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Forcing owners to carry pets may contravene condo rules

A condo’s rules — including those around pets — must be deemed reasonable and can't be inconsistent with the Condominium Act or the building's declaration, Toronto real estate lawyer Daniel Bernstein tells AdvocateDaily.com.

Residents of an Etobicoke condo were told by property management that they have to carry their pets through common areas, CityNews reports. The condo’s resident handbook tells tenants that pets “must be small enough, in weight and size, to be carried easily throughout all of the building’s common elements,” which includes the foyer, hallways, and front driveway.

Bernstein, a founding lawyer with Weltman, Bernstein, says resident handbooks, rules and the declaration — the key governing documents of an Ontario condominium corporation — have varying degrees of impact on residents.

If a condo’s declaration allows pets of a certain size, Bernstein says it is arguably unreasonable to force residents to carry them through common elements.

“Some dogs may be permitted under the declaration but may be too heavy or big to be carried by their owners. Residents who are elderly or infirm may be unable to carry their pets,” he notes.

CityNews reports management at the Etobicoke condo have cited its handbook’s rules as grounds for fines or notices, “even telling residents they have to have their dogs out of the building by prescribed dates.”

Bernstein says stand-alone rules or those contained in residential handbooks can be amended by condominium owners, but the threshold is a simple majority of owners present at a meeting to vote on changing or revoking the rule.

“It is much more difficult to change a rule if it is contained in the condominium declaration,” he says. “In such cases, there is a much more complicated process that has to occur with a majority vote of 80 or 90 per cent of owners depending on the nature of the amendment.

Meanwhile, CBC reports that residents of a downtown Toronto condo were told their board is implementing a "pet rule" requiring dog owners to pay an extra $15 per month to subsidize the cost of cleaning common elements.

“Unfortunately, some dog owners are not taking responsibility for their dogs, and are allowing them to defecate and urinate on the common elements, and bring in extra debris without cleaning up after them," a notice to residents reportedly stated.

Bernstein says the condo board can increase fees, but owners could call a meeting and vote it down by a simple majority vote.

He advises prospective condo buyers to make their purchase of a unit conditional upon receiving a status certificate package which contains, among other things, the declaration, bylaws and rules.

“They should inform their real estate lawyer as to the type and number of pets they own, so the status certificate package can be reviewed to ensure any special requirements are not inconsistent with what the documents contain.”

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