Are Condos Pet-Friendly?


The question of whether or not a condo is pet-friendly is one on the minds of many people looking for a new home. While it was once unusual to find animals in a condo or apartment block, it is now so common that an entire industry has sprung up around “apartment animals.”

Are Condos Pet-Friendly? Whether or not you can have a pet in your condo depends on the rules of the condominiums HOA. Animals may be:

  • Banned entirely
  • Restricted by size, breed, or species

Looking at the question from another perspective, whether or not condo-life is animal-friendly is dependant on the quality of life your pet can enjoy.

Here we’ll take a look at both issues, as well as discussing the exceptions to an HOAs authority, and highlighting how you can make your animal a happy condo pet.

Are Condos Pet-Friendly?

Whether or not a particular condo is pet-friendly comes down to the homeowners association which runs the condominium building or complex. The HOA is run by residents of the building, and it is entirely up to them if they want to:

  • Allow pets
  • Only allow pets which meet certain restrictions
  • Ban pets entirely

As with all elements of condo living, this makes it essential to either:

  1. Review a copy of the homeowner associations Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions (CC&Rs). Here is where all regulations which govern the HOA, the common areas of a building, and the individual units and residents.
  2. Include in your offer a “Review of the CC&R’s contingency. On some occasions, time is of the essence, and you do not have the opportunity to obtain and review a copy of the CC&R’s before making an offer. In this case, ensure your offer has a clause that states you must have a copy of the CC&R’s within X number of days and that you will have Y number of days to review it and raise any issues.

You may discover that the building in which you are considering setting up home is open to anything in the pet department. However, although pet-friendly policies are an increasingly sought after feature of a condo, the majority of HOAs either exclude or restrict pets.

It is your responsibility, before signing a contract to check and see if your animal can move in with you. If not, you can appeal to the HOA, but apart from that, you will have no legal redress.

What Kind Of Restrictions Might Be In Place?

Specific rules vary between HOA’s. I know of one which had a list of allowed breeds that appeared to have no logic behind it, and it turns out these were just breeds the HOA Committee members that put the rule in place several years before didn’t like.

There are, however, some reasonably standard rule, regulations, and exclusions. For example:

  • Only animals in cages and tanks are allowed. This basically comes down to fish, reptiles, amphibians, and birds, which may be a good fit for you.
  • Cats but not dogs
  • Dogs of specified breeds
  • Dogs that weigh less than “X” lbs
  • Only two pets per unit
  • Animals must be kept on a leash when in common areasOpens in a new tab.
  • Animals cannot infringe on another residents property without permission
  • A pet deposit must be paid
  • Any damage in a common area must be paid for in full, by the pet owner.
  • No cat littler in the communal garbage system

You get the idea.

Does It Work The Same Way With Apartments?

The rules for apartments are very similar. A landlord is entitled to either restrict pets or ban them altogether, as long as the same standards are applied equally to all tenants. So, if you ask if you can bring your dog, and the landlord says no, despite the fact there are other pet dogs within the building, the landlord will have to prove there is a good reason why you cannot move in with Rover.

Is It “Fair” To Your Pet To Live In A Condo?

This is another one of those questions where there is no “one size fits all” answer. It would be reasonable to argue that a high energy golden retriever might not be happy, alone all day in a studio apartment. Meanwhile, a smaller, more sedate dog might be perfectly content in a condo, especially if their owner works from home or makes use of a doggie daycare.

The same goes for cats. I would be unfair to take an energetic hunter who spends most of their time outside and expect them to stay inside a condo 24/7. On the other hand, there are plenty of cats that spend their entire life inside and appear to be happy.

Each situation, pet, personality, and owner is different. Only you can decide if your pet would be happy moving into a condo.

How Can I Help My Pet Transition To A Condo?

There are ways to soften the move to a condo.

  • If your pet has a particular set routine, stick to it. The familiarity of know what happens next, and that some things have remained the same will be comforting.
  • Take their existing bed, bowls, toys, etc .with you and settle your pet down in “their” spot as soon as possible.
  • Have a plan for what, how, where, and when, you are going to do things such as walking your dog.
  • If your cat is not used to a little tray or being inside, begin transitioning to these practices before you move.

How Do You And Your Pet Stay Happy In A Condo?

Pet ownership is an ongoing journey, no matter where you live but if  you are living in a condo you should:

  • Register your pet with the HOA when you move in.
  • Take the time to meet the new neighbors and introduce your pet. Let them know that if they have any issues, they can come to you, and you’ll be happy to discuss it and find a solution. This is always preferable to having an issue taken to the HOA.
  • Attend every HOA meeting and be sure to review all proposed rules or amendments ahead of time. There is nothing to stop a board deciding to ban pets at any time – except the residents who exercise their voting rights.
  • Research emergency vets in your area. Read lots of reviews, check prices and ask for recommendations. Don’t wait until you need one before looking for a vet.
  • Install a pet door onto your balcony – if appropriate!
  • Consider food and water bowls that allow the release of a little at a time.
  • Look for condo friendly items to stimulate your pet while you are away. I’m talking about things such as softer rubber toys which won’t make a lot of noise when dropped on the floor or even a “cat condo” within your condo upon which puss can climb, jump, stretch and scratch.

Can Federal Legislation Override An HOA Or Landlord?

The exception to the authority given to HOAs and Landlords to set their own rules centers around service animals.

The Fair Housing Amendments Act states that you cannot exclude service animals from a condo. Neither can a landlord refuse to rent to a tenant with a service animal, even if the landlord has a “no animals” rule.

If you do have a service animal and want to move into a building with a service animal, let the landlord or HAO know ahead of time. They can ask for proof from a medical professional that you need your animal, but they are not entitled to know the details of your condition. Also, reasonable rules can be enforced such as a service dog must be on a leash in the common areas.

Final Thoughts

You may or may not be allowed to enjoy the company of your pet in a condo. Or an apartment for that matter. An individual HOA or landlord make the decision to allow animals to live in the building. They may exclude all animals, place restrictions or welcome them all with open arms. However, whatever the rules, they must apply to all residents equally. The only exceptions are service animals. Federal law prevents landlords or HOAs from excluding a resident or would-be resident from a building on the grounds they have a service animal.

If you do choose to move to a condo with your pet, make sure they will have an appropriate quality of life Do what you can to ease the transition, and make things easier for them. Finally, if you are already in a condo and are considering a pet, choose one that will be as happy as you are with your home and lifestyle.

Geoff

Geoff Southworth is the creator of RealEstateInfoGuide.com, the site that helps new homeowners, investors, and homeowners-to-be successfully navigate the complex world of property ownership. Geoff is a real estate investor of 8 years has had experience as a manager of a debt-free, private real estate equity fund, as well as a Registered Nurse in Emergency Trauma and Cardiac Cath Lab Care. As a result, he has developed a unique “people first, business second” approach to real estate.

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