Pets in Ontario condos

Sometimes a prospective buyer or renter looking at a condo will mention that they have pets. They’ve often heard that the Residential Tenancies Act prevents landlords from having “no-pet” clauses in leases (s. 14 makes these void). They assume it’s the same in condos.

Unfortunately, that’s not the case.

A condo is a private corporation and the rules it sets via its bylaws are not subject to this legislation. That is the same whether the condo is for sale or for rent. So whether you are a buyer, or seller, make sure you check the bylaws.

Sometimes no pets are allowed at all, but quite  often there are weight restrictions and restrictions on the number of pets permitted. There can also be restrictions on having your pet in the elevator and in common spaces — in some cases it’s not allowed and in others you have to be able to carry the animal.

The weight restrictions are tricky. Sometimes they refer to the weight of the breed. I have a spaniel who is much larger than other spaniels. If I move into a condo with that kind of rule with a puppy, anticipating the dog will be of average size, and it exceeds the average, what happens? 

I’m not aware of any Ottawa cases but this issue has been litigated in Toronto several times. In some instances, the courts have decided the pet can stay; in others that they needed to go.

As for residential tenancies, the “no pets” clause only applies after someone becomes a tenant. But the Residential Tenancies Act doesn’t cover individuals before they become tenants, so a landlord can post an advertisement saying “no pets” and refuse to rent to a prospective tenant who has one, even if the condo rules allow it.

Once they rent a condo, however, if the condo rules allow pets, the tenant can’t be evicted simply for having a pet because of the Residential Tenancies Act, even if there is a “no pets” clause in the lease.  The exception to this is if the animal is aggressive or causes severe allergies to other tenants or  disturbs them, for example, with loud barking.

Now, the condo rules are not always followed. Before I became a realtor, for example, I was looking at offering on a lovely condominium but I have a dog and a cat.

I asked my realtor if pets were allowed in the building. He told me there was a 25 lb limit. My dog was ten pounds heavier than that, so I didn’t buy.

Imagine my surprise when I was showing the same building to a client months later and discovered a large Labrador sitting happily in the lobby, while the supervisor chatted with its owner. I discovered that the condo had introduced the bylaw after two large dogs fought  but they had a Pet Committee that decided on a case-by-case basis how to deal with large dogs, eg. whether they should be muzzled.

So be careful on both sides of the equation. If you are a prospective tenant or buyer, find out what the rules are before you move into a condo. Make sure you know what the rules are in the building  (official and unofficial)  so that there are no unhappy surprises.

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