Q. The association rule in our condominium pertaining to pets has not been enforced for as many as 10 years. My son has come to live with me temporarily and he brought his two dogs. The association claims that we can only have one dog. There are as many as four other units that have two dogs and one having two cats. Now the Board of Directors is harassing me alone (not the other unit owners with 2 dogs and two cats) and trying to enforce the “one dog per unit rule”. Further, our documents are silent about animal restrictions, but there is an unrecorded Rule stating that only 1 dog is allowed per unit. Can you give me some advice on this matter?
A. Your question touches on a couple of issues that are very common in local communities. First, there is the issue of delayed and “selective” enforcement. Second, there is the issue of a rule adopted by the Board that is not contained in the recorded covenants. Both of these issues are likely going to be problematic for your association, and I would certainly seek the advice of legal counsel if the harassment continues. First, I start to get nervous for my clients when a rules violation is ongoing for a year or more with no effort to enforce the rule and stop the violation. If the violation goes as long as 5 years without action by the association, the association will likely be completely barred from taking action because of the statute of limitations.
Second, an association is generally not permitted to adopt a rule that contradicts or is inconsistent with the recorded covenants. If the recorded covenants are silent on animals, a court will not likely uphold a rule that limits each owner to 1 animal. Again, your legal counsel can advise you on how to protect yourself, which may include a demand against the association for arbitration and recovery of your legal fees.