G.P. from New Haven County writes:
Dear Mister Condo,
One dog owner in our condominium development allows her dog outside off leash several times a day. The owner carries the leash in her hand, but it is not always attached to the dog. In addition, she throws a ball across the street, sending the dog after it, as an exercise for the dog. The dog, while not a biter (yet) has threatened elderly and frail neighbors. Several residents have stopped walking in the area where this dog lives. The owner refuses to comply with “dog on a leash” rule, and she has paid fines. How can this problem be rectified?
Mister Condo replies:
G.P., I am sorry that you are having a problem enforcing your community association rules and that this unit owner has decided to test your resolve by not following the rules. This is an anti-social behavior that is best remedied by applying the penalties for breaking the rules. Keep in mind that rules must be enforced against ALL unit owners and residents. You cannot single out this one rule-breaker and selectively enforce the rule. Your by-laws should outline what is and isn’t allowed and what penalties are called for when the rules are broken. If either of these things isn’t true, you will need the Board to vote the necessary changes into place. In Connecticut, the first time the rule is broken, the offending unit owner is asked to meet with the Board during the next regularly scheduled meeting to explain their side of the issue. In this case, the owner would be asked why they are allowing their pet to roam freely in direct violation of the association rules. The owner has a chance to reply and then the Board is free to impose a fine for the rule violation and does not need to summon the owner for future violations of the same rule. They can issue fines for each and every occurrence. If the fines are not paid, they can seek relief via collection activities up to and including foreclosure. This, of course, is a worst case scenario. Ideally, once summoned before the Board and fined, this unit owner will simply begin to follow the rules.
You have indicated that this unit owner is regularly being fined and seems to have no problem with the fines. My advice would be to change your fining system so that the unit owner does, in fact, have a problem with the fines. If the fine is paltry (say, $5 or $10) then the fine is ineffective. Perhaps a more aggressive or escalating fine system is in order. For instance, $25 for the first offense, $50 for the second offense, $100 for the third offense, $500 for subsequent offenses. I am guessing that at some point, you will have this person’s attention and the fines will either not be paid, at which time the association can begin collection and possible foreclosure action OR the behavior will change, which is the goal. If you have a pet-friendly association where everyone else is following the rules, my guess is that you can train this unit owner to play nicely. Your escalating fine system may be just the admonishment this owner needs to be a “good girl”.