Q&A: Unfair Dog Rules

Q “My husband and I are moving into a community that doesn't allow dogs. However there are people who do have dogs because they said that the law passed 12 years ago and people who had dogs then could keep their dogs and if their dog died, they could get a new one. I believe this to be unfair. How come they can get a new dog but people who are just moving in can't? Can my husband and I do anything to change this?”

—Dog Lovers

A “If the writer is a tenant in a New York City apartment, The New York City Pet Waiver Law would be relevant,” says Ronald B. Kremnitzer, a co-chair of the New York law firm Pryor Cashman's Real Estate Group. “Other areas, such as Westchester County, may also have a “pet law” pertaining to certain apartments that allows tenants to keep pets in their apartments, even if prohibited by the tenant’s lease, if the tenant openly and notoriously harbored the pet for a specific period of time (for example, over three months) and the building owner or landlord did not timely commence an action to enforce the no-pet prohibition.

“If the term “community that doesn’t allow dogs” refers to a homeowners association (“HOA”), I am unaware of any law that would prohibit an HOA from passing a “rule” restricting a new owner or tenant from keeping a new dog on the premises, while at the same time permitting existing residents to keep—and even replace—the dogs which were part of their household at the time the rule was first passed. While this might seem unfair to the writer, the argument would be that anyone purchasing or renting in this community knew—or should have known—about this particular restriction before they purchased or leased a home there. Accordingly, I do not think that the writer can do anything to avoid this prohibition, other than trying to get the required votes to rescind or amend the rule.

“One analogous (but much less emotional) situation is where certain buildings prohibit the use of washers and dryers in individual apartments, yet may allow existing appliances to remain (or “grandfather” them), as well as replacements, for tenants who already had them at the time the prohibition first went into effect.”

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