Strata Properties and BSL

When you live in a BC property that is governed by a strata council, the council has the legal right to restrict which pets you can own, whether by number, species, size, weight or breed. It’s understandable that in dense living conditions, neighbours might have concerns about noise, damage and safety – and often the restrictions are an attempt to mitigate these. However, we’re not aware of any evidence indicating that restricting the size, weight or breed of dog necessarily makes for a more harmonious living environment. A responsible owner who leashes, trains and cleans up after his 100+ pound mastiff cross is certainly a more desirable neighbour than one who allows their continuously barking, small breed dog to run amok in the common areas. Although this principle may seem obvious to many, pet restrictions do exist – and are, unfortunately, quite common.

Before you move in

If you are looking to buy or rent in a strata property, ask to see the bylaws and any recent meeting minutes where pet-related issues have been raised. Do not rely on your realtor or landlord to provide reassurance that your pet will be permitted. The language might be vague and may not raise red flags for someone who is not as knowledgeable about these types of situations, so be responsible and do your own research.

Don’t make assumptions about pet policies based on other dogs that live in the building. Neighbours might be “looking the other way,” the resident may have an arrangement with council, or the pet might have been “grandfathered in.” At the end of the day, it is the letter of the law that should inform your decision about whether this is the right place for you and your dog to live. All it takes is one grumpy neighbour to complain that you are violating a bylaw to cause a conflict that may result in you being asked to get rid of your pet – or move. It won’t matter what you were told by anyone else or who else in the building might be in violation.

If restrictions exist and a strata representative offers to provide an exemption, get this in writing. If that person leaves without providing documentation of your conversation, or if it is found that they are not authorized to provide the exemption, it will not stand up to the written bylaw if challenged.

Living in a strata complex and they are proposing BSL

The good news is that if you resided at the property before any pet restrictions were implemented, your pet should be “grandfathered in” and be allowed to remain in the building. Still, these laws are prohibitive and unfair and are worth fighting against.

  1. Do some research. Find out where these concerns are coming from and whether a specific person or incident underlies them, and see if this can be addressed directly and respectfully.
  2. If there seems to be a base of support for these restrictions, ask to make a presentation at the next AGM or strata meeting. While there aren’t a lot of resources on best practices around pet management in strata properties, we do have sample bylaws in our Resources section, and a lot of the general information about breed-specific legislation applies. Targeting owner behaviour and known risk factors is much more effective than attempting to police animals based on their appearance. The BC SPCA also has a Strata Council Guide that can be downloaded from their site – this includes general info, as well as sample pet policies.
  3. If needed, consider bringing in the experts. Contact your local animal control department, SPCA branch, trainers or animal behaviour experts. They may be able to provide a statement or presentation in support of breed-neutral pet policies. Depending on the political and community climate, the strata council may be more inclined to listen to an objective expert, rather than a resident who has a personal stake in the issue. If appropriate, perhaps an “ambassadog” or certified therapy dog can attend the meeting so that people can see what should be obvious – a dog is a dog, regardless of labels.
  4. If contention remains, consider going door-to-door and talking with neighbours directly. Ask them to sign a petition or letter indicating their opposition to unfair pet restrictions, and their support of a high standard of ownership for all pets. If the matter comes to a vote, encourage them to participate.

Along with the usual arguments against breed-specific legislation, there’s an additional point worth driving home in this context: pet restrictions may decrease property value. Many people have pets – even those in the smallest condos. Particularly in tight housing markets, people are willing to pay more for a place where they can live with their pet.