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Can Michigan Condominium Associations Ban Pets?

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 yardwork.  Barking pets were identified as the biggest complaint amongst 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 associations.  As will be discussed below, in Crawford v Holiday Condo Ass’n, unpublished opinion of the Court of Appeals, issued January 19, 2001 (Docket No. 217071), 2001 WL 777092, the Michigan Court of Appeals has held upheld a condominium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.

 

Facts

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 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.

 

Conclusion

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 a 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 and 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 kevin@hirzellaw.com.

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kevin@hirzellaw.com

Kevin Hirzel is the Managing Member of Hirzel Law, PLC. Hirzel Law has offices in Farmington, Grand Rapids, and Traverse City, Michigan with a fourth office location in Chicago, Illinois. Mr. Hirzel focuses his practice on condominium law, homeowners association law, and real estate law. He is a fellow in the College of Community Association Lawyers (“CCAL”), a prestigious designation given to less than 175 attorneys in the country. Mr. Hirzel formerly served on the CCAL National Board of Governors and is a former member of the Community Associations Institute’s (“CAI”) Board of Trustees, an international organization with over 40,000 members worldwide that is dedicated to improving community associations. Mr. Hirzel has been recognized as a Leading Lawyer in Michigan by Leading Lawyers, a distinction earned by fewer than 5% of all lawyers licensed in Michigan. He has been named a Michigan “Rising Star” in real estate law by Super Lawyers Magazine, a designation is given to no more than 2.5% of the attorneys in Michigan each year. Mr. Hirzel was also named as a “Go-To-Lawyer” in condominium and real estate law by Michigan Lawyer’s Weekly. Hirzel Law was also voted the best law firm in Metro Detroit in the Detroit Free Press Best of the Best awards. He is the Co-Chairman of the State Bar of Michigan’s Real Property Law Section Committee for Condominiums, PUDs & Cooperatives. Mr. Hirzel has authored numerous articles on community association law for publications such as the Michigan Community Association News, Michigan Real Property Review, Macomb County Bar Briefs and the Washington Post. He is also the author of “Hirzel’s Handbook: How to operate a Michigan Condo or HOA”, which is available for purchase on amazon.com. Mr. Hirzel has been interviewed on community association legal issues by various media outlets throughout the country, such as CBS, CNBC, Common Ground Magazine, Community Association Management Insider, the Dan Abrams Show on SiriusXM Radio, the Detroit News, Dr. Drew Midday Live on KABC Radio, Fox Business News, Fox News, HOALeader.com, the Law & Crime Network, Michigan Lawyer’s Weekly, NPR, WWJ News Radio and WXYZ. Mr. Hirzel is a dynamic speaker and frequently lectures on community association law throughout Michigan, as well as nationally at the CAI National Law Seminar, and is a two-time winner of the best manuscript award at the CAI National Law Seminar.

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