A Surrey couple whose cat roamed strata property and used flower boxes as a bathroom won’t have to pay any fines, B.C.’s Civil Resolution Tribunal ruled Dec. 14.
Hai Feng Sun and Hai Yan Yang became co-owners of their condo unit in June 2016. Their cat, adopted in May 2020, also moved in, said tribunal member David Jiang in his ruling.
The strata's bylaws said an owner might keep one dog or cat, and all pets must be leashed and under the control of their owner while on common property.
“I find this includes the applicants’ cat as the bylaws state no exceptions,” Jiang said. The bylaws also stated a pet’s owner must remove any waste or excrement left by the pet on common property.
Things got hairy when the cat was seen running through yards and gardens, a tale that spurred a complaint.
Jiang said the owners admitted their cat “escaped a few times” in the past when they opened the door, something the tribunal called a bylaw breach.
Things hit the fan again on March 19, 2021, when the couple received a letter from the strata.
“It said someone saw the cat roaming freely and using an owner’s garden as a litter box,” Jiang said.
The strata manager said the strata would levy a $50 fine the next time the cat was seen off leash or using the gardens. The owners said they never received this letter.
However, the cat could not contain itself.
On April 8, 2021, the strata manager sent another letter, this time about the cat roaming freely and again using gardens as a litter box.
A $50 fine was issued; however, Jiang said, the owners were not given the opportunity to respond to the latest complaints before levying the fine.
The situation purred right along to Sept. 22, 2021, when the strata manager wrote another letter, this one about complaints of the cat roaming off leash in April, May, June, August, and September 2021.A further $200 fine was levied.
(The decision gave no indication what the cat was doing in July.)
According to the tribunal, the strata breached the Strata Property Act as the manager’s letters show the strata levied the fines before providing the pair a reasonable opportunity to answer the complaints.
“This is because the strata advised the applicants about the complaints and levied fines about the complaints in the same letters,” Jiang said. “So, even though I have found that the applicants breached the bylaws, I find the fines are invalid.”