not to mention that cat urine can stain hardwood floors, etc.

Honestly, I have sympathy for the renters. They OWN A PLACE. It SHOULD be their prerogative who gets to use it.
posted by kryptonik at 8:01 AM on April 9, 2010 [3 favorites]

This drives me crazy too. The ones I don't get is when they say No Cats, but dogs negotiable. WHAT?
posted by corpse at 8:01 AM on April 9, 2010

Dogs cause less damage than cats. Our three previous apartments are evidence of that. (We own 2 dogs and 2 cats.)
posted by desjardins at 8:08 AM on April 9, 2010

Yeah, don't lie . . . you don't want them to find out later and stick you with some huge fee!
posted by imalaowai at 8:09 AM on April 9, 2010

Uh, really the only way to get around this (unless you search and search and search) is to lie by omission.

In Ontario a landlord can't enforce a no pets provision. Just don't mention the cat, and move them in with you when you take posession.

Landlords try to put all kinds of crap into lease agreements. You can't sign away your statutory rights.

If they were ethical landlords, they'd know the law and wouldn't have it in the lease anyways.
posted by generichuman at 8:11 AM on April 9, 2010

From the excellent Toronto Tentents FAQ resource:
Under the RTA, even if you sign a lease that states no pets are allowed, you can still have a pet. Section 14 of the RTA specifically voids all "no pets" clauses in a lease. You can only be evicted for having a pet if your pet is disturbing other tenants or the landlord, or is considered a dangerous breed.
posted by generichuman at 8:14 AM on April 9, 2010

Here in NYC, we offer money (by way of pet deposit or a "subsidy") if a landlord says "no cats." Doesn't work every time, but works enough times.
posted by Pineapplicious at 8:15 AM on April 9, 2010

If they were ethical landlords, they'd know the law and wouldn't have it in the lease anyways.

You seem to have missed the preceding discussion. This isn't about leases, it is about soliciting tenants.

In Ontario a landlord can't enforce a no pets provision. Just don't mention the cat, and move them in with you when you take posession.

Two wrongs don't make a right. This is an INCREDIBLY jerk move.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 8:16 AM on April 9, 2010 [2 favorites]

I have rented my property in Ontario. I have advertised "no pets". It's just my preference, because have you ever had to rip out an entire floor of gorgeous hardwood flooring because the smell of cat urine is so bad that it's the only way to get rid of it? (Bad pet owners give good pet owners this rental problem, unfortunately.)

If I rented to someone who said they had no pets and I then discovered a cat living in my property, that's okay, I know the rental law in Ontario. But I would go through my place with a fine tooth comb looking for ANY damage and if something like the floor damage I mentioned above would be to occur, yeah, it would cost you a few thousand dollars. Most cats are lovely, I love cats, and wouldn't freak out if I found out one was living in my property. But still, it's my property and I'm going to protect it to the best of ability, thus advertising off the bat for "no pets".
posted by meerkatty at 8:21 AM on April 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

With respect Inspector.Gadget, it's not a jerk move. The privilege of pet ownership is specifically listed in the RTA. Landlords can put "NO PETS SUCKAS!" in big red ink on every page of a lease agreement, in ads soliciting tenants, and on signs in the buildings.

It doesn't matter - it's not legal. They also can't charge you a damage deposit, double your rent, pee in your sink when you're not there, etc.

Ontario law is relatively tenant friendly. I don't know what it's like in DC, but I fail to see how exercising my legal rights as a tenant makes me a jerk.
posted by generichuman at 8:22 AM on April 9, 2010 [2 favorites]

I rented to someone who said they had no pets and I then discovered a cat living in my property, that's okay, I know the rental law in Ontario. But I would go through my place with a fine tooth comb looking for ANY damage and if something like the floor damage I mentioned above would be to occur, yeah, it would cost you a few thousand dollars.

And that is the flip side. If your cats are destructive pee monsters, well... the law might not match up with the ethics; and you might be on the hook for unreasonable damage.
posted by generichuman at 8:26 AM on April 9, 2010

I don't know what it's like in DC, but I fail to see how exercising my legal rights as a tenant makes me a jerk.

