Whattayamean, "No"? Co-op Requirements, Rules, and Regulations

Smoking, a purchaser's pets, personal habits, and even cooking with the flair of Emeril are only some of the touchy aspects that a board may take into account when considering a new resident's application for admission into a building these days. The wide variance of co-op and condo rules have elicited the attention of board members, residents, and shareholders, and gaining board approval seems more difficult now than ever for prospective buyers.

Pet Owners in the Doghouse

"Boards seem to be concerned about pets," says Tim Buckley, a broker with Insignia Douglas Elliman in Manhattan. "Many [boards] have just bitten the bullet and said "˜no pets allowed.'" For the most part, says Buckley, when animals are allowed, the pets in question are dogs - cats are less of an issue, unless the building decides not to permit any animals at all.

Buckley recalls one instance where the board actually wanted to meet a potential buyers' dog. Even though the co-op board required a photograph of the dog to accompany the package presented to them, according to Buckley, there had been situations where the photo of a given dog did not match the actual pet.

Tristan Harper, vice-president in residential sales at Insignia Douglas Elliman, observed an instance where the dog's credentials are just as important as its owners.' "The board wanted to verify the dog's educational background," says Harper. The buyers were interested in a prime Fifth Avenue co-op. The seller had a provision in their proprietary lease that her buyers would not have to go through board approval, but there was nothing in the clause about the buyers' pets. Since there was no provision for the dog, the board made the process difficult, requesting to see the dog's certification as a search-and-rescue dog. Search-and-rescue dogs must be admitted everywhere, much the same way as are seeing-eye dogs. The board requested a photograph, proof of certification, an introduction letter describing the dog, and even an interview with the dog's trainer. In all, says Harper, the entire process took three months before it was settled.

Many times, says Harper, prospective pet-owning residents will provide the board with a detailed information packet on their pet without an explicit request for one. This might include letters of reference from neighbors stating that the dog was well-behaved and quiet. Preparing the documentation with more than enough information about the pet can help buyers make a stronger case for the board to allow their pet into the building. Although the search-and-rescue-dog case stands out as peculiar, Harper thinks "most boards try to be reasonable in the end."

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