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Shut yer dog: How far can a board go?

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Q.  My neighbor’s dog barks all the time when she is not at home.  My neighbor has received two warnings from the board but nothing has changed.  Can the building require her to take specific measures like having the dog wear a collar that sprays citronella or delivers a mild electric shock when it barks?

A.  According to our BrickTank experts, your board can’t force your neighbor to put an anti-barking collar on her dog.  The key instead is to motivate your neighbor—through heavy-handed threats or constructive dialogue—to resolve the problem on her own.

First, the sledgehammer approach.

Legally speaking, the proprietary leases of co-ops and the bylaws of condos generally prohibit residents from creating or allowing unreasonable levels of noise and/or odors. 

A board can’t legally compel pet owners to take any specific actions to quiet their canines, says real estate lawyer Dean M. Roberts.  But they do have the power to remove a pet, and a co-op can even evict the owner for causing a nuisance, notes real estate lawyer Eric Goidel.

The threat of either is often enough to motivate pet owners to find a solution. But neighborly dialogue without the legal posturing can have the same effect.

“The first step is to figure out what circumstances result in the dog barking, such as when someone comes to the door, or walks by the apartment—to see if a case specific solution can be found,” says Roberta Axelrod, who sits on 10 New York City-area co-op and condo boards in her role as a sponsor’s representative for Time Equities.

In her experience these can range from leaving a radio or clock ticking nearby, to installing carpet to muffle the sound, to taking the dog to work or putting it in doggy day care.

When all else fails, pursuing a legal remedy is still an option. But proving that a dog is making a nuisance of itself isn’t so easy.

“Affidavits attesting to the unreasonable nature of the noise—volume, intensity, length, etc.—would likely be required from multiple building residents, staff members and management personnel,” says real estate attorney Jeffrey Reich.  “Acoustical testing may also be necessary.”

And there are other downsides to the legal route.

“It will be lengthy, costly, and probably will result in ill will among other pet owners in the building,” observes Axelrod.  “The existing board might be removed if there is a consensus that the board has overreacted, and the building may be marked as pet adverse—which could discourage future purchasers—and the barking would continue all the while.”

Related topics:

NYC co-ops going to the dogs

My building doesn't allow dogs. What do I do?

How to get canned from your co-op

4 neat ways to use an investigative lawyer in a co-op or condo


 

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