In a recent study, over 50% of Americans indicated that they were bothered by noise from their neighbors multiple times a year. Accordingly, whether you live in an attached condominium, site condominium, or a subdivision with a homeowners association, odds are that you may eventually have a noise issue with your neighbor. The most common complaints in the survey involved noise issues from pets, television, music, and yard work. Barking pets were identified as the biggest complaint among baby boomers.
In most homeowners associations, the HOA bylaws will allow animals, subject to certain restrictions. In many cases, an owner will need approval from the condominium or homeowners associations, the owner will need to keep an animal on a leash, clean up pet waste, or ensure that an animal will not make unreasonable noise. Accordingly, while many people love their pets, and can maintain them in a manner that will not annoy their neighbors, it is important to note that an owner may not always have the ability to keep all types of pets in every condominium and homeowners association. As will be discussed below, in Crawford v Holiday Condo Ass’n, unpublished opinion of the Court of Appeals, issued January 19, 2001 (Docket No. 217071), 2001 WL 777092, the Michigan Court of Appeals has held upheld a condominium association’s ability to ban animals in a condominium.
Sharon Crawford purchased a unit in the Holiday Condominium and later purchased a dog after she moved in. The condominium bylaws provide in pertinent part that “No animal, including household pets, shall be kept without the prior written consent of the Board of Directors, which consent, if given, shall be revocable at any time by the Board.” The condominium bylaws further stated that:
Reasonable regulations concerning the use of the condominium may be made and amended from time to time by the Board of Directors of the Association; provided, however, that all such regulations and amendments thereto shall be approved by not less than seventy-five percent (75%) of the co-owners in number and in value before the same shall become effective. Copies of such regulations and amendments thereto shall be furnished to all co-owners.
The condominium association created a set of rules and regulations as part of its corporate bylaws. The corporate bylaws provided in pertinent part:
Animals and household pets, Approval, Article VI, Section 6, Restrictions (page 8, Master Deed) will be enforced by the Board of Directors. The Association membership will give guidance to the Board of Directors in carrying out this restriction through proposals, discussion and vote.
The corporate bylaws for the condominium association were later amended to state that all pets except birds and fish were prohibited. However, other pets that had previously been registered with the condominium could remain but could not be replaced.
The condominium association learned that Crawford obtained a dog without permission from the condominium association and requested that Crawford remove the dog from the condominium. Crawford then requested permission to keep the dog, and the condominium association refused to grant permission to keep the dog based on the rules and regulations contained in the bylaws.
Michigan Court Holds That Condo Bylaws and HOA Rules Can Ban Pets
Crawford argued that she was entitled to keep the dog as the corporate bylaws were not recorded in the register of deeds. Crawford argued that the Michigan Condominium Act, specifically, MCL 559.153 provides as follows:
The administration of a condominium project shall be governed by bylaws recorded as part of the master deed, or as provided in the master deed. An amendment to the bylaws of any condominium project shall not eliminate the mandatory provisions required by section 54. An amendment shall be inoperative until recorded.
In rejecting the co-owner’s argument, the Michigan Court of Appeals held as follows:
Here, the condominium project bylaws, which were recorded, prohibit pets unless authorized by the board. They also authorize the board to adopt reasonable regulations concerning condominium use, provided a supermajority of unit owners approved the regulations. Those regulations, as contained in the association bylaws and amended, prohibit all pets except birds and fish. MCL 559.153; MSA 26.50(153) only applies to the bylaws of the condominium project, not to rules and regulations of the association adopted pursuant to a provision of those condominium project bylaws. Because the rules and regulations in the association bylaws, including the 1988 amendment, did not amend the condominium project bylaws, they did not have to be recorded to be effective.
While pet lovers would certainly disagree with the decision of the Michigan Court of Appeals, the Crawford case teaches us that courts will enforce the condominium bylaws as written. Generally speaking, courts will defer to the discretion of the board of directors of a condominium association, so long as their actions comply with the condominium bylaws in enforcing pet restrictions, subject to certain exceptions, such as the Fair Housing Act. In the instant case, the board of directors properly adopted rules and regulations that implemented the condominium bylaws. Accordingly, it is important for potential purchasers, especially pet owners, to carefully review any restrictive covenants prior to purchasing as condominium associations have the authority to remove pets that do not comply with the condominium bylaws. If a co-owner refuses to remove an animal that violates the condominium bylaws, the board of directors should contact a community association attorney to discuss its options.
Kevin Hirzel is the Managing Member of Hirzel Law, PLC. He concentrates his practice on commercial litigation, community association law, condominium law, Fair Housing Act compliance, homeowners association law and real estate law. Mr. Hirzel is a fellow in the College of Community Association Lawyers, a prestigious designation given to less than 175 attorneys in the country. Mr. Hirzel has been recognized as a Michigan Super Lawyer’s Rising Star in Real Estate Law by Super Lawyers Magazine, a Leading Lawyer in Condominium & HOA law by Leading Lawyers Magazine, and as a Best Lawyer in Real Estate Law by U.S News and World Report’s Best Lawyers Publication. He represents community associations, condominium associations, cooperatives, homeowners associations, property owners and property managers throughout Michigan. He may be reached at (248) 450-0339 or email@example.com.