The housing market in the Greater Toronto Area is at a record high and so is the pet ownership, causing a lot of friction both in and out of court. These heated exchanges have spurned many unhappy endings, and have usually been the subject of charged discussions and debate, particularly between condo boards and condo owners with pets.
Pets in condos
According to the City of Toronto’s Municipal Code (Chapter 349), no person can keep more than six of any combination of dogs, cats, ferrets and rabbits at any given time in his or her home. Within the combination of dogs, cats, ferrets and rabbits the maximum number of dogs permitted per dwelling unit is three.
The above mentioned statement however, does not clearly define home (i.e. a condominium, detached, semi or a town house). Also we do not know if this rule is for renters, owners, or for both. As per the Condominium Corporation By-Laws and Rules, if a condo building has a strict "no dog" rule, there is no way one can override it. But most condominiums have realized that pet owners as a vast, ever growing and profitable market. Turning them away would be disadvantageous. A truce, therefore, has been made where condominiums do allow caged animals. Some are fine with cats too and many are also accepting dogs with a restriction of weight and size.
The majority of condominiums allow maximum two dogs or cats weighing 25 to 30 pounds or less. Some condos that allow large dogs are very particular about their breed. Those considered aggressive breeds like Rottweiler, American Bulldog, Akita, Doberman and even German Shepherd do not have welcome carpets laid out for them.
At condos where pet restrictions prevail, pet owners have to adhere to stringent guidelines. Those buying houses do not have to worry about the size or breed unless the pet is found disturbing the neighbours by barking or biting.
A prospective condo buyer should conduct a thorough study about the pet policy. In the Canadian Real Estate Association MLS information site, every condo has a 'Pets Perm' code: 'Y' stands for pets permitted while 'N' stands for pets not permitted. In order to be on the safe side, the majority of real estate agents use 'R', a restrictive code, in case there are restrictions on pet ownership.
A homeowner has the right to challenge the condo guideline in cases where the establishment had no pet policy, or did not follow it earlier but later suddenly levied the rule on some pet owners. The guidelines can be challenged also if the pet owners can show that the dog they have is a service animal or at times even if the grounds for evicting the pet owner is because the pet is big. Further, if the owner provides proof that. irrespective of the large size, the pet is friendly, the pet owner can have a winning chance against the condo board.
Here are some cases recorded:
- In Waterloo North Condominium Corp. No. 198 v. Donner (1997), an 85-year-old hearing impaired tenant with a disability challenged the condo rules when she moved in with her hearing aid dog to a condominium with a no pets provision. She won the case on the grounds that the condominium’s enforcement of a no pets provision disregarded the Human Rights Code. The judge found that the elderly tenant required the assistance of her dog for her independent functioning, and that prohibiting her aid dog would effectively amount to prohibiting her from living in the condo unit.
- In yet another Staib v. Metropolitan Toronto Condominium Corp case, the court found that the condominium corporation had full knowledge of a cat's presence and the pet owner was never subjected to a no pet policy for 10 years. The judge, therefore, ruled the case in favour of the pet owner keeping in mind the age of the cat, the owner's attachment and the length of the time the pet had stayed at the property.
- In York Condominium Corp. No. 382 v. Dvorchik 1, the trial judge gave the decision in favour of the defendant on the grounds of a lack of evidence by the condominium corporation that the large but well behaved dog interfered with the enjoyment of other condo owners. The condominium rules prohibited dogs weighing more than 25 pounds to live on the property. This decision, however, was later reversed by the Court of Appeal.
- However in Barrie, Ontario, a couple had to pay $47,000 in 2014 to a condominium corporation because they broke the 25-pound restriction by bringing in a 40-pound pooch. The judge denied their claim of disability stating that stress is not an impairment recognized by the Human Rights Code and that the condominium had not discriminated against them. In addition to paying the condominium corporation they also had to pay lawyer's fees and were ordered by the court to remove their dog.
If it's not in writing, it doesn't mean a thing
A discussion on reddit on this exact subject has provided a platform to pet owners all across GTA where they have expressed their frustration in regards to no pet policy. Redditor /u/Fascinating_Frog shared his experience:
The last two places I've rented have had a "no pets" policy very explicitly explained, verbally, during the showing of the units, and in neither case was it written down anywhere. Both are apartment buildings by major rental companies, Kaneff and CapReit respectively. In both cases, the policy was/is completely ignored.
Another interesting reddit discussion has comments from renters as well as landlords on renting an apartment or a town house. A landlord of the latter dwelling, /u/SwarezSauga stated they charge more rent from those who have pets.
"I'm a landlord with a few places, I know you can't legally reject someone because of it but I usually try to find people sans pets just for the headache of it," he states.
I have a townhouse in Toronto, the couple has a dog (they don't want kids), they worked me for a bit to secure place (pay more than I asked and steam clean carpets once a year). And I have no complaints - they have been there about 4 years. They are super clean and super responsible. This may sound cold, but to us it's a business we are trying to maximize our returns, prove you will not risk our returns and a decent landlord will work with you. Just be honest and open from the start.
