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Cats and Dogs and Camels: May a landlord refuse to rent to a tenant who has pets or smokes?

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By : Shamon Kureshi    99 or more times read
Depending on which province you are renting in you may be faced with 4-9 separate acts and regulations pertaining to the day-to-day operation of your rental properties. They cover everything from how big your windows have to be, to whether or not you can charge for keys, and as we will see what you are and are not allowed to do concerning pets. Specifically, we’ll consider the rules in Alberta and British Columbia.

Both provinces allow you to refuse rent to tenants who smoke and or have pets so long as it is clearly stated in the lease that smoking and pets are not allowed. In BC you must specify which types of pets are not permitted. (Eg. cats, dogs, boa constrictors.)

Phew. That was easy.

Now what about if they decide to get a pet or they start smoking half way through your lease?

Well hold your hats because you’re going to have to know the rules pretty well before you take action.

The rules in Alberta seem to favor the tenant on this issue. Pets and smoking are NOT prescribed reasons for terminating a lease. Your lease has to state the ramifications of what will happen IF they get a pet or start smoking. EG. Your lease must not only state that pets and smoking are not allowed; it must also state that it is grounds for eviction if the conditions are broken.

So, if the issue comes up half way through the lease and you, like most owners, didn’t write out the ramifications you only have one recourse: a law suit: The problem has become a contract law issue that is outside of the Residential Tenancy Act and will need to be dealt with by the courts.

In British Columbia the Landlord has a bit more clout in this issue. If there is a violation of the lease (in this case smoking or a pet) the Landlord may prepare a Breach Letter. This letter outlines the breach of the contract and acts as an eviction notice provided the tenant does not stop smoking or does not remove the animal in question from the premises in a reasonable time.

So sharpen your pencils and tune up your leases. No matter where you live, the better your lease is written the less you’ll have to worry about the issue of pets and smoking.

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