Real Estate

Condo boards struggle to deal with delinquent pet owners

By Paul Russell, AdvocateDaily.com Contributor

Condominium boards have options to regulate pets, but requiring animal owners to pay an extra fee is not one of them, says Toronto condominium lawyer Audrey Loeb.

Administering an additional charge that only applies to pet owners is not admissible under the Condominium Act,” says Loeb, partner with the Toronto office of Shibley Righton LLP. “The courts have held you can’t selectively charge unit owners,” she says, noting the courts ruled against a condominium corporation that tried to levy an extra charge for people who rented out their units.

According to a CBC News article, a Toronto condominium board announced it was going to charge pet owners $15 monthly to pay for “additional spot cleaning, carpet cleaning and general maintenance” to cover the cost of dog owners not cleaning up after their pets.

“In all my years I haven’t seen a rule of this nature,” Loeb states in the article, explaining that selectively choosing a group of people in a condo to levy a charge against is “not enforceable.”

Communal living can be difficult, Loeb tells the CBC, but fining everyone for the mistakes of a few is “not permitted.”

Condominium corporations whose declarations clearly state that pets are prohibited don’t have this issue, but others can still impose restrictions in their rules, she tells AdvocateDaily.com.

Loeb gives the example of regulations that state pets cannot exceed a specific size, or that each unit owner is limited to just one cat and one dog.

“Through the condo rules, there is the ability to monitor and control pets, but a pure prohibition is typically not acceptable anywhere but in the declaration,” she says.

Loeb acknowledges that condo boards struggle to deal with delinquent dog owners who do not pick up after their pets, with some suggesting that pet owners should submit DNA samples from animals living in their units so that the poop of an offending owner’s animal can be identified.

The right of a condo board to require dog owners to submit their pet’s DNA samples has not been tested in court, Loeb says, so the enforceability of that sort of policy remains unknown.

It can be challenging to identify pet owners who don’t pick up after their animals, so I can certainly understand the desire of doing the DNA tests,” Loeb says, adding she can envision condominiums having a rule that unit owners are only entitled to keep a pet after agreeing to have a DNA test.

“That raises the question of who pays for the DNA test since condo boards will try to pass that cost onto the unit owner, though I am not aware of any condominium corporations doing that now," she says.

Condo corporations have other alternatives, Loeb says, such as security cameras in common areas to capture footage of delinquent owners who do not pick up after their dogs.

If a condominium’s declaration doesn’t already state that pets are not allowed, she says the board will need the written agreement of 80 per cent of unit owners to modify that declaration.

“I think any board would be hard pressed to get that, so the most they should expect is to control pets through the rules, by limiting their size and number,” Loeb says.

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