D.R. from Fairfield County writes:
Dear Mister Condo,
The condo board at my complex is considering charging a monthly fee to anybody that has an “indoor/outdoor” pet because they appear to be upset about dog urine harming grass in the common areas. Our declaration and bylaws state that a single pet is permitted and that unit owners must pick up after the pet. Our condo has been around since 1980 and has always allowed pets and been pet friendly. Now the board is seeking to target dog owners to our dismay. Would it be legal for the board to begin charging unit owners this monthly fee? Would they be able to charge a fee like this through an amendment to the declaration or bylaws? Is there anything in the CT statutes that would prevent them from charging such a fee? It seems to me that the board can charge you for a violation (which a dog going pee is not), a common charge, or an assessment. As for the latter two, I believe that the declaration and bylaws state that they are allocated based upon % of ownership interest–not some category such as pet ownership. Thanks so much for your advice.
Mister Condo replies:
D.R., the common grounds are under the direct management and governance of the Board of Directors, who are the freely elected representatives of the unit owners. They can adopt rules that effect the usage of the common grounds provided they follow the proper procedure as outlined in your condo documents and in accordance with state law. Keep in mind that I am not an attorney and offer no legal advice here, just a friendly discussion of the topic at hand.
Rules are adopted by resolution at a Board meeting. Once the Board votes to accept the rule, it is adopted and proper notice is given to all unit owners. If there is enough “dismay”, unit owners are likely to ask the Board to reconsider or repeal the rule. If the Board refuses, the rule stands. If there are enough unit owners dissatisfied with the rule, it is time to elect new leaders who will; better represent the community members. Pet restrictions are contentious in many communities. If you have no pet owners or sympathizers on the Board, it is not uncommon to see new pet restrictions passed. Often times, these restrictions come from a unit owner complaint of pet waste found outside their unit. Both sides have a point and it is usually one or two irresponsible pet owners who cause the problem. The reality is that it is quite frustrating to legislate where animals can and can’t be walked on common grounds. It is even more frustrating to enforce the rules because those residents that don’t pick up after their pets rarely care about rules.
Common fees and assessments are completely different and really don’t need to enter this conversation. This is about the Board’s authority to create rules, which they definitely have. What they don’t have is autonomous power do disregard the will of the unit owners. If enough of you feel strongly that these rules are not needed or are unfair, you should petition the Board to remove them. Good luck!