M.M. from Fairfield County writes:
Dear Mister Condo,
There is a one pet per unit policy in the condo documents. We have units with 2 & 3 pets. When confronted they deny this. What is the best way to enforce the pet issue?
Mister Condo replies:
M.M., pet policies and condo rules are enforced by the Board of Directors who are charged with interpreting the rules and taking action when they deem appropriate. Enforcing these rules is often frustrating and complicated as most pet owners are in love with their fur babies and will do just about anything to protect them. It takes a steely resolve to do what is right and in the best interest of the community to solve a problem like this.
It starts with a notice of violation that the Board needs to present to the unit owners or other residents that are violating the rules. If any of the rule-breakers are tenants then the unit owner/landlord is also notified and cited. The unit owner is invited to meet with the Board at the next Board meeting to accept the violation or deny the violation. The Board is then free to take further action in the form of a fine or, in some cases, eviction of the unit owner or pet. Eviction is a lengthy legal process that will likely require the Board to hire an attorney to prosecute the offender.
Here is a word of warning to the Board if it decides to go after the rule breakers. Tackle the whole problem and not just a select few. If a resident feels they are being unfairly selected they could claim discrimination or harassment, especially if they are aware of other community members (or Board members) who also have too many pets. Ideally, the community will simply agree to follow the rules they agreed to live by when they purchased their units. However, as is too often the case, I would not be surprised if legal action becomes necessary.
I have attended Board meetings where residents have openly wept at the thought of giving up a second or third pet even when they knew their by-laws only allowed one. I have also seen savvy unit owners seek “Companion” or “Emotional Service” animal certification for their beloved pets so that they can claim a “right” to keep the animals. There is no doubt this is a sensitive issue which can be quite challenging to enforce, especially if residents are willing to lie about the pet’s existence in order to continue to house it. Good luck!