Levine & Montana, Principal Attorney
The client’s tale. A 130-unit garden-style co-op had a house rule that generally prohibited pets and banned feeding wild animals on the common grounds. A shareholder’s spouse loved to do just that, attracting feral cats, raccoons, and other wild creatures. The presence of the wild animals was most annoying to several of the nearby residents, who were also concerned about animal excrement and the threat of rabies, among other things. The managing agent and I sent many letters to the shareholder requesting that the spouse stop feeding the wild animals. Fines were issued. The board sent several notices to the shareholder to “cure the default” (i.e., correct the breach of his lease) and also invited the shareholder to a couple of meetings to try and work out the problem, but the shareholder’s spouse never stopped.
Despite oral assurances from the shareholder and the couple’s attorney, the feeding continued for more than 10 years. Finally, the board had had enough. It resolved to call a special meeting of the shareholders to consider and act upon a proposal that the objectionable conduct of the shareholder, repeated after written notice from the board, rendered the tenancy undesirable. The shareholders had a meeting and invited the offending shareholder, the shareholder’s spouse, and their attorney to attend and participate. After hearing the presentation of the board and other witnesses, more than two-thirds of the shareholders voted to terminate the tenancy. The shareholder whose spouse loved to feed the wild animals no longer lives at the complex.
The lawyer’s take. All shareholders and residents should comply with the house rules. Since other residents were concerned about the health and welfare of the community, especially because of the threat of biting or disease that may ensue from a wild animal, they were compelled to terminate the proprietary lease of the offending shareholder. The board had documented its efforts to have the feeding of wild animals cease. The board, the managing agent, and the board’s counsel needed to form a close team to accomplish the goal of terminating a tenancy. The board solicited proxies to assure a quorum at the shareholders’ meeting. What may have finally settled the issue was surveillance footage showing daily feeding of the wild animals. The footage also showed the resident trying to dislodge the camera with a broomstick.
Case closed. Proving objectionable conduct may require many observations of acts of misconduct by a resident. A written trail of warnings and official notices will assist in documenting the efforts of the board to have the conduct cease.