Q&A: Is a Co-op’s Dog Ban Enforceable?

New York City

Dog Ban
March 12, 2018

QUESTION: A co-op’s management has sent out a notice that, effective immediately, they will fine residents seen publicly with dogs $1,000. A shareholder who has owned a dog for over a year and has been walking him daily in plain sight poses a question: can the co-op enforce the new rule, and will dog-walking shareholders have to pay fines?

ANSWER: The law states that if a landlord or management discovers a resident is keeping a pet in violation of the building's rules, they must begin proceedings against that resident within 90 days, Brick Underground responds. This applies to both tenants and co-op residents, and to condo residents outside Manhattan or the Bronx.

"If a dog has been in the apartment for more than 90 days without the board commencing an eviction proceeding over its unauthorized presence, the dog and its owner are protected by the New York City Pet Law,” says attorney Aaron Shmulewitz, a partner at Belkin Burden Wenig & Goldman. “The mere presence of the dog is no longer deemed a violation of the proprietary lease that the board can take legal action against, absent the dog creating conditions that do violate the lease, like excessive noise, soiling of public areas, and biting." 

Since the aggrieved shareholder has been keeping his dog "openly and notoriously" – that is, in view of management – for more than 90 days, and no one has initiated proceedings, the co-op's pet rules are considered waived, and the board can't fine the shareholder. Furthermore, Shmulewitz adds, the language of your co-op's new pet policy seems questionable from a legal standpoint.

"A $1,000 fine per public sighting seems so excessive as to be unreasonable and, thus, unenforceable in its own right,” he says. In a worst-case scenario, where dog-owner and co-op board end up in court over the co-op's pet policy, it's likely to go against the board. “Most judges generally do not like to enforce fines," Shmulewitz says.

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