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Q&A: Doggie Doo

Q. A few years back, the prior board passed a motion to charge all future unit owners with dogs a $50 fee per month because of an existing dog that would occasionally defecate in the building. There was no analysis conducted to determine whether or not $600/yr. per dog was adequate or excessive. It has since been determined this fee is excessive and we are no longer having an issue with resident dogs. I recently raised a motion to remove this rule. However, a former board member has advised me that the original motion was filed as an “Irrevocable Motion” and that nothing can be done. In researching this, I cannot locate any information about an “Irrevocable Motion” or if such a thing even exists. Is there such a thing?”  

   — Massachusetts Board Member  

A. “Massachusetts condominium boards lack the authority to unilaterally ban pets within units,” says Joseph Saurino, of the Braintree, MA law firm of Marcus, Errico, Emmer & Brooks, P.C. 

“A board’s rulemaking authority extends only to common areas, and not to the units.  (Parenthetically, there is no such thing as board-passed rule that cannot be revoked.) Restrictions concerning the use of units must be set out either in the condominium’s master deed or in the bylaws to be enforceable. Various attempts to circumvent the limits of a condominium board’s authority have failed over the years. One board tried to restrict keeping pets by passing a rule requiring all pets to be carried across the common areas. The Appeals Court struck down this restriction, holding that the board could not do indirectly that which it could not do directly. Similarly, a board-enacted rule requiring pet owners to pay a premium to keep a pet would almost certainly be unenforceable, if challenged, because Massachusetts condominium boards do not have the authority to restrict keeping pets via mere board-enacted rules, either directly or indirectly.”  

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