Pet rules for strata corporationsMost strata corporations aren’t just made up of human residents. You can often find a variety of four-legged residents as well! Furry friends can liven up a community and improve the mental health of residents. However, when not properly monitored, they can also lead to disagreements, messes, property damage and in rare cases, injury.   

According to a recent study conducted by the Canadian Animal Health Institute, approximately 60% of Canadian households own a pet. So, it’s very likely that you run into some four-legged neighbours in the hallways or know your fellow strata council member’s or own furry family members.  

Figuring out how to make sure your human and pet residents can all live together in harmony is a challenge many strata councils face.  
The best way to make this happen is by having solid pet bylaws and corresponding rules. However, they need to be sensible and easy to follow. In this article we’ll breakdown what your strata council needs to consider when creating reasonable pet rules for the community.

Understand the difference between a pet and a service animal 

Service dogAhead of making rules around pets, it’s important to understand the difference between a pet and a service animal. For the purposes of creating rules for your community, pets are defined as companion animals. Pets can provide emotional benefits to their owners, such as reducing stress or easing loneliness.

Service animals are working animals that assist people with disabilities and are not considered pets. In British Columbia, the Guide Dog and Service Dog Act provides those with disabilities, who use qualified service dogs, the right of access to public places and those with service dogs cannot be denied occupancy of a manufactured home site or rental unit. Those that require a service animal will have proper certification where both the person and that person’s service dog are identified.   

Draft reasonable strata corporation pet rules 

To keep pet issues out of your community, an outright ban on pets can be tempting. However, a community being pet-friendly can be an important selling point for many potential residents. That’s why solid pet rules can go a long way to keep pet issues to a minimum. 

The rules need to have purpose that is easy to define and are easy for residents to follow. Before setting any new pet rules, or revising existing ones, it’s important to discuss with your legal counsel. They know the ins and outs of any local laws that may need to be taken into account and can help make sure your rules are written in such a way that residents can’t find loopholes.  

It’s also important to remember that while a strata council can change bylaws, they need to be approved by the ownership so it’s important to engage ownership for their input.  

Common pet rules found within strata corporations include rules about animal and breed types, weight restrictions, pet use of common areas, and where in the community leashes must be used. When considering implementing these types of rules it’s important to consider how easy they are to enforce.  

For example, weight restrictions are often popular in an attempt to keep larger animals out of the community. However, rules specific to an animal’s weight can be hard to enforce. To ensure the rule is being followed, who is weighing all the pets in the community? What happens when a dog indulges in too many treats, gains a few pounds, and ends up over the weight limit?  

When you really think about it you can see that setting weight limits is not the best way to go about keeping large animal breeds from moving in. In the event your strata council wants a rule about the specific types of animals and breeds that are allowed in the community, it’s easier to list what types and breeds are and are not allowed. If you choose to set a rule about specific breeds, you should work closely with your legal counsel to craft it to ensure you aren’t setting something unrealistic.  

An example of a rule that every community can put in place would be to state that an animal’s owner must clean any waste deposited in common areas, and refusal to do so would result in a fine. To make this rule easier for residents to follow, you could consider placing dog waste disposal units that include a bag dispenser in the common outdoor areas that pets are allowed to use.  

Not only does a rule like this show that your strata council is dedicated to keeping community grounds clean, but the addition of a pet amenity goes a long way in showing you consider pets a valuable part of your community.  

Rules may differ for renters 

It’s important to note that if you have units in your community that are rented out by owners, they can implement their own rules for their unit regarding pets. These rules should fall in line with the rules the strata council has set for the community, but they can add additional rules. For example, they can decide they don’t want to allow pets in their unit. For this reason, within your communication you should mention that tenants that rent from an owner need to follow the rules set by their landlord.  

Communication and compliance 

Once you have drafted or updated your strata corporation’s pet rules, the next step is communicating them. Because you can’t expect residents to follow the rules if they don’t know what they are. New or updated pet rules need to be shared with residents on a regular basis. This can be done through posting on community notice boards, emails, or newsletters.

Strata corporation pet rulesWhen introducing a new rule, be clear with the purpose. A resident is more likely to follow the rule if they understand the why behind the rule. If it’s clearly stated that a rule that requires dogs always be on leashes in common areas for the safety of other residents and pets, it’s hard for a resident to argue with that logic.  

Another way to increase compliance is through clear communication of the consequences a resident will face should they not follow the rules. If as a strata council you decide to impose fines for broken rules, let the residents know what those fines are. People are more inclined to clean up after their pet versus paying a monetary fine for not doing so.  

Ahead of finalizing the process for rule enforcement and setting fines, you should work with your legal counsel to ensure your enforcement procedure and fines are reasonable.  

Exceptions can be made sparingly  

There are some cases where exceptions can be made for pet rules. Should your community be a strict no pets community, service animals would be an exception to that rule. As mentioned earlier, The Guide Dog and Service Dog Act protects the rights of those with disabilities that require a qualified service animal. Therefore, in these cases, the strata council should work with its legal counsel to ensure reasonable accommodations of approved service animals.  

Another example of where exceptions can be made, is if after too many issues with pets, your community decides to institute a new no-pets rule, however some residents already have pets. In this case, there is the option to “grandfather” current pets in, allowing the animal to remain with its family, and no one is forced from their homes. With this option, the updated rule must be well communicated to any new residents to avoid misunderstandings of exceptions to the rule.  

Lean on your legal counsel and strata management team 

Like with the creation of any rules for your strata corporation, there is a lot to consider when it comes to strata corporation pet rules. However, because this is about resident’s furry family members, it’s often more complex and can be a sensitive issue for community members. That’s why it’s so important to work closely with your legal counsel when drafting the rules. They will help you create sensible rules that can be enforced, setting your community up for success.  

And when it comes to communicating and enforcing the rules, it’s important you lean on the expertise of your strata management team. They have the experience and tools to make communicating and enforcing the rules a breeze. Because reasonable pet rules can go a long way in keeping your human and four-legged residents happy.


Wednesday March 13, 2024