Is Your Pet Too Big? Pet Bylaws in Condominiums
The Supreme Court of British Columbia has ruled that breaching a Condominium's Pet Bylaw can result in a permanent injunction enjoining and restraining a pet-owner from bringing his or her pet back into the common property. The ruling comes from the March 27, 2012 decision in Strata Plan LMS 2629 v. Blondin, where the Pet-owners breached the Pet Bylaw by keeping a dog that exceeded the height restriction of the Pet Bylaw in their strata unit. The Court also addressed the issue of applicable fines against the tenants resulting from their Bylaw breach.
The Respondents are owners of a Strata unit located in Langley, British Columbia. Before adopting their dog, the Respondents approached one of the members of the Strata Council, Gar Anderson, then the Vice President, and asked for approval to have a dog in their unit. Mr. Anderson signed a handwritten note approving a dog in their unit, however, the note made no reference to the size of the dog to be adopted.
He understood the note to simply be a prerequisite for adoption from the adoption agency. The Strata council received complaints about the dog exceeding the height restriction of the Pet Bylaw. The Council wrote to the Respondents bringing the matter to their attention and providing them with an opportunity to respond to the complaint. The Respondents presented their case in front of the Council and it was decided that a resolution would be put forward determining whether to amend the Pet Bylaw by removing the height and weight restriction. The resolution was defeated.
The Council considered all the requests from the Respondents on the oversized dog issue but decided to uphold and enforce the Pet Bylaw. The Respondents were advised that failure to remove the dog would result in a fine of $200 per week.
The Strata Corporation argued that the Respondents had an oversized dog in their strata unit without a prior exemption and were therefore in violation of the Pet Bylaw. The Respondents argued that they obtained written approval by Mr. Anderson which constituted an exemption under the Bylaw 4(10) and were thus not in breach of the Pet Bylaw. They Respondents also argued that Mr. Anderson had an indirect interest in the issue because it was he who signed the note and therefore should not have been able to participate in the Council decision finding them in breach of the Bylaw.
The court ruled that that the Respondents did not obtain a proper exemption from the Strata Council authorizing them to have a dog that exceeded the height restriction of the Pet Bylaw. No formal request was made by the Respondents to the Strata Council as a whole. Furthermore, the permission note signed by Mr. Anderson did not mention anything about a request for an exemption from the height restriction of the Pet Bylaw. Additionally, Mr. Anderson on his own could not authorize an exemption from the pet height restriction. It was a matter that needed to be addressed by the Strata Council as a whole.
The court struck down the argument that Mr. Anderson had an indirect interest in the issue and therefore should not have been able to participate in the Council decision finding the Respondents in breach of the Pet Bylaw. The court stated that he did in fact have a marginal interest in the matter as to whether he had signed the note and granted an exemption but this was largely irrelevant as he could not, on his own, grant such an exemption.
The Court enforced the Council's implementation of fines for breach of the Pet Bylaw. The dog was kept in the Strata Unit for a total of 35 weeks and with weekly fines of $200 per week, the total fine levied amounted to $7,000.
The Court also issued a permanent injunction enjoining and restraining the respondents from bringing the dog back into the common property.
Similar restriction in Ontario
The Ontario Court of Appeal decision in York Condominium Corp. No. 382 v. Dvorchik upheld the condominium's rule restricting the size of pets to 25 pounds. Compliance with such a rule requires the removal of any pet from the condominium that weighs more than 25 pounds.
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