R.M. from Hartford County, Connecticut writes:
Dear Mister Condo,
Our association has a longstanding no-pet rule. It recently came up a member noted that someone who recently moved in has a cat and was wondering if it is now OK to have cats. One of the board members admitted they have a cat, and defended it by saying their real estate agent had told them pets were OK, ie, that they should have an exception. So, the board member is assuming that is good reason to keep their cat, while the person who recently moved in must get rid of their cat. At open forum, a member asked if perspective purchasers receive the resale package that includes the no-pet rule, and they do. So, there is no excuse for a board member to keep their cat, especially while causing others to get rid of theirs, who are getting a violation letter, and hearing and a fine if they don’t, a running fine, a lien, etc. But… seeing a board member is openly declaring a right to have a pet, should we be able to just do the same and have a pet? I realize the right way would be to do a survey, to see if most people want a rule change to allow pets and the conditions, and then a notice and comment could be sent out and then change the pet rule. But seeing the other board members are happy to have no pets, and shrug off the board director who does, can the board prevail on sticking it to the person now being told to get rid of theirs, if it is challenged by a lawsuit? ..or if another member gets a pet now, and refuses to get rid of it, since the board is demonstrating by their behavior that pets are allowed? There are some who would like a pet, especially seniors who are pretty much shunted, so typically not vocal. Selective enforcement is really weird when the person openly violating a rule is a board member who is cracking the whip at others.
Mister Condo replies:
R.M., I am sorry that your condo association finds itself in this uncomfortable position. The Board Member who is flagrantly violating the rules about not having pets doesn’t have a leg to stand on by citing the fact that a realtor told him he could keep his cat. Also, shame on the realtor for putting “making the sale” ahead of the buyer’s need to keep their cat. All that being said, the community. Has a few options. The simplest would be to keep the “no pets” rule and enforce the rule, including having the Board Member going through the same process as any other member would. Cite them for the violation, hold a hearing and determine the outcome. Selective enforcement of any rule is bad policy and opens the door for other association members to get their own pets without consequence. The second option is to remove or modify the rule. Many associations allow one pet per unit. While you shouldn’t say whether that pet is a cat or a dog or a bird or whatever, you can and should have rules about noise and where the pet can relieve itself on association grounds. You will have members in favor and against such a change. My guess is that some owners purchased into the “no pet” condo because they prefer to live without pets around them. This is not an easy fix and my advice is to keep the rule in place and enforce it. All the best!