Sunday, June 9, 2013

Guide to Pet Ownership/Restrictions in Condominium

There's hardly a more emotionally charged and contentious issues than regulating pet ownership in a community.  According to the Human Society, 39% of American homes have at least one dog and 33% have at least one cat. Yet, due to close proximity of condo style living, it's difficult to have an unregulated pet policy without infringing on the rights of non-pet owning individuals in the community. Click the jump to find tips for implementing an effective pet ownership policy and how to enforce those policies.....



Restrictions found in the condominium declaration or by-laws are given a strong presumption of validity. Therefore, restrictions already found in the governing documents should be strictly enforced.   Generally, those restrictions limit the type, size, or number of pets that an owner can have.

Allowing pets in a community has many advantages like making units more desirable for purchase, increase pet owner contentment, etc. For those associations that allow pets, the board should take measures to accommodate pets as much as possible. For example, while owners are responsible for clearing up after their pet, installing dog disposal stations around the association property can be worthwhile and promote a cleaning up after your pet.  Also, the board might want to designate certain areas where pets are allowed and encouraged and prohibit pets from other areas.  This allows those owners without pets a place to congregate if they wish.  

I have yet to see a condo declaration or governing document that explicitly allows all pets. Also, most condo docs allow the board to pass rules regulating the use of units, which would include pet ownership. Therefore, in most associations, if the majority of owners feel that certain pets present a problem to the association, rules can be passed to address this.  As with all rules passed by the association, these rules must be reasonable, and not arbitration or capricious.

A comprehensive pet policy should take into consideration several factors: size, quantity, type, noise, and smell are just a few.  For example, an owner with five 15 pound dogs may disrupt the association as much or more than an owner with one 50 pound dog. Bird, snakes, and other reptiles create a whole other set of issues that a board might have to face.  

The board should be aware that uniform enforcement of whatever rules are in place or adopted is key to maintaining an orderly association. Therefore, if the board implements a policy to fine owners not in compliance with the pet ownership rules, the board must be consistent with the fine whether for a small or major violation of the pet policy.  Also, anything new limits on pet ownership cannot be applied retroactively. Therefore, if the association passes a rule forbidding dogs, any owner already with a dog will be grandfathered in. When the pet unfortunately meets is demise, the owner will not be able to replace the pet. However, the association cannot force an owner to get rid of a pet due to a rule that was not in existence when the owner acquired the pet.

Lastly, any good pet policy should take into account the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA") and Fair Housing Act ("FHA"). The ADA trumps any rule that an association has or could pass. Quite simply, service animals must be allowed in the association. In order to qualify as a service animal the animal must be trained to do work or specific tasks for the benefit of the disabled individual (i.e. seeing eye dog). However, support animals, must be "reasonably accommodated" (i.e. emotional support animal). More information on these topics can be found here and here. Keep in mind though that ADA and FHA are highly technical areas of law. There are attorneys that focus entirely in ADA and FHA issues. If this is going to be an issue for your board, you are highly encouraged to seek specialized legal help in adopting such rules.


27 comments:

  1. Hi, I just found this blog. Thanks for writing it! Is there anything in Florida condo law that specifically prohibits the size and or weight of a dog, or is it the associations by-laws that determine this? Thanks again!

    ReplyDelete
  2. We have a condo and used to want to bring our chocolate Lab there when we went down from New England. Condo neighbors have yappy little dogs. Yap Yap Yap. Our dog was calm and quiet and hardly barked and loved everybody. So this was not fair. The condo didn't want to do anything to accommodate us, or even look into revising the laws. They just didn't want to be bothered.

    ReplyDelete
  3. The Documents in our Condo says"NO PETS" but pets has been allowed, now the Board like to go back and enforce the "NO PETS" rule but grandfather only one pet per unit, can the Board enforce the rule "only one pet and once die cannot be replaced and no more than one?Second pet need to be out.

    ReplyDelete
  4. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I have noticed that most condos that allow pets have restrictions on size of pets. Does this restriction apply to dogs as well as cats. What about strictly indoor cats.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. presumably the association could restrict all pets, including cats. I'd need to know exactly what the rule says.

      Delete
    2. presumably the association could restrict all pets, including cats. I'd need to know exactly what the rule says.

