Q: The house rules of our condominium prohibit all kinds of pets. I know that despite these rules, many owners have dogs, and they are paraded in front of the building at least twice a day. I have a cat, and would like to change the house rules to permit them officially. How do I go about making the rule changes?
A: Condominium living is community living at its best and at its worst. When you purchased the condominium, you knew (or should have known) that you would have to follow the rules and regulations of the building. These rules can be found in the declaration -- the basic document creating the condominium -- the bylaws and any of the house rules adopted by the association.
The developer of your building established the rules when the condominium was created. Presumably, your developer was of the belief that potential condominium unit purchasers would be opposed to pets.
But house rules are not carved in stone. Analyze the particular concerns of your condominium. If the majority of unit owners are sympathetic to pets, you may be able to change or modify the rules to your satisfaction.
Mount a campaign to change the rules. Contact all of the other unit owners, especially those who own pets, and propose an appropriate rule change to the association president.
Most condominium associations provide a mechanism for presenting rule changes to the association, usually at least once a year at the annual membership meeting.
You should also ask when and how these rules were promulgated. If they were established by the condominium board or the association manager, for example -- without the proper vote required by the bylaws -- there may be grounds for challenging their validity. This is a developing area in the law of condominiums, and certainly is worth your inquiry.
Read your bylaws carefully to determine exactly when and how changes to the rules and regulations must be submitted. Many condominium associations provide time limits, and if you do not meet them, you may lose the fight for at least another year.
This whole area highlights one of the most important aspects of condominium living. It is absolutely essential that every condominium unit owner take an active part in the daily functions of the building.
There are numerous committees that must be maintained to deal with such concerns as the budget, unkeep of the building, architectural control, the grounds and safety. The condominium and its association is governed by a board of directors, who need the guidance of all the unit owners.
The way most condominium documents are structured, voting depends on the number of members present at any particular vote, and thus it is important for everyone to actively participate and vote. If you will not be able to be present at a meeting, prepare a written proxy, and give your vote to a friend or neighbor.