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My strata fined me for having a big dog, what should I do?

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Aug 29, 2021

When deciding whether to pay a Strata fine, owners need to know their rights. Not only do owners have procedural rights but they have a right to intelligible bylaws. They cannot be vague. A bylaw will be considered vague if “a reasonably intelligent person would be unable to determine the meaning of the bylaw and govern his or her actions accordingly”.

Okay, George, but get to the dogs…

A few years ago, I was in a condo building in Vancouver. I was heading to visit a friend who lived in the building. As the elevator door slid open allowing me to enter, there it was. The biggest dog I have ever set my eyes upon. A short haired Rhodesian Ridgeback mix weighing in at a cool 186lbs. Admittedly, I almost didn’t step into the elevator with the beast.

Following this interaction in the elevator, my definition of a ‘big dog’ changed and is likely different than any person who hasn’t observed a dog of the size in the elevator that day. This story is meant to help elucidate the moving goal posts that come with words that can carry subject meaning and varying person to person.

An example of these moving goal posts is Esfahani v. The Owners, Strata Plan BCS 2797, 2018 BCCRT 176. In that dispute, the tribunal considered a bylaw only allowed small dogs, which it defined as a dog that “can comfortably be picked up and carried”. The tribunal determined that how much a person can comfortably lift varies considerably. The strata’s bylaw was unenforceable due to vagueness. As a result, all fines levied under the bylaw were reversed.

Notably, the Civil Resolution Tribunal will uphold pet bylaws if they are based on an objective standard such as weight or height (see for example The Owners, Strata Plan XX 1234 v. al, 2019 BCCRT 284).

In sum, review the bylaws before challenging fines levied based on pet size. There are some that are enforceable and others that are not. Also, if you were wondering, the Rhodesian Ridgeback mix was fed 5lbs of raw beef per day – wonder if it was Wagyu.

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