Pets are part of the family. But what happens when someone’s four-legged family member urinates in your condo lobby? Once the mess is cleaned up, how do you prevent Fido from making it a morning ritual? Beyond that, what actions can managers take to ease friction between pet owners and their neighbors who may fear or dislike animals?
In condo lifestyle advertisements, you sometimes see developers promoting their communities as “pet friendly”. For them it’s a competitive advantage—they offer rooftop dog runs, outside pet park areas, doggie spa baths. Anything to entice their target market: owners of pampered urban pets.
But being “pet friendly” happens on a spectrum in condo communities. Because the Condominium Act gives corporations the freedom to spell out specific pet policies for their buildings, rules range between pets being forbidden on one extreme, to pets being encouraged on the other.
The fact is, condo living and pets only coexist peacefully when the rules are clear and people follow them. And even though the rules are written into a condo’s governing documents, not all residents may be fully aware of what is and is not allowed.
Nor can you be sure everyone will follow the rules, even if they do understand them.
To avoid untenable scenarios, managers and boards need to make sure that pet ownership rules are as transparent as possible for residents. These three tips can help you define it:
Clarify the pet policy in the governing documents.
Make sure the condominium by-laws have a section dedicated to pet policies that spells out specific rules for pet ownership. For example, the maximum number of pets allowed per unit; forbidding commercial breeding; requiring all pets to be screened and registered before they move in. The more detailed you are in your by-laws (and the more transparent you are with residents), the easier it is to lay down the law.
Beware of “grandfathers” condo bylaws.
Condo bylaws are amended and pet policies change over time. For example, a community may decide to prohibit certain dog breeds and enact a new law to that effect. Existing pet owners are usually protected by “grandfather” bylaw clauses, which can make the rules seem ambiguous and certainly harder to navigate. Make sure the rules are spelled out clearly for residents, new and old. Include relevant dates that establish exactly when grandfather rules apply. Managers should get to know which residents fall under these special cases so they don’t try to enforce new rules on current pet owners.
Plan out violation procedures to help alleviate conflict.
No one wants to be the pet pariah of the building. But that doesn’t stop certain people from sneaking their 45-pound dog out at night because the condo bylaws state a 30-pound limit. This can lead to awkward conflicts between neighbors and detract from the community’s overall quality of life. To alleviate this, make sure you have established procedures for dealing with pet owners who flout the rules—and a communications plan for notifying them of what to expect if it continues.
Do you consider your condo to be pet friendly? How are conflicts over pet ownership rules resolved? Share your stories in the comments. We’d love to hear from you!
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