G.T. from New Haven County writes:
Dear Mister Condo,
I live in a complex where we are allowed one dog per unit. About a year ago, a long standing resident had her 2 children move in with her from another state. Both children brought with them a dog! The first we knew, there were 2 dogs; a bigger dog and a little dog. She was very aware of our by-law regarding the one dog per unit rule. The board spoke to her and she stated her children would not be staying long as they would get their own place to live and the dogs would be gone. A month went by and the 2 dogs were still there. The board sent her a formal letter that the second dog had to go. The board didn’t see the smaller of the 2 dogs again. However, neighbors have consistently stated that the second dog was still in the unit. With no proof of ever seeing the second dog (obviously it does not get walked or exercised at all) the board had no recourse. The board couldn’t go and break down the door! Now that the springtime is here and the windows are open, it is very apparent that there are 2 dogs barking within the unit. What recourse does our association have with no proof of seeing the second dog, only hearing it? Any advice would be appreciated.
Mister Condo replies:
G.T., I feel for all parties involved here. The bottom line is that the unit owner is violating the by-laws by housing two dogs and the association has a right to enforce the rule. Just because the dog isn’t seen on the property doesn’t mean they can’t prove the dog is there. I guess what it really boils down to is how strictly the Board wants to enforce the rules of the community. In general, the problem with letting a unit owner break a rule is that it sends the wrong message to other unit owners about following the rules. If this unit owner can have multiple dogs, why can’t others? Before long, the whole place could be going to the dogs!
If the Board is intent about enforcing the one dog rule they can do one of two things. First, with the condo dog sight unseen and undocumented, they can use the statements by neighbors that the unit is, in fact, housing multiple dogs. They can issue a warning to the unit owner and request the unit owner address the Board before they begin fining the unit owner whatever penalty is outline in your condo by-laws. Once the fines start rolling in, the unit owner is likely to address the issue and remove the second dog. Also, barking dog fines are not uncommon, regardless of the number of dogs housed in the unit.
Most condominiums allow for inspection of premise by the Board and/or property manager. This goes to your “kick down the door” comment. No, this does not mean they can simply enter at will but they can arrange an inspection of the unit to determine if there is evidence of multiple dogs living in the unit. This would be a last resort as this type of action could be considered harassment if no other unit in the condominium is facing this type of inspection.
The final piece of this puzzle is just how good a resident is this long-standing owner? Are these children who have moved in with her really just temporary guests or is this their new home? You mentioned that these children moved in almost one year ago. Surely they would have found new housing by now if they were looking. No unit owner has the right to flagrantly break the rules without consequence. I’d begin with the letter from the Board to address the violation and then start the fines until the problem is corrected. It is an unfortunate situation at best but, hopefully, it can be cleared up before too much longer. All the best.