Rhonda Stebbing and her two cats moved into a condominium in Edmonton in 2010. The condo’s bylaws required written consent by its Board for residents to keep cats. Stebbing made Board approval a condition of her purchase, and her realtor indicated that approval was obtained. Though the Board never granted written consent, Stebbing withdrew the condition and moved in.
Two years later, a number of residents began complaining about cats in the building due to cat hair in laundry facilities causing allergic reactions. There were many cats in the building – for which only some had received written consent by the Board. Though only one of the complaints referred to Stebbing’s cats specifically, the Board decided to strictly enforce its bylaws. Rather than giving Stebbing written consent, the Board gave her notice to remove the cats or otherwise face a court order to have them removed.
The Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta held that section 67 of the Condominium Property Act, RSA 2000 c-22, imparted a duty on the Board “to act fairly in making a decision that affects the ‘rights, privileges or interests’ of an owner.” The Court found that the Board, in applying its bylaws, arbitrarily distinguished between residents with and those without written consent; it was targeting Stebbing not because her cats were the subjects of any complaints, but rather because she did not get written consent. In this way, the Board breached section 67 of the Act.
Yet rather than dismissing the Board’s application on that basis, the Court instead issued a declaration that the lack of written consent was in breach of the Board’s bylaws – and stayed the enforcement of that declaration until either the cats died or were relocated. This was done in consideration of the burden that would be placed on the Edmonton Humane Society in relocating the cats and the impact of such a relocation on Stebbing. While the Court did not consider the well-being of the cats themselves, it did note that “[a]nimals might not yet have rights in the conventional sense, or standing to intervene, but the very least that can be said is that their status is evolving.”
Source: Case Law