Montreal tenants fight to keep pets after the landlord orders them out

When Tricia Bartley moved into her small upper duplex in NDG in 2012, she signed a lease that forbade her from having animals. But the owners of her buildings had pets themselves, and told her she could keep her nine-year-old cat Lola until she died.

“They said I could keep her and not get a new one,” Bartley said. “That was the agreement we had. We were expecting another five years, not another 10. We are so blessed with the time we have had with her.”

Lola is now almost 20, and is an integral part of Bartley’s life.

“She is a family member. I have kids Lola’s age and she is family,” she said.

But Lola’s future with her family remains uncertain.

Bartley’s building was sold to new owners in 2021. They visited her apartment for the first time in the fall of last year. They say they did not know that Bartley had a cat. Within days of their visit, they told Bartley Lola had to go, claiming she had caused damage to the apartment.

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Bartley refutes that, and calls the claims absurd.

“They said she had done damage but there was no damage, she had no claws. She has lost a lot of her teeth. She has two litter boxes. She causes no damage.”

Bartley’s downstairs neighbor James McBride is in a similar situation with his dog Buster.

“He is all I have got, he is everything,” McBride said.

McBride said he initially got an eviction notice two years ago, but successfully fought it off. He believes the new owners want to evict him and Bartley for financial reasons. And he can’t afford to move.

“I get it from a business perspective. We pay low rent and he wants us to go so he can triple the rent,” he said. “I have been looking for two years ever since the eviction notice. There is nothing on the island in my price range and nobody takes dogs.”

Global News spoke briefly with the landlord over the phone. She would not give her name, but said as an owner it was her right to decide if pets were allowed or not, and she did not like pets. She also said she didn’t believe the apartments were being cared for properly by the tenants.

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McBride and Bartley’s leases are up this summer. They want to re-sign, but say they won’t give up their animals.

“People have said that I should have had (Lola) registered as an emotional support animal, but I don’t need a piece of paper to tell you how she supports me and my family,” Bartley said, her eyes welling up with tears .

Housing rights advocates say McBride and Bartley have a strong case to stay.

“It’s not fair, it’s abusive,” said Arnold Bennett, the director of the Housing Hotline. “The animals were tolerated by the previous owner for a long time without complaint. That can carry over to the new landlord.”

Tricia Bartley and Lola, her 20-year-old cat.

Global News

Bennett said there is a principle of tolerance that Montreal’s rental board applies in these cases.

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“(The landlord) would have to show the animals were a nuisance. If the animal is not a nuisance, trying to enforce a new clause, the tenants should win.”

Bennett said with Montreal’s severe housing shortage, he’s seen many cases similar to this one.

“Look, (the landlord) is not being nice. And (the landlord) is obviously doing this as a means of harassment,” Bennett said. “(The landlord) would love it if the tenants left so (they) could put someone new in and put the rents sky high. This is what is happening in the current housing shortage.”

Denis Miron, a spokesman for the Administrative Tribunal du logement​, wouldn’t comment on the specifics of this case. But in an emailed statement, he explained the rules pertaining to animals and leases.

“It is permissible to prohibit the presence of animals in a dwelling by a clause in the lease. In principle, such a clause is valid and the tenant must comply with it,” he wrote.

“However, a tenant’s failure to comply with a lease term does not entitle the landlord to take the law into his own hands and unilaterally prevent the automatic renewal of the tenant’s lease.

“Furthermore, the case law recognizes that, despite the presence of a clause in the lease, the landlord may have explicitly or tacitly waived the application of this prohibition clause, notably by tolerating the presence of the animal. In this case, even a new landlord could not require the tenant to dispose of the animal since the tenant’s rights and obligations are not affected by the change of landlord.”

&copy 2023 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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