Q&A: Pets in a No-Pet Building

Q. My condominium does not allow any animals, as spelled out in the condominium rules and regulations. This was one of the reasons I purchased in this building because it didn’t allow pets. With no regard to the rules, however, several owners had recently snuck in cats for pets. Our property is smaller, with only 39 units and only one elevator.

When the building was new, the builder allowed the first owners to bring in their small pets, with the understanding that when the animal died, there would be no replacing them. Subsequent buyers were never allowed to have animals.

What can we do to solve this problem? 

                —A Catch-22 in Coral Gables

A. “There are a few areas of concern raised in the fact pattern,” according to James Robert Caves III, an attorney with the law firm of Becker & Poliakoff in Fort Myers. “The first is how a developer’s failure to enforce the governing documents affect future enforcement by the owner-controlled association. Typically, a developer’s failure to enforce restrictions in the documents do not carry over to the owner-controlled board. However, if following turnover, the owner-controlled association did not take steps to enforce the documents, even if the violations began before turnover, then the association would be dealing with a failure to enforce problem.

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Comments

  • As a Community Association Manager/Property Manager for over twenty years both in New York City and Florida, I must say that enforcing the “No Pet” rule has been the most challenging subject of all times. I sympathize with all involved as I have always had pets, yet, I am in the position to enforce Associations Rules and Regulations while abiding by the many Laws. My suggestion to Boards, Managers and Associations is to formalize a well written package prepared by an attorney that has a proven track record in dealing with the subject, and most importantly, when presented with a challenge related to this topic, seek guidance from the Associations attorney. Do not rely on management or Board members to provide guidance, or to make any final decisions without having a legal opinion in writing from a qualified attorney. In the event you may have a lawsuit, you need to make sure that you have taken any and all legal steps in either approving or denying a “reasonable accommodation” request. This is an will continue to be a delicate subject. Take proper steps to prevent harming not only the association, but also the applicant who may have a legitimate request. Godspeed. Carlos A. Kopecny