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Union of BC Municipalities votes in favour of pets for renters

Speakers said both landlord and tenant rights need to be protected in arriving at rules.
Pets could keep their homes if rental rules change.

BC Housing should develop strategies in support of pet-friendly housing in the non-profit sector, Union of BC Municipalities delegates voted Sept. 21.

Speakers at the UBCM annual conference in Vancouver said studies have repeatedly shown pets can improve people’s mental health but others said the issue is part of landlords having fewer and fewer rights in the face of laws protecting renters.

A resolution before the UBCM said companion animals have been proven to enhance physical, emotional and mental well-being, particularly for vulnerable British Columbians. That includes women, young people, households with lower incomes, renters and those experiencing homelessness who identify greater reliance on their companion animals for support and greater difficulty finding affordable, pet-friendly housing.

The resolution noted renters having to give up pets is the primary reason for the surrender of healthy, loved, adult companion animals to the BC SPCA, despite the provincial government’s work to increase housing affordability and supply.

“Pets are important to physical and mental well-being,” a Port Moody councillor said.

Regional District of Nanaimo director Leanne Salter said she, as a landlord, had a tenant with three cats and was left with costs of cleaning up.

“As landlords, we clearly have no rights,” she said.

Salmo Mayor Diana Lockwood said she’s provided multiple rentals in the past and is getting out of it because she’s had enough. She said there need to be rules put in place around sizes of animals.

“We needs restrictions to protect landlords and tenants,” Lockwood said.

New Westminster Coun. Jaimie McEvoy, a housing advocate, said the COVID-19 pandemic showed the benefits of people having pets: comfort and support in times of isolation.

The back and forth led Victoria Coun. Susan Kim to comment that people worrying about property over the well-being of others was an indication of privilege and class distinction.

So, the approved resolution asked that the provincial government direct BC Housing to develop strategies and guidance that support pet-friendly housing in the non-profit sector.

Further, it asked that the government update the BC Housing strategy and work with stakeholders such as landlords and tenant associations, animal welfare organizations, public health, mental health and seniors organizations, and poverty reduction and homelessness advocates to find cooperative solutions to increase the availability and affordability of pet-friendly housing.

However, it also covered the issue of providing appropriate protections and mechanisms of compensation for landlords who rent to people with pets.