Tag Archives: Pets

New Condo Owners Challenging Association’s Pet Rules

K.T. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I purchased my condo in September of 2015. There are 12 units in our association. We read the CCR prior to moving in because we knew we’d be wanting to get a dog. Our CCR states “Owners may have two common household pets which may be dogs, cats, birds or other pets defined in the Civil Code Section and as limited by local City and County ordinances and regulations.”

However, after moving in, our HOA manager sent over a handbook which states we can only have one dog and one cat. The handbook is dated 2007 and the CCR 2015. I would like to get a 2nd dog but am curious to see if the HOA handbook can stand up to the CCRs.

Mister Condo replies:

K.T., thank you for the question. As you know, I am not an attorney and offer no legal advice here. You may wish to contact a local attorney to see what specific legal rights you have. As a friendly outside observer, I would say it looks like the handbook is much older than the CCRs. It would stand to reason that the CCRs would supersede the Handbook but that is not always the case. However, before I advise you to rush out and get a second dog because you think you are in the right, I have to ask you about other members of the community. Do any of them have a second dog or are they all following the handbook rules? Even if you are right, and there are no other unit owners with two dogs, you risk the ire of your neighbors. If you don’t care about that, and you want to press the issue, speak with an attorney and see what the consequences might be for pushing back against the handbook rules. I would also ask you to think about the welfare of the second dog. If you are not successful in your campaign to take on the association and their handbook rules, what will become of the dog? I wish you and your fur babies a happy journey!

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!

New Pet Rules Discriminate Against Condo Dog Owners

L.B. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

If condo bylaws permit a pet (no restriction on size) does the condo board have the right to impose a surcharge to pet owners (specifically dog owners). Our board voted to charge $20.00 per month per dog & new owners a one-time charge of $200 plus the $20.00 per month. Do they have the right to impose such charges? What about cat owners? Should they be charged as well. These charges seem discriminatory.

Mister Condo replies:

L.B., as long as the Board passed these rules in accordance with association governance powers, they have committed no foul. However, it is important to note that these individuals were voted into service by homeowners like you. If you and enough of your fellow homeowners feel the rules are unfair, simple replace the Board members with like-minded representatives of the people. If you can’t muster enough support for that, I don’t see why the rules should change. The sitting Board likely had their reasons for imposing these rules and, as long as they were adopted and passed correctly, they are the rules of the association. All the best!

Service Animals at the Condo Pool!

A.F. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

We are a pet friendly condo. However, we do have common areas like our pool deck that does not allow pets. I like dogs but more and more residents are turning up on the pool deck with their ESA dogs, its turning into a dog park – the condo management don’t know if they can enforce the pool deck rules and ask the ESA dogs to leave?

Mister Condo replies:

A.F., this is an area where the association needs to tread lightly. Service animals are not pets and, unfortunately for the association, are not subject to the same restrictions that the association can place on pets. There are a lot of lawsuits based upon discrimination of people with ESAs. The association doesn’t want to become embroiled in such a lawsuit. I am not an attorney and offer no legal advice here. However, I would be remiss in my friendly advice duties if I didn’t tell you that you should speak with an attorney verse in both association law and service animal laws in your state to make sure the association doesn’t misstep. There may be reasonable accommodations that can be made that allow the folks with service animals to enjoy the common amenities while not imposing on the rights of the other users. I am not saying it will be a perfect solution but there may be a way to accommodate the desires of all. Get the advice of the association attorney and enjoy your amenities, without creating a lawsuit. Good luck!

Condo Landlord Thwarted by Pet Ownership for Renter Rules

J.C. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Master Deed By-laws state only one pet per condo. House Rules state one pet per condo and then states no renters can have pets. Paragraph two speaks of renters having no pets. Paragraph three speaks of lessees needing to provide 2 references. Our lessee has one pet. POA wants to fine us because they say the House Rules say no pets for renters. I believe someone signing a lease for longer than 30 days is considered a lessee, not a renter. How do I fight this without an attorney? Thank you.

Mister Condo replies:

J.C., I am sorry you find yourself at odds with your association over the pet rental rules. The terms “renters” and “lessees” are generally interchangeable so it would appear that your documents are in conflict with themselves. This is actually not that uncommon as many associations simply use a boilerplate as a basis for their documents. If there were no verbiage about the pet restrictions on renters, I would say you are in the clear. However, even though it appears to be in conflict with an earlier statement on the subject, the fact that there is a restriction on pets for renters elsewhere in the document, I would say you will not be successful in challenging the association’s position. You can challenge the association by filing suit, seeking arbitration, or whatever other method of dispute settlement is available to you. However, if you do not wish to hire an attorney, you will do so on your own. The association on the other hand would likely use the services of an attorney to defend themselves. In my non-lelgal opinion, the association will prevail. Good luck!

Condo Board Dragging Their Feet on Renter’s Pet Approval

K.L. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I am a new move-in in my condo building. About three months ago I submitted a general purchase application to the condo board of managers, which includes a question about pet information. According to the house rule, upon the board approval, pets are allowed in unit and leashed in common area, so I clearly stated that I plan to adopt a small size apartment dog. However, I haven’t heard from the board for three months. I even heard that they plan to charge a pet fee (and this is after my application was submitted). I want to ask what can I do if the board keeps silent forever and if it’s legal to charge a new fee after the application being submitted. Thank you!

Mister Condo replies:

K.L., I am sorry that you are having difficulty getting an answer about your new pet. I am sure you are anxious to make the adoption and also be a good tenant and resident of the association. Until you have the approval of the Board, you would be wise to wait as you would be in violation of the rules of the association otherwise. The Board does have the right to implement pet fees and they are not beholden to any timeframe for that, including your application date. In fact, they could implement the fee AFTER your approval and you would still be subject to it, in my opinion. As for how long they have to reply to your request, it really is up to them. Ideally, it should be at their next meeting or however else they handle the request. Some associations would delegate the job to a property manager; others handle it themselves. As a renter, you need to apply pressure to your landlord to get the Board to take action. The unit owner, not the renter, is the one who the Board must answer to. Hopefully, you can get this matter cleared up in short order. Good luck!

