It’s no secret that many strata corporations in British Columbia have pet bylaws in place that restrict the number and/or type of pets that are permitted to live in a strata unit. Further, some strata corporations have outright prohibitions when it comes to pets. Are these provisions legitimate?
The answer to this question depends on a number of factors, including the wording of the particular bylaw in question and the circumstances surrounding its enforcement. That said, there are some general principles that apply to pet bylaws in BC.
First and foremost, it is important to remember that bylaws are contractual in nature, and as such, they are binding on all owners, tenants and occupants of a strata corporation. This means that if you live in a strata corporation that has pet bylaws in place, you are legally obligated to comply with those bylaws. Violating a bylaw can result in fines and/or other penalties being imposed on you by your strata corporation.
Strata corporations can restrict owners, tenants and other occupants from keeping pets or certain kinds of pets through the bylaws of the strata corporation. The bylaws might do any of the following:
- ban pets
- limit the number of pets that can be kept
- provide restrictions on keeping pets, such as leashing them in common areas
- limit the kind of pets that can be kept, such as no dogs, or no dogs over 20 kilograms
- require pets to be registered with the strata council
In order to determine if a bylaw is valid, one must look at three things:
- the power given to the strata corporation in the Strata Property Act (“the Act”);
- any restrictions on that power in the Act; and
- whether the bylaw is reasonable.
Pet bylaws banning or limiting the number or type of pets cannot apply to certified guide or service dogs. Under B.C.’s Human Rights legislation strata corporations have a duty to accommodate designated classes of people including, people with disabilities who require service or companion animals.
With regard to ‘Grandfathering’ pets in update bylaws, Section 123 of the Strata Property Act only states: “A bylaw that prohibits a pet does not apply to a pet living with an owner, tenant or occupant at the time the bylaw is passed and which continues to live there after the bylaw is passed.”
Furthermore, it is worth noting that pet bylaws are generally enforceable against all types of animals, including both traditional “pets” (e.g. dogs, cats, etc.) and so-called “emotional support animals” or “therapy animals”. That said, there are some exceptions to this rule. For example, fish are not typically included within the definition of “pets” for the purposes of strata pet bylaws. As such, strata corporations usually cannot impose restrictions on the number or type of fish that an owner keeps on their property.
Finally, it is important to remember that while pet bylaws are generally enforceable against all owners, tenants and occupants of a strata property, there are some circumstances where enforcement may not be possible or advisable. For example, if someone with a disability requires an emotional support animal or therapy animal for medical reasons, then enforcing a pet bylaw against them may contravene human rights legislation . As such,strata corporations should use caution when attempting to enforce pet bylaws against owners ,tenants or occupants with disabilities who require assistance animals.
Pet bylaws are a contentious issue in many strata corporations across BC. While strata corporations are well within their rights to enact pet bylaws, these bylaws must be reasonable and cannot be applied oppressively or unreasonably. If you are a pet owner living in a strata with restrictive pet bylaws and you feel that these bylaws are being applied unfairly, seek legal advice to determine your options.
In summary, while pet bylaws are generally enforceable against all owners ,tenants and occupants of a strata property ,there are some circumstances where enforcement may not be possible or advisable . If you have any questions about whether or not a particular pet bylaw can be enforced against you ,it is always best to speak with a qualified lawyer for guidance.
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