In addition to this, the discussion also raised several genuine concerns from people who have asthma and/or allergies to pet dander. As majority of apartments have common laundry, making it taxing for those with the above mentioned allergies. Gini Rose, Sales Representative with the Julie Kinnear Team, mentioned dealing with a similar situation when she was working on one of her lease listings:
"I had a lease listing to rent out an apartment within the house. The owners were moving to the basement apartment and refused an offer because the potential tenants had a cat. The owners said they were extremely allergic," says Rose.
Rules are a little lax in houses as there is no governing authority over accepting tenants with pets other than the Landlord Tenant Board, which is primarily used for any issues tenants are having while already occupying a leased residence. Even if the owner/landlord did not want to create issue and thus declined an offer, they could cite other concerns such as credit history, employment, or something else.
Avoid problems and rent the apartment you like
But pet owners are aware that they need to adapt to rules and respect them. They share their advice on how to get a place to live and have a pet without having problems with your landlord. One of the redditors, /u/autopsysurvivor wrote down his tips and he suggests following these four rules to avoid any issues.
1. Proving your landlord that your pets are well taken care of. Get a letter from your vet stating that your pets are healthy, up-to-date on vaccines and confirmations on parasite preventions.
2. Get a Canine Good Neighbour (CGN) certificate through the Canadian Kennel Club. CGN testing is a course for dogs and dog owners, where you have to go through different scenarios together. For example, you have to be able to walk your dog on a loose leash, and your dog has to sit and stay still when asked. It's basically a piece of paper saying your dog is well trained.
3. Invite your potential landlord to your current residence to meet your pets and to see the state of your home.
4. Offer extras - steam cleaning, replacing carpets, fumigation (if the landlord is concerned about parasites), etc. But do these only if you're absolutely sure you want to stay in that place for a long time, because these can get pricey.
"I wouldn't suggest lying or just omitting the fact that you have pets as that will only cause more problems later on," adds the above mentioned redditor.
Just because they can't evict you for having a pet doesn't mean that they won't look for other reasons to evict you.
Ontario is the only province in Canada which does not allow landlords to include "no pet" clauses in rental agreements. As per Section 14 of the Residential Tenancies Act, a provision in a tenancy agreement prohibiting the presence of animals in or about the residential complex is void. This means that a landlord cannot include a clause in a tenancy agreement that would prohibit the presence of pets on the premises. The only exception to this clause is if the property is a condominium, which does not allow pets.
This would be a more appropriate rule - No pests allowed by Fredrik Rubensson
There are many deciding factors, which are taken into consideration before renting or buying a property. There are many apartment buildings as well as condominiums where pets are welcome. Similarly, if you buy a detached dwelling there is no guarantee that you may not have an issue. If you have a vocal or unruly animal you are sure not to win the best neighbour award. However rules are a little bit relaxed if you own a detached property as compared to a condominium or renting a property.
The pet owners certainly do have rights and so do the condo board and other condo owners who do not have or like having a pet. It is not right to keep a large dog in a cramped place or have an unruly animal on the property, resulting in fear or safety concerns among other members in the society. At the same time, the condo board should not have conservative views on pet policy. The stress should be on responsible pet ownership rather than having a no pet policy. They should resolve the alleged problem and not get rid of the problem.
So the 1.3 million condo owners in Ontario (as per 2015 report) can enjoy the exclusivity that comes with owing a condo, both the parties should come at an amicable decision.
Some of the condos in Toronto with no dog policy are:
- 30 Wellington Street East, Toronto (The Wellington)
- 33 University Avenue, Toronto (Empire Plaza)
- 260 Seneca Hill Drive, Toronto North York (Crestview Place South Tower)
- 555 Yonge Street (The Residences of 555 Yonge)
- 8 Pemberton Avenue, Toronto North York (Park Palace I)
- 8 Pemberton Avenue, Toronto North York (Park Palace II)
- 8 Pemberton Avenue, Toronto North York (Park Palace III)
- 29 Pemberton Avenue, Toronto North York (Plaza Condominium)
- 39 Pemberton Avenue, Toronto North York (Paramount Condominium)
- 25 Maitland Street (The Cosmopolitan)
- 62 Wellesley Street West, Toronto (Queens Park Place)
P.S.: As of the day of writing this article, government is looking to make it legal for landlords in Ontario to ban pets. In the lights of no longer sustainable housing situation in GTA, the city of Toronto has decided to make changes to its Residential Tenancies Act from 2006 in order to encourage people to rent more, mainly to rent the unoccupied rooms in houses they permanently reside. The government, and its consultants, identified the fear of tenants not behaving in their best manners and thus damaging the property or making it impossible to be shared with landlords, as the main reason why people don't want to rent their spare rooms. So the new proposed act is giving greater power in evicting tenants to landlords. In cases of either smoking, not paying rent on time or pet damaging the property. Now, all this is possible even under the current Act (which by-laws in the given matter are quite reasonable, ensuring proper behavior from both sides), however under the new Act, the landlords don't have to issue a written warning and provide "second chance" to their tenants, nor do they have to provide any evidence of such behaviour actually taking place. It is enough that you own a pet, as good behaved as it may be, and they claim that the behavior of your pet is damaging the property and you can be evicted just on this very loosely established ground. So basically, they can tell you upfront, no pet or you are out.
Which, of course, many of us don't agree with. Thankfully government is currently accepting feedback to the proposed act and an e-petition (which you can sign here) has been started in order to draw more attention to this issue which is implied in the new act.