It's a jerk move because you're saying:
"I want to use someone else's property in a way that they have specifically told me they don't want it used. However, I know that I can get away with lying to them so I can get my way without having to put forth the investment in getting the property for myself, so Fuck You, Landlord."

(full disclosure: I am a cat lover, I would not move into a place that did not welcome cats. Every human should have at least 12 cats.)
posted by coryinabox at 8:28 AM on April 9, 2010 [5 favorites]

What I would suggest instead of just 'showing up with a cat regardless of what the ads say' (it is kind of surprising to me how many people are suggesting this, knowing that the landlord is the one who controls your rent, and can replace you with another tenant, or charge you damages from a security deposit, etc. - it just seems foolish to do things purposefully to get into a fight with them, not to mention it's disrespectful).

I have some friends who have two cats, and what they did was find the place they liked the most, and then say to the landlord something like, "well, we really love this place and it's exactly what we're looking for, but we have cats and so we wouldn't be able to take it. It's a shame because we would be such good renters, given that our cats are so well behaved, and we are mature 30 year old physicians with a high income and a stable job." They got the house. Landlords in many cases will recognize that it's more important to have good, reliable tenants with well behaved cats than to have god knows who come in and cause them headaches, but with no pets. So I think many people could find this an effective way to address the situation.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 8:31 AM on April 9, 2010 [3 favorites]

as a former landlord, but also a lover of cats I regretfully say that cats can be incredibly destructive. Some people are highly allergic to them as someone else mentioned. A pet deposit seems like a good way to mitigate the landlord's concerns. landlords don't do things just to be jerks... they've been burned in the past.
posted by chinabound at 8:32 AM on April 9, 2010

It doesn't matter - it's not legal.

It is certainly legal to turn away people before signing a lease, unless there is some other RTA provision that says otherwise. See wsp's post above.

The privilege of pet ownership is specifically listed in the RTA.

Yes, the privilege, which accrues after you have a place to live. You (aparently) don't have the right to own a pet and demand that someone thereafter accomodate you in a new lease.

And neither of these goes directly to the ultimate ethical question: lying to another person who will then have to bear the expense of rehabilitating the apartment after you and your pets move out. The chief point is that you shouldn't lie to people and thereafter use the law to fuck them. "Legal" and "moral" are not coextensive. Honesty generates numerous benefits for both parties here.

The scarcity of cat-friendly housing in the area is a product of two things: (1) past bad pet/owner behavior and (2) the fact that landlords know that they can't, after signing a lease, take any steps to control a bad pet situation and are potentially (depending on the contract and other tenancy laws) only able to recover for damage up to the amount of the security deposit. Nobody's against cats just to be a dick; it frankly isn't in their economic interests to do so.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 8:37 AM on April 9, 2010 [2 favorites]

Yeah, sorry Inspector.Gadget, I don't mean to sound like a dick or a crass jerk. (Or to derail the question.)

I completely understand the desire of the landlords, and if the tenent's pets cause unreasonable damage to the property, then sure - they should (and will!) pay for it.

Basically it boils down to this. The no pets thing in the context of Ontario is a very wink-wink-nudge-nudge situation.

I'm actually not sure about the legality of excluding people before an agreement is signed. But, in the wink-nudge culture of that part of the RTA, in my experience no-pets provisions and listings are almost universally ignored here.

My apologies if I got a bit GRAR there.
posted by generichuman at 8:46 AM on April 9, 2010

Actually, here's a relevant good blog post from Torontoist about the whole situation.
posted by generichuman at 8:57 AM on April 9, 2010

I don't know where you folks are getting your destructive cats. Every cat I've ever owned has barely moved around the house, much less caused damage.

Regardless, I won't even consider a place that says no pets. I'm not going to try and sneak a pet in there, if the owner doesn't want pets, then it isn't going to be the type of person or company I want to rent from.
posted by corpse at 9:03 AM on April 9, 2010 [2 favorites]

On the other side of the coin, I don't rent from places that do allow pets, because I know I don't want to be around pets. I don't live in Ontario, so I know the proportions must be different, but I will go out of my way to avoid living near pets. If you are renting in a multi-unit place, please take the other people you will be living near into consideration as well, as they might be living there specifically because of a pet ban.
posted by brainmouse at 9:11 AM on April 9, 2010 [3 favorites]

My personal experience renting an apartment in Ontario last summer:

- The ad was on, for a nice, more-expensive-than-average 2-bedroom apartment in a good neighbourhood in Toronto. The ad specifically said "no pets".

