Companion Animals in Condos: Ontario Creates New Rules for Disputes

Companion animals are family members, too. But all too often, people are surprised to find restrictive pet rules in condo buildings and rental housing. Although it’s generally illegal to include a “no pet” clause in a lease, condo buildings are different. There may be condo bylaws that restrict the number or size of companion animals who can live in a unit.

Companion animal restrictions in condos are bad for everyone involved, and are often highly arbitrary and poorly-enforced. Pet bans can rip families apart, reduce adoption rates at shelters, and make housing more difficult to find in an already-challenging housing market. These disputes sometimes end up in messy and expensive litigation. But this fall, changes to Ontario’s Condominium Act paved the way for a simplified process, and better access to justice for people facing companion animal disputes in condo buildings.

As of October 1, 2020, the Condominium Authority Tribunal can now hear cases about disputed provisions in condo bylaws relating to pets and other animals. Until this change, owners and condo corporations involved in companion animal disputes had to go through private mediation, arbitration, or the Ontario Superior Court of Justice to reach a settlement. The Tribunal now has exclusive jurisdiction over companion animal disputes.

Now, an animal guardian will be able to file directly with the Tribunal over disputes about the consistency or reasonableness of provisions affecting animals in their condo bylaws. A companion animal guardian may also dispute whether a condo corporation has correctly implemented or amended rules in its governing documents.

The practical implications of these new rules for companion animals living in condominiums are significant. Most importantly, condo-dwellers can now avoid costly and prolonged clashes in mediation, arbitration, or court. The Tribunal is designed to resolve condo issues as early as possible and to settle disputes quickly and effectively. According to the Condominium Authority of Ontario, CAT is embracing a user-centric system that is flexible and simple to use.

CAT’s expanded mandate should give rise to increased access to justice for aggrieved pet owners in condominiums. While the extent of the impact of CAT’s growing jurisdiction remains to be seen, this is undoubtedly a step in the right direction to ensure issues concerning companion animals are addressed more reliably and effectively in Ontario.

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