The Condominium Authority Tribunal’s (“CAT”) recent expansion of its jurisdiction, has resulted in some positive outcomes for condominium corporations. This was the case in a recent pet dispute decision involving one of our condominium corporation clients.
In Peel Condominium Corporation No. 96 v. Psofimis, the corporation had a rule which prohibited dogs in excess of 40 lbs. (the “Pet Rule”). The respondent, unit owner, owned a German Shepherd in excess of the permitted 40 lbs. This was also not the first time the respondent owned a dog in contravention of the Pet Rule. Prior to the current dog, the respondent owned two other German Shepherds. After the corporation became aware of the second German Shepherd, the corporation and the respondent entered into an agreement which provided that once the second German Shepherd passed, the respondent would not obtain any further pets in breach of the Pet Rule.
Once the corporation became aware of the third German Shepherd, the corporation took enforcement steps seeking the removal of the dog which included notices from management and a letter from its legal counsel. The respondent did not comply.
The corporation brought the CAT proceeding seeking the following order:
- a finding that the respondent was in breach of the Pet Rule;
- the immediate removal of the dog;
- all costs associated with trying to obtain compliance; and
- legal fees.
CAT found that the respondent was in breach of the Pet Rule. CAT noted that the respondent was made aware of the Pet Rule on multiple occasions and provided the opportunity to comply. CAT also noted that the respondent acknowledged being in breach of the Pet Rule by signing the agreement.
CAT agreed with the corporation’s submissions that the corporation had an obligation to enforce its governing documents and in turn, the respondent had an obligation to comply. CAT noted that the respondent had a reasonable expectation that the corporation would enforce its governing documents. Pursuant to s. 144(1)2 of the Condominium Act, 1998, CAT ordered the respondent to remove the dog within 30 days of the date of the order. CAT did not, however, order that the respondent be restricted from obtaining and residing with any new pets that exceed the 40lb limit noting that the rules already prohibit this.
CAT also awarded costs and damages against the respondent. CAT ordered the respondent to pay the costs of the enforcement letter sent by the corporation’s legal counsel in the amount of $536.00, $200.00 for the costs of bringing the application and full indemnity for the legal fees incurred with respect to the proceeding in the amount of $3,926.75.
CAT noted that Rule 46.1 does not generally allow for the awarding of legal fees however CAT found that there were exceptional reasons to do so. CAT found that the respondent deliberately and repeatedly ignored the corporation’s attempts to request his voluntary compliance, including disregarding the agreement.
The decision serves as an important reminder to corporations to take reasonable steps when enforcing its governing documents against non-compliant owners.