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Q&A: Weighing in On Pets

Q I own a condo and I would like to change the weight restriction of a pet (dog)  from 8 pounds (unrealistic) to maybe 35 pounds--maybe just to owners with dogs,  not to renters. How do I do that? What is my first step? Can I send out letters  to all owners to see their views?  

 —Pet-Minded Owner  

A “Accomplishing the task of changing the weight restriction for dogs at your  condominium may be done by different means,”says partner Gary M. Daddario of the Westford, Mass. law firm of Perkins and  Anctil, P.C., “depending on where the restriction presently appears. If the current weight restriction is among the rules & regulations promulgated by the board, then the board has the authority to make  the change. If the current restriction appears in the master deed, declaration of trust,  bylaws or the like, then a formal amendment of that document would be  necessary. Amending these documents requires a vote of the unit ownership. Regardless of the precise nature of the change required, I would not recommend  treating unit owners versus non-owner residents differently based upon the  weight of their pet. This would increase the chances of the association facing some form of  discrimination claim. It would be more prudent, at least from the standpoint of potential liability,  for the rule to apply consistently across all dogs in your community.  

 “Your first step, regardless of which of the changes described above needs to be  made, will likely be communication with your board. If you seek to change a rule or regulation of the board, petitioning them  directly is a sensible starting point, as board members will be the only  parties voting on the issue. If a change of your condominium documents is  required, and thus a vote of the unit owners will be necessary, then it may  make practical sense to seek information about the community’s opinion on this subject. However, while sending letters to unit owners is not a legally prohibited  activity, such “polling” normally occurs through the board. Thus, it may be wise to approach your board first so that you can increase your  chances of securing their cooperation. A basic reality is that any change you seek is more likely to occur if you can  garner the support of the board. That being said, there is also usually a  provision in the documents that would allow the unit owners to petition the  board for a special meeting for a particular purpose.  

 “As the question presented seeks information about changing the present rule, I  have made no analysis regarding the validity of said rule and simply assumed  its existence as stated. Further, this response conveys general information based on the description of  the issue received. For a case-specific legal opinion, you should consult with your own legal  counsel.”