Pets are a frequent source of disputes in condominiums. Many condominium corporations prohibit some or all pets. These prohibitions are typically set out in the Declaration or the rules.
Corporations must enforce the governing documents in order to protect the rights and the investments of all unit owners. Sometimes, this can result in an application to remove a pet from their unit.
Unfortunately courts have not been consistent when dealing with pets in condominiums and the outcome of these proceedings can be difficult to predict. Pet owners faced with an application to “evict” their pets often claim they their pets are required for a variety of reasons. Some owners try to claim protection under the Human Rights Code, while others present a note from their doctor stating that their pet is “required” for medical reasons.
In the case of guide or trained assistance dogs for hearing, the pets of course are permitted. A judge would not evict a properly trained assistance or guide dog as this would amount to discrimination under the Human Rights Code. If the pet is alleged to be necessary as treatment for depression or other emotional issues, the matter requires more consideration.
Pet issues put corporations in a difficult spot. Directors must enforce the governing documents but at the same time directors should not move forward with an application unless it has a chance of success.
When dealing with “illegal” pets, the board and its legal counsel must review each case on its own facts before deciding how to proceed. Directors should bring the issue to the pet owner’s attention as soon possible and give the pet owner the opportunity to present his/her “case” to the Board of Directors. A timely discussion with the pet owner will give the owner the sense that his/her concerns are being heard, which often makes him/her more cooperative. This also gives the Board an opportunity to learn more about the situation, including any “defence” the pet owner might raise in court. Directors can then make an informed decision about to how to proceed.
Finally, directors must ensure that pet prohibitions are enforced in a consistent manner and that all decisions are made in good faith. Courts are more likely to support a board in those circumstances.
Condominium corporations with employees (i.e. superintendant, cleaners, landscapers, etc.) are required to post a copy of the Occupational Health and Safety Act, and explanatory materials developed by the Ministry of Labour. On October 1, 2012, the Ministry introduced a new poster, titled “Health & Safety at Work: Prevention Starts Here”, that summarizes the purpose of the Act, workers’ rights and responsibilities, employers’ responsibilities, and resources where further information may be obtained. The Act and the poster must be posted by all condominium corporations with employees. Each document can be obtained from the Ministry of Labour website (http://www.labour.gov.on.ca).