      Delete
  6. Hi Brandon,

    There is a condo association bi-law in a 55+ community Seville Condominiums Bldg 11 that states no pets allowed. The seller has been unable to sell his condo to an elderly woman with a 12 yr old cat the Dr declared her emotional support animal her husband gave to her, and he died 10 months ago.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Our condo rules state "No pets of any kind are permitted on the premises at any time by a resident or a resident's guest. We do not, however, say what will happen if you are found with a pet. We recently discovered that an owner was sneaking a dog into his unit and I am not sure what the next step would be to remove the pet. We have already notified him of the rules and told him the pet cannot remain in the unit. What would our next option be? Would we need an attorney to enforce this?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. yes, i would absolutely recommend you get an attorney. The next step would be to review your governing documents to see what the enforcement procedures are. If there's nothing that applies, the next step would be seek an injunction prohibiting the dog. Feel free to reach out to me to discuss further if you like. Use the contact form on the right. Thanks.

      Delete
  8. Our condo rules state "No pets of any kind are permitted on the premises at any time by a resident or a resident's guest". We do not implicitly state what recourse we have should someone not abide by this rule. We now have one resident who has a small dog but is refusing to remove the dog from the premises. What recourse do we have?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. your documents will typically have a section that discusses enforcement. It's probably not specific to this provision, but in general how the Association can enforce violation of the restrictions. If you can't find anything, I would submit the issue to DBPR arbitration.

      Delete
  9. Our condo assoc is revising its documents. We allow owner and tenants to have pets. We are considering changing our docs to prohibit tenants from having pets. We would grandfather in tenants who have pets at this time. Is this discrimination?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. why would that be discrimination? Discrimination is something that relates to age, sex, religion, etc. Pet owners are not a protected class. I'd much rather grandfather the existing pet owners then try to have them remove the pets. Sounds like you're on the right track.

      Delete
  10. What can condo owners do to change the rulers from no pets to having pets?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Depends on where the "rule" is. You have to change the document where the rule is located. So, if it really is a rule, then generally that's a board vote. If it's in the declaration you'll have to amend the declaration.

      Delete
  11. Where can you find the rules and regulations for Housing developments with HOA's with pet restrictions and specifications. I would mainly want them for in Florida.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. sorry but I doubt there is such a resource. There's no requirement to register such a requirement with the state or city so I don't know who else would be gathering it.

      Delete
  12. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    ReplyDelete
  13. I've lived in my condo for almost four years. I have a 50lb dog who's been on my lease from the very beginning. I rent from a private owner, not from the complex. The HOA has informed my landlord that I have 30 days to remove my dog because the new pet policy restricts any dogs over 25lbs. There will be a $100/day fine, after 30 days. I still have four months until my lease is up. Shouldn't my dog be grandfathered in, at least until my lease is up, with no penalty?

    ReplyDelete
  14. Is there a Florida statue that restricts the number of dogs one should be able to claim as service/emotional support dogs in a two bedroom townhouse?

    ReplyDelete
  15. Or bylaws read household pets are not allowed on condo property. There had been no vote of owners at any time restricting pets. The board put on the bottom of the house rules "1 neutered cat no dogs". That is all that it says. Some people have cats some have birds some have fish tanks. I have had my dog for 3 years. The board is now trying to enforce no dogs. Other owners have dogs that are supposedly emotional supportand take them on condo property to potty, I carry my dog to the curb and walk her off condo property. The board is upset that myself and others had turned them into the state for misuse of funds without a vote, failure to keep records etc. The association received 4 violations. My husband and I have been attacked by the board over and over and we always prove we are in the right but concerned about my dog now. Can they make us get rid of the dog?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There's quite a bit to this questions. I'd seek a local attorney to help you. Good luck.

      Delete
  16. Carbon monoxide detectors are also mandatory by law in some areas when renting a condominium. Check with the local authorities to be certain, however, they are always a good idea.Sungei Serangoon Condo

    ReplyDelete
  17. Our Association voted no pets for our renters but owners can have pets and 100 fine to owners allowing pets from short term renters. BUT NOONE upholds these rules and from our BOD and the owners are getting upset. How can we make them? The owners are notified by other owners if they see a pet in their unit but the association does nothing. How to fix this problem

    ReplyDelete
  18. I have lived for almost 4 years in a condo community where owners can have pets but renters cannot. My landlord is fine with me having a pet. Do I have to have the pet registered as an emotional support animal to have it allowed or can they (HOA) prohibit emotional support animals as well? I know they cannot ban service animals per the ADA and the FHA but what are the specific rules governing emotional support animals ? I have found it almost impossible to get a solid answer on this topic. Any assistance is appreciated.

    ReplyDelete