Condominium Pet Policies: The Good, the Bad, and the Ridiculous

You’d think that condominium buildings would let man’s best friend come along with the man, but the Condominium Act gives corporations the freedom to spell out specific pet policies for their buildings.

Condominiums are the only types of properties in Toronto that are allowed to enforce the ‘no pets’ rule in its declaration, whereas other apartment buildings and freehold townhome landlords are not legally allowed to force a tenant out for bringing in a pet. This makes it easier for property management companies or boards in Toronto to simply ban pets from the building if they so choose.

Dogs are usually regarded as the problematic pet for many condo buildings and managers give dog owners a hard time. However, in reality only 11% of neighbours complain about dogs making them nervous, according to a Responsible Dog Ownership Survey conducted by the City of Toronto. This means that perhaps pets are more of a perceived issue within a condo community than an actual problem for residents.

Certain condo corporations lay down the law when it comes to owning a pet in the building, which can be great. The problem is when the rules are ambiguous. We’ve highlighted some of the good, the bad, and the ridiculous rules and regulations Condominium Declarations impose when it comes to pet ownership.

The Good:

It’s great when condominium by-laws have a section on pet policies. It’s even better when they not only have specific rules and policies in place, but are transparent with owners and potential buyers about their pet policies.

All condominium listings should have a ‘pets perm’ code: Y, Restricted or N. What this means is that listings and tenants should be made aware of whether the building allows pets, has certain restrictions in place or doesn’t allow pets. It can be surprisingly difficult to find definitive information on pet policy when searching for a unit to buy or rent.

Sure, knowing whether a building is ‘pet-friendly’ is the first step of the process, but transparency as to what the restrictions and limitations are on pets is a key part of the process. What this does is ensures that there aren’t issues later on.

Here are some tips when creating a pet policy:

    • Specify the number of pets and provide a list of pets/size/breed permitted.
    • Screening/Registration of pets: You should make sure potential tenants or owners fill out a Pet Application Form before occupying the unit. You can also ask for a picture of the animal, ask for weight, height and number of pets. Be sure to be specific and ask for any details you would like to know on this form.
    • Be sure to present a copy of pet policies to the resident for review and get a signature to ensure the policies have been reviewed and understood.

Here are some examples of specific rules:

    • Pets shall not be kept, bred or used for any commercial purposes. All cats, dogs, rabbits and ferrets must be spayed or neutered by six months of age unless the procedure is deemed medically unsafe by a veterinarian.
    • Residents are responsible for the pets of guests who visit their unit; such pets are subject to the same restrictions as resident pets. No guest pets can stay in the unit for more than 14 days (consecutive or staggered) in any one-year period without prior written permission of the resident manager.
    • Only domestic animals such as dogs, cats or birds are permitted. Exotic animals are not allowed.
    • No dogs over 25 pounds.

What’s good about these rules is that they have clearly defined time periods. The more specific you are with your expectations, the easier it is to avoid problems later on since you will have metrics to measure if rules are being broken.

If only it was this simple though. Most Condo Declarations have policies in place about pets, but do not go into great detail. The more specific you are in your by-laws, the more transparent you are with tenants and owners, the easier for you as a board to lay down the law. Condo management companies can help with this process.

rental property cat policies

The Bad:

When condominium by-laws state that they’re pet-friendly aren’t transparent about the pet policies, or don’t have procedures in place it is difficult to know what to expect.

Many condo-owners or tenants complain after moving in with their pets that they learn of rules and regulations from condo managers only if a problem arises. They run into a property manager in the building on the way to walk their dog and the property manager might mention a rule or two, that they were not notified of when they were moving in.

More specifically, problems surface when by-laws are amended and pet policies change over time in a condo building. The grandfathering clause protects existing pet owners in buildings if pet policies change, let’s say to specify a breed or size that pets must be. Pet policy changes are acceptable, but it’s a problem when condo managers try to impose them on pet owners that have already lived in the building prior to the new policy.

Boards and your Toronto property management companies should ensure that the property managers are communicative about the grandfathering clause, rather than trying to enforce new rules on current pet-owning occupants.

The Ridiculous:

Having ambiguous pet policies actually confuses matters more than it clears up for both condo boards and tenants.

When a building pet policy states: “You must carry your dog through the lobby or condo building staircase”, it becomes difficult to ascertain what the requirements are.

Perhaps the condo management does not want larger dogs in the building but specifying a certain weight or size requirement would be more effective than debateable regulations. Maybe one of the owners can carry their 90 pound Doberman through the lobby, but if the condo policies state clearly what their expectations are, it’s better in the long run.

If you’re a dog lover, and your fluffy, lovable pup means the world to you, you may have a harder time finding condominiums than you’d think. The last Licensed Dogs and Cats Report of 2011 reveals that there were 61,200 dogs and 28,954 cats registered in the City of Toronto. That number has only increased with time.

That is why it’s increasingly important for property management companies, condo managers and residents to cooperate when it comes to pet ownership within a condo community. If you’re looking for a property management company in Toronto that understands the complexities of pet policies in a condo building, get in touch with ICC® property managers.

ICC® Property Management has been managing condos in the GTA since 1992. We can all the responsibilities to ensure that your condo by-laws are clear, whether you are a pet-friendly building or want to impose certain restrictions in regards to pet policies.

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