Are Pet Restrictions Enforceable in Toronto Condos?
Tuesday Jul 14th, 2020
There is a cliché that most disputes in condominium communities stem from one of parking, pets, or people. Well, considering that there are over 55,000 licensed dogs and 25,000 licensed cats in Toronto as of the most recent census, not to count the ones not legally licensed, such as rodents, birds and reptiles, it makes sense that a great number of disputes involve pets. As such, a question that often springs on the lips of condominium boards of directors and unit owners is whether condominium corporations are within their right to require a unit owner to remove a problem pet from a unit or downright ban pets from the building altogether.
Given Torontonians' affinity for animals, condo pet regulations are a tricky business. I am sure most pet-owning residents of condo buildings will vouch for the struggles of pet ownership in the city. These regulations can pose huge hurdles for pet owners, but are they always enforceable? Can’t you ‘fight the man’?
The Most Common Pet Regulations in Toronto
Most condominium corporations governing documents incorporate clauses that concern keeping of pets in a unit. These constraints may include restrictions on the number of animals or the type of animals that may be kept in a unit, or even on the size of animal that may be kept in a unit. These restrictions apply equally to both owners and tenants. While these restrictions are all too common, it is also not unheard of for condo buildings to have provisions in their governing documents banning pets entirely, even though it is rare. In any case, courts often deem an outright prohibition on pets unreasonable and in certain cases, the ban is unenforceable. As a pet owner, it is important to be mindful of these pet bylaws before considering a condo building to rent or buy.
Most condominium corporations governing documents also pertain to the behavior of pets. For instance, if the condominium board of directors has ascertained that a particular pet is a danger to others, such as lunging at others or biting other people’s pets, or behave in a manner that causes a nuisance, such as persistent barking or destruction of common areas, they will be within their rights to request for the removal of the said nuisance animal from the property.
Are these Regulations Enforceable?
Well, the answer is both a ‘yes’ and a ‘no’, depending on the situation at hand. While all pet-owning condo residents should strive to take full accountability of the actions of their pets and try to make the environment comfortable for all, such as by keeping their dogs from incessant barking or picking up after their pets, how strictly pet rules are enforced can vary from building-to-building. Some condos don't enforce pet restrictions at all, but others are more stringent. In any case, the buildings that do enforce the rules, use some kind of a verbal or written 'warning' system. Usually, the pet is evicted from the building after the third warning.
Can they do that? Yes, it is possible, especially if they get lawyers involved. If a unit resident breaches the pet provisions explicitly listed in the corporations governing documents, such as having a pet that is deemed a nuisance animal by the board, or keeping more than the allowed number of pets within a unit, or keeping a pet that exceeds the weight limit imposed by the corporation, the corporation can enforce removal of the pet through either court proceedings or arbitration and private mediation. Nevertheless, the process tedious and time-consuming, and if they win, they may also win a monetary settlement along with it. While nobody can force you to sell or evict you from your unit, you will be asked to remove the pet from the building.
What If I Live In A No-Pet Building?
If you purchase a condo in a strictly ‘no pet’ building, what will you do if you suddenly wish to keep a pet or plan to have one in the future? Your best bet is to keep living with the pet, hoping no one will ever see it. But a nosy neighbor can get involved and you will receive a written notice about an infraction with the condo regulations. If so, you can try and appeal to the board to lift the pet ban or seek legal recourse if you don’t wish to part with your pet. The struggle is real, but it is worth getting to keep your furry friend.
We at Toronto Condos understand that with 25% of the market owning pets, condos that turn away pet owners are at a disadvantage, especially in the long run. Not only does it stigmatize a condo — it could also lower the demand of a condo and hurt market value. Not to mention, with so many pet-friendly condos springing up left and right, pet owners are more likely to turn to them for residence. To all my fluffy-friend-owning readers, my advice is that you should go for a place that accepts pets. Be sure that a particular condo is impartial to pets by reading the status certificate or talking to management.
If you already live in a condo that want to get a pet that doesn’t meet the pet regulations in any way (size or type perhaps), try appealing to your condo board. Your final recourse is taking legal action but leave that as a last resort due to the time-consuming legal battles involved. Not to mention, after all the painstaking trouble you go through, the outcome may not be in your favor if the pet bylaws are clearly mentioned.
On the whole though, the pet restrictions are seldom enforced in most condos, particularly if you have a well-behaved pet.