Q&A: Doggy Blues

Q. For at least 30 years, all residents (owners and tenants) have been using the front (main) door of our co-op buildings. Now our board of directors sent out an updated list of rules that says anyone walking or carrying a dog must use the back door and and will incur a $250 penalty if using the front door. Is there any way to stop such a rule?

                    —Animal-Loving Resident

A. “This shareholder’s question cannot be answered definitively without seeing the proprietary lease and other governing documents for this cooperative,” says attorney Stanley M. Kaufman of the Manhattan-based firm Kaufman Friedman Plotnick & Grun, LLP. “Most proprietary leases give the board of directors the power to amend, repeal and adopt new house rules, and under the business judgment rule standard, a board’s rule-making powers are afforded broad deference by the courts. So if the board adopts a rule requiring that dogs be relegated to the building’s back door, it is unlikely that a tenant-shareholder could successfully challenge the rule itself, unless it was shown that the board was acting in bad faith or in a discriminatory manner. However, the $250 enforcement penalty is another issue entirely. While a court will recognize that the authority to impose rules implies the power to enforce them, the imposition of a monetary fine or penalty will not be legally enforceable unless the proprietary lease or possibly other governing documents of the cooperative provides express authority to impose monetary fines for rules violations.”

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