HOA Sues Owner for Trying to Rescue a Stray Cat

J.H. from Michigan writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

My neighbor accused me of feeding a feral cat. HOA is taking me to court. I was not feeding a feral cat! This female cat was tame, but pregnant. I was feeding the cat in order to catch her. If I had not, there would now be 3 females pregnant by the 2 tomcats roaming the condo complex. I did these people a favor! I bought the food, sat outside with the woman from a rescue organization and caught the mother and two kittens. Can a HOA have ordinances to override the County, City and State laws?

Mister Condo replies:

J.H., I salute your efforts to help but I hope you can understand how dangerous feeding any wild animals can be and the potential risk it puts on the HOA. Your neighbor had no way of knowing what you were up to and reported the behavior to the Board, who took the appropriate action for your rules and by-laws. I cannot imagine that any of their rules override local laws and the answer to that question is “no”, they cannot have rules that conflict with local ordinances. I have to believe that the correct solution to this problem would have been for you to report the stray but tame cat to the association and let them take whatever steps they deem appropriate to remedy the situation. After all, this wasn’t your cat. The person from the rescue organization would have been their likely contact and the same end result could have been achieved without your personal involvement in rescuing the animal. I am sure you meant well and I am guessing you are an animal lover, which I certainly admire. However, in most HOAs, feeding stray or ferial animals, regardless of your intention or their tameness, is prohibited due to the risk of pestilence and/or animal attacks on residents. All the best!

Neighborly Pet Behavior Missing at this Condo!

A.S. from New London County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I have a neighbor who has gotten out of control with her little dog relieving its self on her deck. It stinks! I contacted the property manager and health department. They both told me to take photos, proof, so I did. There is a hearing for the owner of this unit. I was told by the police that I cannot take photos, the police told me the property manager needs to take the photos. Our decks are 12′ off the ground, no stairs to them, so what am I supposed to do? Call the property manager and wait for him to come out? By that time, it’s too late!

Mister Condo replies:

A.S., you have a series of unfortunate events to deal with here if you are going to curb your neighbor’s behavior. The violation of your condo rules is the purview of the Board and the Property Manager. The police are only involved if laws are being broken. If your neighbor allowing her pet to relieve itself on the deck is a rule violation (most likely, it is), then you document the violation as requested by the Property Manager and let the Board take action against the neighbor. If the police are involved (likely through a domestic complaint) you need to follow their rules so they can enforce the laws. You may wish to hire an attorney to get a better answer as to what you can and cannot do for law enforcement. Honestly, if the Board takes action against the neighbor (violation letters, fines) that is probably all it will take to get the neighbor to be a more responsible pet owner. If that doesn’t work and you do need to involve the police, you will have to follow their instructions, as difficult and improbable as they sound. Good luck!

Does Condo Support Animal Count as a Pet?

W.S. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I am the President of our condo association. Our condo rules allow two pets under a certain weight limit. We have a person that presented a certificate stating their dog (overweight) is a support animal due to her husband’s depression issues. The dog was allowed but now they are bringing in two cats stating the dog is not a pet. The dog is clearly a pet. Can we stick to the two-pet rule?

Mister Condo replies:

W.S., I am sorry to say that a support animal is not a pet and, therefore, not subject to the total count of pets allowed. This is a bone of contention around the country and there are some instances where the courts are saying “enough is enough” with folks taking advantage of the support animal exemption that allows them to easily skirt rules. Perhaps you heard story of an emotional support pig recently kicked off of an airplane flight? It seems that this craziness isn’t going away any time soon. In the meantime, don’t get yourself or your association into a lawsuit you will likely lose over this. Speak with a locally qualified attorney that specializes in community association law. Ask about recent cases and how the local courts are likely to respond if a suit were brought. The overweight support animal may be the one you can challenge in court based on the animal’s weight – not it’s stated purpose as a support animal. If the attorney advises you to proceed, that is your call. Short of that, unless the laws change, my advice is to let these folks enjoy their two pets and let them have their support animal as well. Be thankful they didn’t bring a support pig into your community! All the best!

Condo Owner’s Cat Roams Freely on Common Grounds

L.K. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I live in a condo association. I have a cat that goes outside. One day my cat killed a bird and one of the neighbors in the condo association came to me and was very upset about it, asking if I could rehome my pet, which I promptly told her I was not going to do that. She then demanded that I keep my cat indoors, which I told her I would try to do, but couldn’t guarantee she wouldn’t get out from time to time. She then threatened to write a complaint to the board if I couldn’t keep the cat indoors. Our bylaws state that we can have two pets, and that you must clean up after them and keep them if they are dogs leashed. Does this neighbor have a case against us?

Mister Condo replies:

L.K., without seeing your physical condo documents and reading what they say about pet ownership, it is impossible for me to offer you an opinion. Typically, pets are not allowed to free roam on condo grounds. There are usually leash rules in addition to clean-up rules and noise rules as well. If your association has no such rule about having the pet leashed, your neighbor may not have a case. However, allowing a pet to roam free over condo grounds can have other consequences for the association, most notably liability for damage or injury caused by the pet. For that reason alone, pets (dogs, cats, or other) are typically required to be leashed and under the unit owner’s control and supervision. My friendly advice to you is to not let your pet roam freely. It is safer for you, your neighbors, and your association, not to mention the occasional bird you kitty might decide to feast on. Good luck!