- My husband and I went to look at the apartment and did not mention our two cats. The landlord did not ask.

- We liked the apartment, the landlord liked us, and we agreed to rent the place. As I was filling in the information on the lease application, I reached the line that said "no pets". I casually mentioned that we had two quiet cats, but that they had never caused any problems. The landlord just nodded and said it was fine.

- We have been living here problem-free for the past 7-8 months, and have noticed that other tenants have cats and/or small quiet dogs.

So, basically I think that many landlords put that clause in their ads to discourage people with troublesome loud animals from looking at the apartment. Once they see you and make a mental judgment of what kind of tenant you'll be, they may tend to overlook the issue if they have a good feeling about you. Of course, if there are serious allergy or other issues then I think the landlord would inquire on the phone about pets, before you come out to look at the place.

Good luck!
posted by barney_sap at 9:31 AM on April 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

It could be worse -- you could be in BC where they not only advertise no cats, but enforce it as it's completely legal.

As a budding crazy-cat-lady. this infuriates me. Finding a place in this city is hard enough, and the ones that do allow pets are typically dumps. It also means the cat population at shelters is through the roof, as people are constantly dumping their pets when they realize they can't find a place for them.

That being said, usually the landlords here that do allow pets (in non-dumps) end up with *better* tenants, because those people realize how lucky they are, and do everything in their power to be ideal tenants who take great care of their space. I know I do, and I know I'm not alone.

Basically, my view is that if you broke it, you pay for it. Doesn't matter if it was you, your cat, your dog, your kid, your crazy ex-boyfriend who punched a hole in the wall, or your killer goldfish. But don't assume that I will cause excess damage just because I have well behaved cats who have never peed on the floor. I will bring references, from both previous landlords and my vet. I understand the problems, but there are irresponsible pet owners just as the same as their are irresponsible tenants. I am neither, and I would at least appreciate the *chance* to show landlords that.

In the past, I've lied. This did not go over well when it was discovered (ohh boy was she pissed!!), but in the end my landlord and I came to an agreement, and when I moved out I did get the entirety of my damage deposit back -- including the legally-permitted "pet deposit". I don't recommend this approach, but... pets are my kids. Landlords are not allowed to discriminate against kids, and they do a hell of a lot more damage than my cats. Last time I checked, the cats never drew on the walls or tried to flush their toys.

Rant over. I understand the arguments against, I do. But are a cat lover, it's my opinion that there isn't a argument I can't counter-argue.
posted by cgg at 9:40 AM on April 9, 2010

I used to have a dog and when I called the Tenants Association in Toronto they flat out told me to lie. "Sign the lease, move in, if they bring up the dog, point out it's illegal to be evicted based on a pet and that no pet sections of leases are void."

I went the opposite route and got letters from all of my neighbors saying how I had the bestest and quietest dog in the world (which was true). I presented this with my rental agreements to potential landlords.
posted by dobbs at 10:34 AM on April 9, 2010

Similar question last month.
posted by smackfu at 10:52 AM on April 9, 2010

I did a short stint as a carpet cleaner.
The company had a contract with several apartment buildings and a rental house property management company. We went in to clean the carpets after the last tenant had vacated. Frequently, you could tell a “cat” apartment immediately upon opening the door. The job was terrible, and I left – and even though I’m a cat person and have three indoor cats, I’m not sure I would ever want to rent property to cat owners, simply to avoid the potential for *ahem* catastrophe.

I nth the suggestions to offer a cat deposit.
There are even pre-built forms that can be used.
posted by terpia at 12:07 PM on April 9, 2010

Leaving the vile cat urine issue aside:

I had a landlord who didn't allow cats. The apartment was located in his former home, and he was extremely allergic. For that matter, I'm pretty allergic -- it's progressed to face-swelling in the last year or so. Wheezing is also a possibility.

