Windsor woman says she can't find a place to live because she owns a dog

Jenna Williams never expected that by adopting her dog Babe, she'd be denied a place to live — more than a dozen times. 

Williams and her partner live with her partner's parents right now. They've been turned down to rent more than 15 properties. 

It's been a month of looking, applying and repeatedly hearing, "no."

"It is really frustrating because I feel like we did a really good thing by adopting a dog from the Humane Society, but unfortunately we're kind of being punished for it," Williams said. "Every time we try to move out or rent a place, we're not allowed to because of the dog ... I think it's really unfortunate that it might deter people from adopting rescue dogs."

Provided by Jenna Williams

Legally in Ontario, a landlord can't to tell tenants they're not allowed to have pets in the rental unit. However, before signing a lease, landlords are allowed to refuse applicants with pets. They can do so without explaining why.

"You're under no obligation, I would argue, to ... really disclose that information," said Jonathan Scott of the Rental Rights and Information Association.

"To me, it's the equivalent of saying, will your mother sleep over on Sunday nights after Sunday dinner, or do you have a boyfriend who will be here three days a week. That's not really any of the landlord's business."

Contracts with clauses that state "no pets" are not valid, but condo buildings are a different story — they can make their own rules. Windsor-Essex County Humane Society's Executive Director Melanie Coulter said this is a problem that comes up again and again.

"Unfortunately most times when we [hear about this issue] is when people are thinking about surrendering an animal because they're having issues with their landlord, or difficulties finding a place they can live with their pet," she said.

Katerina Georgieva/CBC

There are a number of pet-friendly rental properties in Windsor, Coulter said, including some high rise apartment buildings owned by large companies.

"The tenants should weigh how they want to approach this on a case-by-case basis," Scott said. "I think it's one of those things where you don't have a duty to tell the landlord everything you plan on doing with the property."

Landlords have told Williams they're worried about damage a dog weighing more than 25 pounds could cause. Her dog, Babe, is a two-year-old shepherd mix. 

"I'd like to see the stigma of having a dog as a renter be taken away," Williams said. "I'm not sure why it's relevant how many pounds my dog weighs."

Williams has tried to be honest with every landlord they've applied to rent from.

"I know myself ... I'm a responsible dog owner," said Williams, who is in her late 20s and works for the school board.

"When I think about people you might want to have living in your property, we're excellent candidates ... despite the fact we have a dog."