For renters, not all pet costs are created equal. In fact, there is a specific process landlords need to go through to charge tenants for the upkeep costs of having an animal on their property.
Under the Residential Tenancies Act, landlords can charge a “pet deposit” when the lease is signed, up to 50 per cent of the rent. This fee, which is supposed to be used as a security deposit against any potential damage that could be done by a pet to the property, must be returned to the tenant when the lease is concluded. It can be applied retro-actively and applied to a renter if they bring a pet into their home after signing a lease. Because it’s written out in the act, the pet deposit can still be charged even if there is no mention of it in a lease agreement.
However, landlords cannot charge a monthly rate for the critter.
Several people spoke to Inuvik Drum about extra charges being tacked on for having a dog, cat, rabbit or other pet in their home and asked to have the rules clarified, noting the now-defunct Northview REIT had been charging a monthly fee for having a pet.
Northview REIT was formally purchased by investment firms Starlight Investments and KingSett Capital and re-organized into Northview Canadian High Yield Investment Properties.
Northwest Territories chief rental officer Adelle Guigon told Inuvik Drum her office understood Northview had transitioned to charging pet deposits. She added anyone being charged a monthly pet rent, by any landlord, can apply to recover their money through her office.
“I expect Northview Canadian to continue with this distinction,” she added. “If there are tenants who are still being charged and paying monthly pet fees those tenants may make an application to a rental officer to recover those fees. I would suggest they approach their landlord first about the monthly pet fees and try to resolve that issue themselves before making an application to a rental officer.
“Any amount charged for pets in addition to the established monthly rent would be inconsistent with the Act and the tenant would not be obligated to pay it. The exception is under section 14.1 specifically for pet security deposits, which cannot exceed the equivalent of 50 percent of one month’s rent. If a landlord charges a pet “fee” or pet “rent” contrary to the Act the affected tenants could make an application to a rental officer to order the landlord to stop charging the fee.”
Landlords who knowingly continue to charge pet rents, especially after being asked not to by the rental office, could be subject to criminal charges under the act.
She added the act has provisions to protect tenants who file complaints against their landlords and property owners who retaliate against their tenants for reporting improper fees can also be criminally liable.
“All of the rights and obligations set out under the Act remain in place for the benefit of both landlords and tenants,” she said. “A landlord who chooses to retaliate against a tenant who has called the landlord out on breaches must still comply with their obligations under the Act, including the prohibition from interfering with or disturbing a tenant’s lawful possession and enjoyment of the rental premises, and having cause under the Act to terminate a tenancy. The tenant who suffers further breaches by the landlord may make an application to a rental officer seeking remedy under the Act.”