Why a no-pet rental clause is unenforceable
SHUTTERSTOCK By Mark Weisleder | Fri Jan 21 2011
You’ve rented your home out, and there’s a “no pets” clause in the lease. Tenants sign, and move in, and soon two big dogs are living there too. Can you do anything about it?
In Ontario, unless this is a condominium whose declaration prohibits pets, there is little the landlord can do to remove the dogs.
The Ontario Residential Tenancies Act says that any provision in a lease preventing pets is void. In order to remove the pet, the landlord will have to prove that this pet is actually causing damage to the premises, interfering with the enjoyment of the landlord or the other tenants, is dangerous or perhaps causing an allergic reaction to the other tenants or the landlord.
Even if the landlord and tenant agreed in the lease not to have pets, it makes no difference. The reason is that section 4 of the act says that you cannot contract out of the provisions of the act. This applies to any lease in Ontario, whether you are in a high-rise apartment building, a basement apartment or any other residential rental unit. The only exception is if you are renting in a condominium building where the condo’s declaration prohibits pets. Only then will tenants have to follow this restriction.
Now let’s look at deposits. The most that a landlord can ask in advance under a residential lease is the first and last month’s rent.
Let’s say the tenant does not have good credit, so the landlord is not willing to rent the apartment. Then the tenant offers six months of rent in advance as a sign of goodwill. The landlord accepts this, and writes it into the lease. The tenant signs the lease and moves into the unit. The next day, this tenant will be able to approach the Landlord and Tenant Board and request the return of the additional four month’s rent, even though he or she agreed to pay it in the lease. And they can still stay in the apartment. Again, you cannot make a lease contract that violates the terms of the act.
What about additional deposits? There are many other types of deposits that landlords attempt to request from tenants. One is a security or damage deposit, so that if the tenant breaks anything in the unit or on the property, the landlord can use this money to pay the costs of repair. Or perhaps deposits for keys, condominium passes or even utility deposits. Most of these charges are illegal.
A landlord cannot charge for any type of security deposit. If the tenant is separately paying for utilities, they may be asked to open an account with the utility company, and if the utility company requires a deposit that is okay. But the landlord cannot request this deposit.
When it comes to deposits for extra condominium passes or keys, landlords can only charge their actual costs to obtain these extra keys or cards.
Tenants should always ask for receipts for any key or card deposit that is paid, and to make sure that they are reimbursed when they return these keys when the tenancy ends.
By obtaining the right advice before you sign a residential lease, you will not be disappointed later when things do not turn out as planned.
In the coming weeks, we will examine many issues that can arise between landlords and tenants.
We’ll include the questions a landlord is permitted to ask when qualifying tenants, when and whether the landlord needs to give notice before entering an apartment, the process of terminating a tenancy, and the issues that arise when selling properties occupied by tenants.