What Are the Rules Around Having Dogs in Your Condo?

I live in a Toronto condo and I think every one of my neighbours has a dog.

Of course this isn’t true, but it definitely feels like it. I live in an unrestricted building with a lot of singles and childless couples, which means tons of dogs. There are parks nearby and most residents are conscientious, so it doesn’t really bother me. I may be a cat person, but I respect my neighbours’ desires to have canine companions.

But what if I did have a problem with my neighbours’ dogs? What are your rights as a dog owner in a condo?

It all comes down to the bylaws

Every condo corporation is different. The organization makes its own rules surrounding everything from pets to the colour of your blinds—crazy, I know—so it’s important to do your research before you put in an offer.

The condo status certificate is where you should start. Your real estate agent may already have copies from certain buildings, or you can attain the certificate from any building for a nominal fee. The status certificate details the condo rules, so you can know definitively if you’re allowed to bring along a pooch.

Bylaws can include an array of pet restrictions:

  • The number of pets you’re allowed to have
  • The size of dog, in kilograms
  • Leashing and registration restrictions
  • Banning pets altogether

Why do condo boards have these rules? Do they just hate dogs?

There has been a lot of discussion around pet restriction rules by condo boards. Essentially, these boards are looking out for the welfare of pets, as well as all residents of the building.

For example, weight restrictions come down to exercise and space for dogs to stay active. Even if you live near a park, having a Great Dane in a bachelor apartment is likely not the best idea.

Pets can also create excessive wear and tear on a condo, so limiting the amount of animals in one suite limits that depreciation.

Can condo boards enforce pet restrictions?

Short answer: yes.

If you moved into your condo with a large dog knowing the condo rules stipulate that it doesn’t allow dogs over 25kg to reside in the building, the board will take steps to enforce its rule. The board can take legal action, which is incredibly expensive. Should they win, you’ll likely have to cover their legal costs as well.

There are exceptions to these rules, if the pet in question is for medical purposes. If you have sufficient medical documents and a Human Rights claim, you may be able to override the condo rules.

Should you try to claim your dog as a medical canine, you may still be required to put him up for adoption. Condo boards can fight this designation, should they believe it’s not adequate. The Star covered a story last year that resulted in the removal of the dog, as well as a $47,000 legal bill, after trying to fight the board. Therefore, be sure your dog is needed medically.

Grandfathering pets

If you already own a pet when the board creates a new rule restricting pets, you may qualify for an exemption. For example, if the board passes a rule stating you can only own one dog but you have two, your dogs become grandfathered to the original, non-existent rules, and are permitted to stay. Once they pass away, you’ll have to abide by the new condo rules.

Condo boards can attempt to fight this; many include grandfathering clauses in their rules, so it seems logical to believe that the absence of such a clause means there is no grandfathering. While it makes sense that current dogs are exempt from new rules, there is grey area here.

Long-story-short: do research before you buy

If a building has bylaws restricting pets, be sure to take them seriously. Even if your agent or other residents say they don’t enforce the rules, they can start to do so at any point, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a legitimate reason to fight it.

There are tons of buildings that embrace dogs and include pet spas, washing stations, and other pet perks. Find a building that wants you to have your dogs and cats, rather than fighting to keep them. You’ll have less stress and your dog will love having furry friends around to run around with.

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Unsplash: Dominik QN

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About Jam Michael McDonald

Jam is a content editor based in Toronto. He's been the editor of a community newspaper, a national magazine, and two startups. Although he lives in a tiny condo, he uses every corner, and is an avid cheerleader of the compact home movement. You can find him every day on Twitter @mcjamdonald.

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