Real Estate

Condos can impose reasonable pet bans: Mackey

By AdvocateDaily.com Staff

Condo corporations may lawfully ban pets in certain circumstances, says Toronto condominium and commercial litigator Megan Mackey.

Global News recently reported on a campaign by residents of two Toronto condo buildings seeking to overturn their board’s recently introduced ban on pets.

Mackey, a partner with Shibley Righton LLP, says the dispute is a useful reminder to unit owners and renters of the power Ontario’s Condominium Act confers on boards to make their own rules and bylaws.

“The only restriction on the condo corporation when implementing rules is that they must be reasonable,” she tells AdvocateDaily.com. “Rules cannot be implemented to ban pets unless there are reasons to do so, such as safety and security issues.

“As long as it’s within the realm of reasonableness, a court won’t interfere or overturn the rule. It’s not possible to comment on this precise instance without knowing all the facts,” Mackey says.

According to the Global story, the Toronto condo corporation’s ban is complicated by the fact that the property has a series of designated dog areas and a dedicated “dog run.” One resident quoted by the news outlet said she had moved there in 2017 “partially because it’s a pet-friendly community.”

The woman — who also fosters shelter dogs — is spearheading a petition to reverse the ban, which a residents’ association spokesperson blamed on the irresponsible actions of a minority of pet owners in the buildings.

A lawyer for the condo corporation explained to Global that the pet prohibition passed in 2016 following concerns about “the cleanliness of hallways, elevators, the lobby and other common areas.” But its in-force date was postponed more than two years to allow residents to register grandfathered pets already on the property.

Mackey says the condo may wish to explore other options to target troublesome pet owners, noting that building managers in Florida have caused a stir by threatening to identify rogue owners via DNA kits using samples from abandoned dog feces.

“The idea is that you require each dog to be registered with a sample of their DNA, and then you can perform tests to find out which owners are not cleaning up after their pets,” she says. “But from what I’ve heard about the Florida cases, the cleanliness problem went away as soon as the system was implemented.”

Mackey says it would also be relatively simple for the corporation to reverse its decision if a majority of the board agreed, and owners were in favour of the change.

“The rule doesn’t have to be permanent,” she says.

In other cases, Mackey says Canadian courts have upheld bans on pets over a certain weight and limits on the number of pets per unit.

“People love their pets, so my message to someone who is looking at buying a condo is to check whether it is a pet-friendly building, and the likelihood of it remaining that way,” Mackey says, adding that she would encourage prospective purchasers to have a lawyer check the condo’s rules, bylaws and declaration.

“The declaration is much more difficult to change than rules, so if the declaration explicitly permits pets, then the board does not have the same power to change that,” she says.

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