As many of our readers know, on October 1, 2020 the Condominium Authority Tribunal (also known as the CAT), expanded its jurisdiction beyond records requests. The CAT now handles disputes relating to pets, parking, storage and lockers (and chargebacks related to these).
This is a relatively new change, and, as such, many of us were waiting to see how the CAT would approach these cases and the scope of what it could order.
In a recent case, the CAT ruled on whether it had the power to evicted pets.
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The facts of the case
In PCC No 96 v Psofimis, the CAT had to consider whether Mr. Psofimis was breaching the corporation’s rules by keeping a dog in excess of the Corporation’s 40-pound weight limit. The CAT found that Mr. Psofimis’s German Shepherd was in excess of this threshold (based on the American Kennel Club’s website indicating that German Shepherds weigh between 50-70 pounds).
Accordingly, the question for the CAT was, what it could do about this.
Can the CAT evict your dog?
The CAT began its deliberations by noting that the corporation had a duty under section 17 of the Act to enforce its rules. Likewise, Mr. Psofimis has a duty under section 119 of the Act to abide by the rules. These independent responsibilities, the CAT stated, are “crucial to maintaining a harmonious condominium community.”
Accordingly, the CAT found that when Mr. Psofimis purchased a unit at PCC 96, he agreed to abide by the rules of the community, which included restricting pets to those below a certain weight limit. The CAT also found it significant that the corporation took several steps to ensure that Mr. Psofimis was aware of the rule, including asking him to sign an agreement, sending reminders to all owners, and sending him a written notice. Mr. Psofimis was also given two opportunities to re-home his dog voluntarily, but he refused to do so.
On this basis, the CAT ordered that the dog be evicted within 30 days.
The costs award
The CAT’s next question was what amount, if any, the Corporation was entitled to charge the owner as a result of having been successful in this application.
The CAT noted its jurisdiction to award damages up to the amount of $25,000 when considering the Corporation’s request that its legal fees (in the amount of approximately $5,000) be reimbursed.
The Tribunal noted that it is not fair that all other owners should have to pay the legal fees incurred due to one owner’s unwarranted conduct. Mr. Psofimis broke the rules and left the Corporation with no choice but to start a CAT hearing. Accordingly, the CAT awarded the Corporation its fees for preparing a demand letter, the filing fee for the Tribunal, and all of the legal fees incurred throughout the hearing. The CAT noted that this was an exceptional case where the owner deliberately and repeatedly ignored the Corporation’s attempts to resolve the matter on a voluntary basis.
There are a few takeaways from this.
For owners, it is absolutely vital that you carefully review a condo’s governing documents before you move in, especially if you want to have a bigger pet. You don’t want to end up in a situation like this one.
For corporations, this case sets a good example of what you should do when faced with an owner’s refusal to comply with rules. The Corporation made an honest and real attempt to resolve the matter amicably before bringing it to the next level. This is always the preferable method, and indeed, it is what lead to the CAT to award legal fees to the corporation.
For any questions about your condo’s pet rules or how they can be enforced, make sure to reach out to your friendly neighbourhood condominium lawyer!