Pets in Condominiums: Furry Friends Bring Some Condominium Challenges

Pets in Condominiums: Furry Friends Bring Some Condominium Challenges

As we enter the spring of 2024 here in New England and there is finally a touch of warmth in the air, condominium residents are back out enjoying condominium common areas again. Residents, including pet owners and non-pet owners alike, are enjoying everything their condominiums have to offer. Unfortunately, as many board members and property managers are aware, furry friends and their owners can cause issues in condominium common spaces and units. As spring arrives, board members and property managers should be familiar with their condominium’s governing documents as to pet restrictions, rules, and regulations.

Pet rules should be properly enforced to ensure enjoyment of condominium living by resident pet owners and non-pet owners alike.

Pets are an integral part of the modern American family unit, and pet ownership and adoption skyrocketed during the covid-19 pandemic. In fact, more than twenty-three million households in America adopted a pet during the pandemic, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Naturally, many of those pets have ended up in condominium settings, and thus, pet restrictions, rules, and regulations are more important than ever.

Condominium living is unique. It involves people who live in close proximity to each other and share space, no matter the physical construction of the condominium. Condominium governing documents and rules and regulations provide restrictions with which residents must comply in order to live peacefully with one another, as well as respecting each other’s right to live in their units. As board members and property managers who have been dragged into unit-to-unit disputes know, condominium living can be a balancing act. Resident pets can affect that balance.

Barking is a particular issue in condominium settings. A barking dog inside or outside a unit disturbs the quiet enjoyment of residents of a condominium. This can be a problem day or night, especially with the frequency with which people are working from home. Board members and property managers know that once one dog barks, another may also bark.

Pets traveling through common areas can also cause problems for boards and managers. Dogs who run through common areas unleashed or on very long leashes can end up in portions of common areas or exclusive use areas where they would otherwise not be permitted. A dog in an unfenced yard area may escape and run into other common areas.

Pets, particularly dogs, can also cause safety issues with other residents and resident pets. Pet attacks due to the close proximity of pets to one another in condominium settings can occur. Dogs in particular may be confused about other residents and/or dogs who are using the same areas where they may walk or play and which they consider their home and may exhibit aggressive behavior. Such aggressive behavior should be taken seriously and addressed immediately.

Pets require places to relieve themselves, and this can be the biggest issue in condominium living, especially condominiums without exclusive use yards. Dog or cat excrement in a common area is unpleasant. Pet urine is corrosive and can ruin metal condominium common elements, from HVAC condensers to benches to light poles, as well as damage condominium green spaces. These elements can cost thousands of dollars to properly repair or replace and can then be easily damaged by pet urine once again. When not disposed of properly, pet feces smells, attracts pests, and damages green spaces. Pet feces and urine contain bacteria that can get into the air and groundwater. Plus, even if a less serious concern, all pet excrement is unsightly!

To deal with pet issues, board members and property managers will benefit from a regular review of the pet restrictions that are contained in the governing documents of their condominium, with an eye toward any new or recurring issues. Unit owners must be aware that any pet that resides in their unit is subject to the condominium’s governing documents and rules and regulations. It may be valuable to recirculate pet rules and regulations to unit owners on an annual or other scheduled basis.

Pet restrictions that limit the use of units will be found in a master deed or declaration of trust of a condominium. These may include limitations on: pet breeds or species that may reside in a unit, the number of pets which may reside in a unit, the weight of pets which may reside in a unit, and the prohibition of any aggressive pet from residing in a unit. Restrictions prohibiting nuisance and which ensure quiet enjoyment of units should also be contained in the governing documents and will apply to pets that are violating those restrictions. Some condominium governing documents may prohibit all or certain pets entirely. As with all restrictions on use of units, these types of restrictions must be contained in the master deed or declaration of trust to be enforceable; they may not be inserted into rules and regulations. Amendments to the master deed and declaration of trust can be made to deal with specific pet issues in units and will require the approval of a percentage of the unit owners.

Restrictions on pets in common areas can and should be contained in the condominium’s recorded rules and regulations, in whatever form those take, whether a standalone policy, a longer, combined rules document, or a condominium handbook. It is important that all rules and regulations be recorded with the registry of deeds and, as a best practice, circulated to unit owners when revised.

Pet rules and regulations should deal with common issues such as: requirements for dogs not to disturb others in the common areas, leash requirements, fencing requirements, pet waste requirements, including that it be promptly picked up and properly disposed of, and requirements as to any pet that may exhibit aggressive behavior. Restrictions on aggressive pets can include muzzle requirements, or even a prohibition on the pet’s entry onto common areas, but should be closely discussed with condominium counsel. Some condominiums may have unique pet-related elements such as a dog park or dog run that require rules and restrictions. Pet-related registration requirements may be valuable so that boards know which pets are in the common areas. Some boards require proof of pet vaccinations and pet licensure with the city or town in order for pets to be allowed on the common areas.

Pet rules should be properly enforced to ensure enjoyment of condominium living by resident pet owners and non-pet owners alike. Board members and property managers must be ready to enforce the condominium’s governing documents and rules and regulations against pets, with any fine or other enforcement costs assessed to the owner of the unit where the offending pet resides. Residents and pet owners should provide immediate information to the board and the property manager as to any pet or resident pet owner found violating pet rules. Condominium counsel should be consulted as to enforcement and violation notices to help ensure the board’s compliance with all governing documents and rules and regulations, or to redraft and review pet restrictions, rules and regulations.

Please note that while this article discusses pets, it specifically does not discuss emotional support, service, or assistance animals, which are separately treated under the terms of the Federal Fair Housing Act. If you are a board member or property manager facing issues related to emotional support, service, or assistance animals please contact your condominium counsel for assistance.

Ryan R. Severance Condo Law Blog

If you have any need for legal services related to this article, or any similar matter, you can email Ryan at or any of our other attorneys at Moriarty Bielan and Malloy LLC at 781-817-4900 or

Ryan R. Severance