Pet owners in condominiums who fail to familiarize themselves with the condominium’s restrictions on pets, or who blatantly ignore these restrictions, do so at the risk of having a court order that the pet be permanently removed from the property. The case of Strata Plan LMS 2629 v. Blondin.pdf dealt with a strata corporation whose by-law restricted the height and weight of pets permitted in the strata. Prior to adopting an Australian Shepherd puppy from the SPCA, the unit owner asked one of the Strata Council members to provide a written approval to the SPCA indicating that a dog was permitted. (The pet owner himself was, at the time, a member of the Strata Council). As the puppy grew, it exceeded the Strata’s size restrictions and the owner was asked to permanently remove the dog from the property. Although the signed approval did not indicate the size of the dog, the unit owner took the position that this signed approval by one member of the Strata Council amounted to an authorized exemption from the size restriction by-law.
In response to the unit owner’s subsequent request for a formal exemption, the Strata Council determined that the pet size restriction was a somewhat controversial topic and a resolution was put forward at a meeting of owners to remove the size restriction. Forty-two of the 59 owners who attended the meeting voted against the proposed amendment. After that meeting, the Strata Council then advised the pet owner that as the dog was in breach of the strata’s by-laws, the dog had to be removed. Failure to do so would result in a fine of $200.00 that would continue to accrue for each seven day period the dog remained on the property. (While fines are permitted in British Columbia, the Condominium Act (Ontario) has no provision that permits a condominium corporation to fine non-compliant owners.)
The pet owner challenged the Strata Council’s decision on the basis that the Council violated the principles of natural justice and the decision was significantly unfair such that it was oppressive and unfairly prejudicial towards the owner. The judge did not accept the owner’s position and noted that some actions and decisions may be unfair to one or more owners as they serve the interests of the majority of the owners. In reaching this conclusion, the judge further noted that the pet owner had not acted in good faith at the outset as he made no mention of the size of the dog or that he was seeking an exemption from the size restriction when he asked for the approval to submit to the SPCA, nor did he seek an exemption/approval from the Strata Council as a whole, all of which was particularly disconcerting because the owner himself was a Strata Council member and should have known better.
At the end of the day, the judge ordered that the dog be permanently removed from the property and the Strata Council was awarded judgment in the amount of $7,000.00 (being the amount of the accumulated fines), plus its costs. In addition, the owner was responsible for his own legal costs. The result in this case could have been significantly different had the pet owner properly dealt with the size restriction and request for exemption before getting a dog. This case also illustrates that amending pet restrictions in a condominium’s documents can be a challenge. Oftentimes non-compliant owners believe that getting the requisite approval from other owners to amend pet restrictions in the condominium’s documents is a “slam dunk”, which is certainly not the case. In many cases other owners are quite content with the status quo.