Pets are an integral part of families throughout North America, and for many, pets are akin to children. Unlike with human children, finding housing accommodations for you and your beloved pet can be challenging. This is especially true of condominiums. Like in Canada, in the United States the states regulate housing. Also like in Canada, condominiums in the United States can prohibit pets. More commonly, condominiums will place restrictions on pets allowed in the building. This can include breed or weight restrictions, and limits on the number of pets or type of pets allowed in the building.

When contemplating which condominium to live in with your pet or future pet, it is imperative to read and understand the condominium’s declaration, and other governing documents. This will ensure that you purchase a home that will accept your pets. Unfortunately, some owners buy a condominium without reading the pet policy and end up having to relinquish their pet or find an alternative living arrangement. This can be stressful, time consuming, and costly, and highlights the importance of being aware of your condominium’s governing pet policy.

Moreover, if you are in a condominium that restricts or does not allow pets and you subsequently require a service or emotional support animal, this can raise issues with some condominiums. In the majority of cases, presenting a doctor’s note regarding the need for the service or emotional support animal, or presenting the animal’s service credentials will be satisfactory in allowing you to circumvent the condominium’s pet restrictions. Occasionally, condominiums will not be satisfied by the documentation you provide regarding your service or emotional support animal. Similarly, the size or breed of dog you require for service or support may not be supported by the condominium’s declaration. In these cases, you may need file a housing discrimination complaint with the US Department of Housing and Urban Development or the US Department of Justice. Likewise, in Ontario you would file a Human Rights Code complaint.

Furthermore, pet condominium laws can vary distinctly by province or state. For instance in Ontario, the Condominium Act has been challenged in several unique ways. In Metropolitan Toronto Condominium Corp No 949 v Staib,[1] a tenant moved in to a condominium with her cat despite being aware of the no pet policy. The condominium was aware of the cat’s presence for 10 years. The court found that the no pet policy was unenforceable in this case since it had not been enforced for 10 years.[2] Similarly in Niagara North Condominium Corp No 125 v Waddington, the court held that a condominium rule banning all pets was generally unenforceable and contrary to section 58(1) of the Condominium Act.[3]

Overall, condominium laws regarding pets in the United States operate similarly to pet condominium laws in Canada, but can differ by jurisdiction. It is critical to read and understand the condominium’s declaration and other governing documents, and to be aware of precedent case law in your region. However, if an issue were to arise related to bringing a service or emotional support animal into the condominium, a complaint may need to be filed if the situation cannot be resolved with the condominium itself. Issues can also arise regarding bringing a companion animal into a condominium where the declaration seems to allow it.

Each situation is unique and the proper response can vary by state or province. In these situations it is important to seek the counsel of lawyers who are well versed in pet condominium law. Our team of animal lawyers at Gartner & Associates have years of expertise resolving pet condominium disputes in Canada. Obtaining an animal lawyer who specializes in this area may make the difference in allowing you and your pet to remain in your condominium together. For more information regarding pet condominium law in your region, please do not hesitate to contact our team by phone at (416) 849-0944 or by email at info@animallawyers.ca.

[1] [2005] OJ No 5265.

[2] Ibid at para 5.

[3] 2007 ONCA 184 at para 13.

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