S.N. from Westchester County, NY writes:
Dear Mister Condo,
Hi! I have a downstairs neighbor in my Westchester, NY condo who, for the past two years, I have been asking them to control their constantly barking dog. I have sent them a multitude of letters and tried talking to them face to face. I even offered to buy them an anti-barking collar. Each time they comply for a week or two, then the barking starts up again. I finally wrote to the condo board and they issued a warning letter. Again, the dog was quiet for a couple of weeks then started up again. After my second complaint to the board, they issued a small fine. All was good until last week when I received a letter from the board stating they were rescinding the fine and they cannot get involved with personal issues between neighbors.
As it turns out my neighbors wrote to the board somehow convincing them that the issue was a personal vendetta I had against them. So my question is: what recourse do I have to get the condo board to enforce the “pets cannot create a disturbance” bylaw (which is clearly stated in the condo bylaws) and this is not a personal issue between me and my neighbor? I already sent the board copies of all the letters I sent my neighbors over the last two years addressing the barking, so I would think that would be enough proof that this is a real issue. What can I do next? The dog continues to bark…
Mister Condo replies:
Hello, S.N.! I am sorry that your neighbor’s dog has caused so much trouble for you. Barking dogs are a real nuisance for any neighborhood. It is usually much worse in condominium associations like yours where walls and floors and ceilings are often shared. Your neighbor’s lack of cooperation and inability to silence the dog has become the real issue here and my advice would normally be to do what you have already done. Your Board is the right place to complain and they almost did the right thing when they issued the warning letter, followed by the fine. I am not sure what made them back down but your next action is to bring suit against the Board for failing to take the required action of enforcing the noise covenants of the community. You will likely need to hire an attorney to assist you but they are required to enforce the provisions and they have left you no other option. My guess is that you will prevail and they will once again have to go through the motions of warning your neighbor, fining your neighbor, and maybe even evicting your neighbor or the dog if the barking cannot be controlled. This could take a long time and escalate into all sorts of ugliness but you do have the right to peaceable enjoyment of your unit as outlined in your condo documents.
I have a follow up question for you. Do none of your other neighbors hear this dog barking? Are they not willing to verify your complaint of the noise? In my experience, barking dogs are only silenced when the community as a whole speaks up against the offensive unit owner who is not following the rules. Sole complaints from one neighbor to another do have the appearance of petty vendettas and they pit neighbor against neighbor. But when two or three neighbors complain about something like dog barking, the Board has all of the evidence it needs to take action. Can you not get a few of your immediate neighbors to file complaints as well? That may solve your problem a lot quicker and give the Board the fortitude to handle the complaint correctly. Keep in mind that even if the Board does what it is supposed to do and warns and fines the neighbor, the barking may continue. The real problem here is your neighbor’s lack of interest in being a good neighbor and in following the community’s dog noise rules. All of the warnings and fines in the world can’t teach people the Golden Rule of doing unto others. I am hopeful that if your Board takes strong action, you will get the results you seek. Otherwise, you just might find yourself needing to move away from this association when the market conditions allow you to do so.
Good luck, S.N.. I hope you find the peace and quiet you are seeking.