M.B. from Ohio writes:
Dear Mister Condo,
Our Ohio condo bylaws state that we can have 2 dogs (total weight not to exceed 70 lbs.). The dogs must be on a leash when outdoors, must be with a responsible person, and droppings must be picked up. Nothing is stated as to where the dogs can or can’t be walked. Our condo area consists of one street (not a thoroughfare) and a walking path around a nice, large pond. We moved into our unit 10 months ago. Well, I’ve just been approached that some neighbors are complaining that as I walk our 2 dogs down the street they are doing their business in their “front yards” (which I pick up). I was told to perhaps walk them away from the curb and take them to & around the pond walking path … all of which sounds nice, but the bylaws don’t specify this. Also, one of our dogs is 15+ years of age, arthritic, and has a difficult time walking the pavement (vs. grass) to the pond area to relieve her aging self. I can somewhat understand where they’re coming from, but those “front yards” – in my opinion – are common areas. And, again, I point to the condo bylaws, which do not restrict where animals can/cannot be walked. (I’m walking the street; they’re up on the grass at times.) With an annual/open board meeting approaching in June – which I/we plan to attend – I’m betting a loud complaint will be raised. How best to respond? By the way, I’ve altered when/where I walk the dogs … but at the same time I’m horrified that this was even brought to my attention. As a new owner, I followed the bylaws. Now what? Any suggestions? Thanks!
Mister Condo replies:
M.B., as a dog lover myself, I can relate to your desire to do right by your pets and also do right by your neighbors. If your governing documents are silent on where or how your dogs can be walked, you may well be within your rights to do as you see fit. You mention that you were “approached that some neighbors are complaining” but you didn’t tell me by whom or with what authority you were approached. Needless to say, some neighborhood busybody adding their two cents to the conversation is worth exactly that. If you are being cited by the Board for violating your association’s rules, you should receive notice from the Board that you have broken an association rule. They should identify the rule and issue you a warning along with a possible fine or an intent to fine if the violation continues. Short of that type of citation, there is no harm, no foul; just neighbors chiming in and imposing imaginary rights to imaginary front yards. Unless the property is assigned to a particular unit (highly unlikely) then the common grounds are just that; common! You are free to use them as prescribed in your condo documents. If there are rules that you are unaware of, this meeting may be a place to seek clarification. You may also see unit owners ask for additional rules about how and where pet walking may occur. Unless that happens, it sounds to me like you are doing everything correctly to make sure you and your dogs are being good neighbors and following the rules of the association. All the best!