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26 Feb 2016
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Does your Co-Op have puppy fever?

We New Yorkers love our pets.  However, our buildings and fellow residents may not feel the same way.  There are quite a lot of “pet friendly” buildings in New York City, but even “pet friendly” buildings are likely to have some rules and regulations governing their non-human residents.  Some buildings even conduct interviews with prospective tenants’/owners’ pets.

In the world of pet regulation, there are, of course, extremes:  buildings that allow no pets whatsoever and buildings that have no policies or restrictions.  Others allow certain types of animals, or set limits on the number of pets.  Consider dogs, one of the more common types of pets.  A building can limit nearly everything from breed types, size, fur, demeanor, age, etc.

When it comes to size, many co-ops and condos take their cue from the New York City Housing Authority, which limits pets to 40 pounds when fully grown, while others take a more restrictive approach and limit pets to 10 pounds and under.  In addition to restrictions based on the size, number, or type of animal, building policies may also include fines for pet misbehavior, or a cleaning fee if a dog relieves itself in the common areas or on the sidewalk in front of a building, which residential buildings are required to maintain by law.

In terms of official documentation, typical co-op/condo pet policies include proof of city licensing and up-to-date vaccines, and pet collars and tags with the name and phone and apartment numbers of the owner.  Some buildings required a signed and notarized document stating that you understand and agree to the building’s pet rules and a “security deposit” that covers cleaning if your pet soils a common area.  The building may also keep your pet’s photo on file.  Less common but still possible are buildings that require proof of obedience training or specify “pet only” washing machines and dryers for pet owners, who might have allergy-inducing animal fur and dander on their clothes and linens.

It is important to be aware of your building’s rules, unless you want to end up facing more serious legal trouble.  A building can serve you with a notice terminating your lease if you don’t get rid of your “unapproved” pet and depending on the wording of the lease, you may even get stuck with the building’s legal fees if the matter ends up in court.  In addition, if you own your unit or are a shareholder in a coop, your failure to disclose the existence of a pet can be considered fraud and would entitle the building to rescind its consent to your purchase.

There is some good news.  In 1983, the city passed a law allowing residents in most buildings that don’t allow pets to keep a pet if: (1) it hasn’t been concealed over a three-month period, and (2) no lawsuit is filed during that time.  If the landlord fails to commence the proceeding within that time frame, the right to enforce the building’s no pet rule is deemed waived and a resident cannot be evicted for violation of the building’s no pet/dog rule.

How can you be sure that your prospective new rental, condo or coop building will allow your furry, feathered or finned friend?  Just ask.  Check with your real estate agent or broker, or ask the building’s management or managing agent.

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