Strata Living: How many hamsters is too many?
(QMI AGENCY FILE PHOTO)
Dear Tony: Our strata corporation has received a complaint from an owner in a strata lot about a smell coming from their neighbours' unit.
The council contacted the neighbours and were permitted to enter the suite as we had suspected it may be coming from a sewer back problem we experienced last year.
The odour was as the result of a number of unclean pens that were housing hamsters and other rodents. We estimated they have 15 cages in varying sizes, all with at least 5-10 hamsters or rats in them in poor conditions.
Council decided to give the owner notice of a bylaw complaint regarding the odour and advising them that they had exceeded the number of limited pets in their strata lot. Here is the difficulty: the standard bylaws, which we use, simply cites a reasonable number of small caged mammals. It does not say how many cages or what a reasonable number is.
We suspect that if the owner had maintained the cages properly, we may never have known about the problem.
So what next?
Dear Shiera: When a bylaw sets out a condition such as "reasonable" or "must not unreasonably refuse," that is for the strata council to decide and determine whether those conditions have been exceeded.
If the pets had been maintained well and they were healthy, along with well-maintained cages, it is unlikely a bylaw complaint would ever have been filed.
That is a good indication to you that the conditions are not reasonable.
The strata lot is a residential strata lot and not intended as a pet store or breeding centre.
This may require that the strata corporation more clearly define and adopt a bylaw that limits the number of pets or animals in a strata lot.
In the meantime, strata council follows the bylaw enforcement procedures under the Act.
Give notice of the complaint, permit the owner the opportunity to respond in writing or request a hearing and then make a decision after that process on bylaw enforcement.
While fines may or may not be sufficient, the strata corporation may be required to obtain an injunction to address the problem. There may also be a human health safety issue and a pet health safety issue. Contact the regional health authority and the SPCA to seek additional assistance and possible investigation into the conditions of the strata lot and the animals.
Tony Gioventu, Executive Director
Condominium Home Owners' Association (CHOA)