Q&A: Breaking the Rules Over Pets

Q. Our rules state that owners may not have more than two pets, one of which may be a dog. However, one unit owner—who also happens to be a board member— keeps four dogs in her unit as pets. Because she is a board member, the board will not take action against her. Not only is this not fair, it is against the rules. What can we do?

                  — Disgruntled Neighbor

A. “Based upon the information that you have provided, there seems to be no question that the rules and regulations only permit 1 dog per unit and that the board member who has 4 dogs is clearly in violation,” says attorney Wendell A. Smith of Greenbaum Rowe Smith & Davis, LLP, which has offices in Woodbridge and Roseland. “As practical matter, I would submit the following suggestions to try to get 3 of the dogs removed. Put your complaint in writing, addressed to the entire board individually and collectively, citing the details and requesting that they exercise their fiduciary duty to enforce the restriction through fines, suspension of privileges, court action or whatever other remedies might be available. If the board fails to act within a reasonable time frame, request Alternate Dispute Resolution (“ADR”) which the association is obligated to provide pursuant the regulations promulgated under the New Jersey Planned Real Estate Development Full Disclosure Act (“PREDFDA”). The New Jersey Department of Community Affairs (“ DCA”) may be able to assist you in making this happen if the board ignores your request. Finally, if you do not achieve removal of the additional dogs through ADR and assuming that the board is unwilling to commence a legal action for injunctive relief, most association governing documents give a unit owner the right to enforce restrictions such as this independently from the association. You may want to explore this option through your attorney, but this could be an expensive proposition if you aren’t joined by other unit owners who would share the legal fees and costs.”

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