Q&A: "i'm being hounded about my dog!"

Q I purchased my condo three years ago and at that time I was given a copy of the rules & regulations. This is a small associationwith 12 units. The documents stated pets were acceptable. I have been on the board for the last three years. We got a dog two years after moving in.

One neighbor states the rules had been amended to exclude pets a number of years ago. This is the only member left from the previous board. He is no longer involved with the board because he didn’t need to pay condo fees because he was “managing the association.” He has not attended the annual condo meetings since a management company was brought on. We have had a managementcompany for the last seven years. The management company was not aware of any changes made to the rules and we all believed we had the most recent rules and regulations.

Where do I stand with my dog? The current board has no problem with the dog. How should I respond to my difficult neighbor? I’m not sure if he’s right or wrong on the dog regulations. Ingeneral, how should you handle former board members who try to lay down the law as if they were still in office?

— Hounded in MA

A Although each case is fact-specific, the law in Massachusettsis generally that a governing board lacks the requisite legal authority to unilaterally restrict the use of units by a mere board-adopted rule without specific support within the recorded master deed and/or bylaws.

In Massachusetts, board-promulgated rules may govern the details of the use and operation of the common areas only, by statute. A number of cases over the years have crystallized the extent to which board-enacted rules may effectively restrictkeeping pets within individual units – typically distinguishing those cases where either the master deed or the bylaws reference the restriction specifically in some fashion.

So, the facts of each case are extremely important. You should check the specific restrictions stated in your condominium’s master deed and bylaws – as recorded at the Registry of Deeds. If the pet restrictionappears (or was referenced) in either the recorded master deed or bylaws, then the corresponding board-enacted restriction would probably be enforceable.

Otherwise a mere board-enacted rule restricting pets within units would probablynot be enforceable.

You won’t go wrong by relying on the recorded documents as amended over time – whether it be to reconcile your pet-related issue, or in dealing with formerboard members.

— Joe Saurino, Esq.