Pets in Condos: Know the Rules Before You Buy

First, you should know that Ontario’s Residential Tenancies Act does not permit landlords to include “no pet” clauses in rental agreements. The only exception is if the property is a condominium and the Condominium Corporation’s Declaration prohibit pets. Condo pet rules apply to condo residents equally, whether you are an owner or a tenant.

According to the latest Canadian pet population figures released, 41% of households have at least one dog and 38% one cat.  Altogether, the total number of household pets equates to 8.2 million dogs and 8.3 million cats.

If you are already a pet owner and are considering buying a condo, it’s especially critical to read the Condo Declaration and subsequent rules for any provisions relating to pets before making an offer.

A Guide to Condo Pet Rules

Most Condominium Corporations have rules, regulations and by-laws to abide by and it’s no wonder that pet owners can easily become confused as every building has a different set of rules for you and your pet.

These regulations usually include:

  • Type of pets that are permissible, cats and dogs are the most commonly accepted pets, but most condos also allow birds and small caged pets like mice, guinea pigs, and hamsters.
  • Number of pets with a max of two cats and/or dogs (citywide the restriction on all homes is 3 dogs max and 6 pets total).
  • Restrictions on certain breeds (especially breeds like Pit Bulls), no breeding, and a maximum size around 25-50 lbs.
  • Common sense ‘neighbourly’ rules, like using leashes, picking up after your pet and keeping them from barking excessively.

As Simple Condo Advice points out, “Condo rules typically state that no one unit can create undue noise because it prevents other residents from peacefully enjoying their living area and common areas. A continuously barking dog counts as such a noise disturbance. However, a barking dog situation doesn’t fall under a pet rule but a noise one. The Condo Corporation would have to give warnings to the owners to cease the noise disturbance rather than ask for the dog to be removed. It therefore becomes the responsibility of the pet owner to deal with the noise problem. Should a barking dog continue to disturb neighbours and no action is taken by the owner, the dog could be deemed a nuisance animal and asked to be removed from the property”.

Condos may have other restrictions in place such as:

  • Pets must be neutered or spayed by 6 months of age.
  • Dog owners may need to transport their dog out of the building in a specific way, such as using a staircase or lobby.
  • Restrictions as to where the pet may be exercised, such as a specifically designated pet area.
  • Pet owners will be responsible for damage caused by their pets.
  • Pets may not be a nuisance or create a disturbance. This includes exhibiting aggressive or dangerous behaviour.

Are these Regulations Enforceable?

Yes, condo owners are obliged by law to comply with the Condominium’s Declaration, by-laws, rules and regulations. One thing to consider is that anything the Corporation wishes to enforce must be part of the Declaration or be a rule. How each Corporation enforces its pet rules will also vary from building to building.

On the authority of Lawyers, Park & Jung “Condominium unit owners should know that not only can the Condominium Corporations sue them to obtain an order to enforce the rules of the condo and recover legal costs for doing so, but they can also register a lien against their unit. If a Corporation obtains an award of damages or costs in a legal proceeding against an owner or occupier of a unit, the damages or costs will be added to the common expenses for the unit. If these amounts are unpaid, the condominium corporation has a right to register a lien against the unit”.

Condo Corporations must still respect provincial and federal laws. There are matters which fall under the Human Rights Code that outweigh the Condominium Act and this includes accommodation for those with disabilities. For example, your Condo Corporation wouldn’t be able to enforce a pet ban on a guide dog given that this would be a clear violation of human rights for blind people. Regardless of the condo’s guidelines, service animals must be allowed.

As for rules or by-laws passed after the Declaration was put in place, a “grandfather” clause will generally be included for existing pet owners, allowing the pet to stay.

Furthermore, it is a requirement that condo buildings regularly enforce their rules and regulations. If said rules are not enforced over a lengthy period of time, the condo resident may rely on “non-compliance” and assume that the pet restrictions are not enforced. In these types of situations, a Condo Corporation may have unintentionally waived its rights to enforce their pet rules due to their lack of enforcement over time. If this is the case, a court or mediator may permit the resident to keep their pet as the resident has relied on the condo’s lengthy period of “lack of enforcement”.

Landlord and Tenants and Pets, Oh My!

According to the Ontario Residential Tenancies Act, a landlord cannot include a “no pet” clause in their rental agreements. On the other hand, a landlord has the right to refuse a tenant’s rental application if they have a pet. Until entering a rental agreement, there is no tenancy. And consequently, there is no protection for the applicant and their pet. In other words, a landlord can refuse to rent on the basis of having pets and the applicant cannot pursue a complaint. Without being a tenant yet, the applicant will not be able to claim an unfair opportunity with the Landlord and Tenant Board.

As a landlord, you cannot evict a tenant because you were not made aware of a pet. This is also the case if the pet came into the household after your tenant moves in. So, if a “no pets” clause is written into your rental agreement and you discover a pet, this does not provide grounds for tenant eviction. Again, the only exception is if the property is a condominium and the Condominium Corporation’s Declaration prohibit pets.

As a tenant, your potential landlord is not permitted to request a pet damage deposit. Also, be forewarned, you can be evicted if your pet is creating a disturbance, responsible for damage or exhibiting aggressive or dangerous behaviour. Your Landlord may choose to apply to the Landlord and Tenant Board to request an order to terminate the tenancy.

Ending on a positive note, very few Toronto condo pet regulations include blanket “no pet” rules. The majority of condominiums are pet friendly and as one might expect, accompanied by their own specific regulations. As you begin your condo search you may even come across pet spa services, dog parks and washing stations! And remember, some buildings don’t have any restrictions at all.