Can the Board Enforce a Weight Rule Against Tenant With an ESA?

A.G. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I am on the HOA Board of our 11 unit complex. One unit is being rented out to a tenant with a pit bull. The HOA knew the tenant had a dog but only recently started receiving complaints about the dog. It has jumped on other residents, barks all day, and has tried jumping on other resident’s dogs. The HOA also was informed the dog is over our weight restrictions. When served with a violation notice the tenant gave a letter stating they are allowed one ESA. Can the HOA continue to pursue action against the dog being over weight limits? And can the HOA do anything about the dog being a nuisance? The owner of the unit is siding with the tenant and wants them to keep the dog. But now other residents, including the neighboring unit, are afraid of being attacked by the pit bull. I don’t think the ESA is exempt from all HOA rules but it seems the tenant is hiding behind that ESA letter.

Mister Condo replies:

A.G., the winds of change are blowing on Emotional Support Animals and your tenant may be on the losing side of the latest court rulings. Also, the HOA may be able to enforce rules about breed or weight restrictions based on your local laws. However, this is not a “do it yourself” project. Violating the rights of any unit owner or tenant with a legitimately documented ESA is a potential lawsuit waiting to happen. You are very well advised to seek the advice and guidance of a locally qualified attorney who is verse in this area of law. Otherwise, your small association could find itself on the receiving end of a lawsuit. Based on what you have shared with me so far, it sounds like both the tenant and unit owner are ready to do battle so tread lightly and get the legal advice you need before you take any action. Good luck!

2 thoughts on “Can the Board Enforce a Weight Rule Against Tenant With an ESA?

  1. Keep a log of the dog’s behavior; insist on written complaints from other residents or owners which include date, time, and a discription of the undesireable behavior of the dog. Attorney help is needed, but the attorney needs the community’s help if anything is to be done to remedy the situation.

  2. As Mr. Condo noted, don’t touch this without the advice of an attorney. I am a property manager and I could have written this post with few changes and it would have mirrored a case that I was involved in that just settled. The dog in our case was clearly in violation, but owner made an ESA claim after the violation notice was issued and the board had the association attorney pursue it. The owner counter sued stating that the association violated the Fair Housing Act. The issue was still pursued by the board and although they were able to remove the dog (was also a tenant and owner agreed to not renew the lease), it resulted in paying a low 5 figure settlement and accrued nearly $100k in legal fees. Luckily the association insurance covered the defense of the counter suit, but the costs to the association were still in the tens of thousands.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *