Housing verdict is the cat’s meowHousing verdict is the cat’s meow

Court of Appeal rules in favour of pet-owning tenants

If you have a pet and live in John Orr Tower, a Queen’s-owned apartment, you might not have to get rid of it.
If you have a pet and live in John Orr Tower, a Queen’s-owned apartment, you might not have to get rid of it.

When Queen’s Apartment and Housing Services told two students they had to get rid of their cats if they wanted to renew their lease, the students took Queen’s to court and won.

The University is not allowed to refuse to renew a lease as an enforcement of its no-pets policy, according to an Ontario Court of Appeal decision handed down earlier this month.

Queen’s leases 550 housing units to students annually.

Anna Atkinson and Peter Clandfield, who had five cats when they lived in the An Clachan apartment complex on West Campus, took the University to court after it threatened to refuse to renew their lease.

In March 1999, they received a letter from Queen’s housing notifying them if they didn’t find another home for their cats, they’d have to find another home for themselves.

At the time, Queen’s had a policy in the tenancy agreement prohibiting pets in its rental units.

Atkinson and Clandfield felt they should not have to remove their pets in order to renew their lease.

The couple went to the Ontario Rental Housing Tribunal, where the court ruled in their favour. Queen’s appealed that decision in the Divisional Court, and this court sided with the University.

Atkinson and Clandfield weren’t ready to give up, said Susan Charlesworth, the Queen’s legal aid lawyer for the couple.

“We were prepared to take it a step further,” she said.

In the third and final stage of the legal battle, the Court of Appeal for Ontario ruled Queen’s cannot refuse to renew a tenancy solely for the purpose of enforcing a “no pets” policy.

The court said the University has a special status as both a landlord and an educational facility.

This means Queen’s can only enforce restrictions if they enhance the “educational goals of the facility,” the decision stated.

Barring pets from Queen’s housing does not further educational goals, the court ruled.

“This whole legal process...wasn’t really about the pets,” said David Wright, director of Queen’s housing.

“This was about the ability of the University to control who it rents to.”

Clandfield and Atkinson were awarded legal costs in the decision, but Charlesworth said the legal victory is irrelevant to the couple at this point.

“It doesn’t have much to do with them anymore,” she said.

“It’s important for current students to know that Queen’s can’t withhold renewing the lease for invalid reasons.”

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