Strata Bylaws – What Is A “Small Dog”?
A recent North Vancouver strata owner took the Strata Corporation to the Civil Resolution and won. He now is allowed to keep his golden retriever dog. He successfully argued the bylaw that restricted “small dog” was too vague and therefore is an unenforceable bylaw. The decision can be found here.
The facts of the case are that the strata owner purchased the strata lot and when he moved in he had a golden retriever puppy. Soon after he was told his dog did not meet the definition of “small dog” as defined in the strata’s pet bylaw, bylaw 3(4) (the pet bylaw) which reads as follows:
“3(4) An owner, tenant or occupant must not keep any pets on a strata lot other than one or more of the following:
- a reasonable number of fish or other small aquarium animals;
- a reasonable number of small caged mammals;
- up to 2 caged birds;
- one small dog or cat is permitted; small being defined as an animal that can comfortably be picked up and carried.”
The owner met with the strata council to discuss the pet bylaw. Thereafter, the strata council sent a letter stating that the dog did not fit within the bylaw as a “small dog” and that the owner must remove the dog from the property no later than June 30, 2017. On June 27, 2017, the strata council wrote to the owner stating that if the dog was not removed by June 30, 2017, then the owner would be subject to a maximum fine of $200.00 which could be imposed every seven days until the dog is removed from the premises. The owner was advised of the opportunity pursuant to section 135 (1) of the Strata Property Act (SPA) to answer the complaint in writing, including having a hearing. The owner did not request a hearing.
The owner provided two videos that demonstrated that he could pick up the dog and carry the dog without difficulty for a matter of minutes or so.
The tribunal mentioned as well that there were no complaints about the dog from other owners within the building.
The owner argued the bylaw is vague, ambiguous, and unclear to the point of unenforceability. The owner stated that he fits within the bylaws definition as he can pick up the dog. The owner went on to say, that the lack of objective, tangible criteria leads to inconsistent enforcement of the pet bylaw which he says is unfair. The tribunal agreed. The tribunal stated that there are no objective criteria to determine if a dog is or is not in compliance with the bylaw. The tribunal further stated that the strata will have to consider and pass a new bylaw to replace bylaw 3(4). In the meantime, the owner’s dog is compliant with the strata bylaws.
We recommend strata corporations regularly review their bylaws for enforceability so they don’t run into issues like this. If your strata is facing an issue like this or if you are an owner with a similar issue; please contact Doak Shirreff Lawyers LLP.
This article is for general information only and is not to be relied upon as legal advice. If you have questions or require legal advice please contact Maris Holmes.