Anyway, this landlord did allow me to take in a cat that had been abandoned, until I could find it a new home. That was incredibly kind of him, considering the severity of his allergies. The cat in question was pleasant, inoffensive, and nondestructive -- but when we moved, the landlord had a freaking cleaning crew come in there and scrub the place down.

It's a good thing he knew about that cat, huh? So he didn't wonder why he was becoming terribly ill whenever he showed that apartment?

No one can "counter-argue" away other peoples' animal sensitivities. Cat allergies can be awful, and even if your cat is the cleanest, most docile cat ever, it will still spread allergens. And your cat's allergens can persist in the apartment after you leave, WITHOUT being properly scoured away, if you delude your landlord. It would be seriously unethical to lie about the existence of your cat for this reason alone.
posted by Coatlicue at 12:24 PM on April 9, 2010 [6 favorites]

As someone with cat allergies, I can certainly see why is it desirable for landlords to be able to ban cats (and other pets). Given how they can affect your neighbours and those who may live in the place after you, they are somewhat akin to smoking.
posted by sindark at 12:36 PM on April 9, 2010

I've been an Ontario superintendant and sometimes my tenancy ads had a no-cats clause because certain apartments were separated only by a door. I wanted to avoid two different tenants' cats on opposite sides of an apartment door (peeing, scratching, etc). I know it wasn't strictly legal, but it's a pretty reasonable solution, and I didn't feel bad about enforcing it, even though I love cats. Everyone who ever asked why I had the rule seemed satisfied with my explanation.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 1:30 PM on April 9, 2010

I live in my own home with a mortgage, really like cats, but won't get one. Because I used to work in a rental department and know how terribly bad cat pee can mess up a house. You can't get rid of the smell unless you do something expensive and drastic. So, no cats. : (
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 3:56 PM on April 9, 2010

it seems like I won't be able to find an apartment in my desired area if I even mention cats.

Well, yeah, getting pets inherently limits where you're going to be allowed to live. Period. That's just how it works.

I used to live with a cat who managed to shit on the walls. I can't blame landlords for not wanting to deal with that.
posted by jenfullmoon at 4:15 PM on April 9, 2010

Thanks, all.

Well, yeah, getting pets inherently limits where you're going to be allowed to live. Period. That's just how it works.

I used to live with a cat who managed to shit on the walls. I can't blame landlords for not wanting to deal with that.

I actually do have a pretty good understanding of why owners wouldn't want cats in their rentals. Having had cats for my entire life, I have an idea of what can happen. That said, my cats, though not perfect by any stretch, limit their destructive tendencies (allergen dissemination aside) to my own furniture. And I have no desire to expose people with allergies to my cats.

My main dilemma was this: it's not actually legal in my area to evict people for having pets, or to enforce a no pets clause in a lease. So I was confused about how/whether owners could actually refuse to rent on the basis of pets outright.

It seems that question has been answered (yes, they can, because the law doesn't cover who they choose to rent to on the basis of pet ownership -- though if I lie, it's still not enforceable) and some good resources pointed to.

I'm not going to lie about my pets. Lying's not my thing, even though I think it is somewhat expected in this area (I think Torontoist said it was a bit of a "nudge-nudge wink-wink" situation, which was my own understanding, but which might be hard for people in other areas to understand.)

Still, I think my best course of action is to be up front, but to offer some kind of deposit or other security to the landlord. I don't do nudge-nudge, wink-wink.

Anyway, thanks again for helping me think this through and make sense of it.
posted by Ouisch at 5:08 PM on April 9, 2010

One other thing to think of is that many condo's forbid pets in their declarations/rules. If you rent a condo and bring a pet then the condo can try to enforce the declaration and get the cat removed. Whether they are successful or not they most likely can charge back their legal fees to the unit owner who will then try to pass the fees on to you. The lawyers the condos retain usually aren't that cheap either (I'm guessing the threat of massive legal fees you can do nothing about if you step out of line is one way that the condo can make sure its rules are followed).
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 8:42 AM on April 10, 2010

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