This condo allows pets! But does it really?

Real Estate Agent with Thompson Company, REALTORS® 240.593.2860 MD594797

When you have a pet and want to buy a condo one of the first things we'll check for is the pet policy. There's a field in our multiple listing service that requires the listing agent to disclose the pet policy of the condominium. The choices are: yes, no, case-by-case, size/weight restrictions, no dogs at all or breed restrictions.

Case-by-case only makes sense for rental listings but I see it frequently (unfortunately). What it means is that the listing agent doesn't actually have a clue what the pet policy is and didn't care to find out prior to putting the home on the market. I know, I know.. it shouldn't be like that, yet it is. The due diligence is on the buyer and buyer's agent. 

But you can trust a solid yes or no answer? No, unfortunately you cannot. 

A tale from the Real Estate trenches

Pets allowedEarlier this year I was hunting for a first home with my dog-loving-and-owning clients. We toured many properties, and for each one that was a contender we verified the pet policy as much as possible beforehand. We checked the listing, I cross-referenced it with previous sales in the same building or complex, I called the listing agent, we searched for clues in the community (such as pet waste stations, residents walking dogs etc.) and on the community website, and later also resorted to calling each property management office and asking them directly to check the recorded by-laws. 

I am embarrassed to admit, how many times the information provided in the listings (not mine) was incorrect. Multiple listings in the same building provided different answers and ranged from yes to no, from case-by-case to weight restrictions. It's safe to assume that only one of them is the correct one. 

One condo my buyers were particularly interested in also stated "yes" for pets allowed? We toured the property during an open house and asked the listing agent and seller (who was in attendance) directly if there is a restrictive pet policy. We received a confident "no" and the explanation that there are many dogs in the community, there's a large one just 3 doors down. We wrote the offer. We got the house. We cleared the inspections. But ended up having to chase after the condo docs. We received them 3+ weeks into the contract period, a day late and only because I insisted on putting a rush on the order that was placed too late by the seller/listing side. 

Beware of restrictive pet policies when buying a condo in MarylandWhen the condo docs finally hit our inboxes, the first thing we looked for was the pet policy which - you are probably guessing by now - turned out to not be an 'all pets allowed policy'. This community had restrictions in place, allowing for only 1 pet up to 20 lbs. Not only was my client's dog twice the size but they were also planning on adding a companion in the near future. 

Since they loved the property so much and had already invested time, money and emotions, they wanted to find a solution. Had the pet policy been amended by any chance? Perhaps it's possible to get a waiver? 

We got in touch with the property management company who wasn't even aware that the community they were in charge of had pet restrictions in place. They actually suggested to just move in since "it's not being enforced". Yeah.. no. It doesn't matter if it's currently being enforced or not, it's written into the recorded by-laws and, thus, enforceable at any time. 

We also submitted a petition for a waiver in the hopes the condo board would consider it. Let's just say that it was exhausting trying to get a hold of and an answer from the property manager/board. Days went by with just the promise of a response. 

restrictive condo pet policyAs is the law in the State of Maryland, my buyers had 7 days to review the docs and the right to rescind the contract within that review period. And that is just what they ended up doing. 

You can absolutely walk away from a transaction if the condo docs reveal that your pet is not welcome. That is a valid reason - but you actually do not have to state one when you rescind the contract during the condo doc review period. It also does not require the seller's signature on a contract release, but it does on the release of security deposit. The seller has no claim to any part of your EMD (earnest money deposit) in this case - provided that you submit the Unilateral Release prior to the deadline expiring. My buyers chose to rescind and search for another home in a more pet-friendly community.

They celebrated their Happy Closing Day in August! 

Thompson Company Realtors office petI adore my four-legged companion, Lennon, the Real Estate dog and would have made the same decision as my clients. But understand that as your REALTOR® I am here to guide you, seek answers, call relentlessly if needed to get the answers, research, follow-up, find solutions, advise you of your options and go over the pros and cons for each. The decision is 100% yours to make. If you are willing to take a chance and live with the possible consequences, then you do have that option as well. 


*This blog post is a tale from the Real Estate trenches to illustrate a contract pitfall, the importance of due diligence, one of the gazillion things to watch out for and verify, a solution to what if and a - perhaps not so subtle - call to action that you should absolutely hire an experienced buyer's agent (Me!). This post is not legal advice. If that is what you need, please consult competent legal counsel.*

Enforceable condo pet policies

*This blog post is also an entry in ActiveRain's September challenge: Crazy Real Estate Stories. I have been actively licensed in Maryland since October 2004 (yep, I started when I was like 12 ;) and I have lots of stories! This one though had a few crazies rolled into one, most notable:

1. The listing agent put the condo back on the market without correcting the pet policy! To this day it states: no pet restrictions. 

2. The suggestion from the property management office to "just move in, the pet policy is not being enforced". The manager can change, the by-laws generally do not. If it's written in the by-laws, it's enforceable. 

3. At some point in the midst of trying to find a solution, the suggestion was made (not by me!) to just execute an addendum "all parties agree" that the pet policy is not being enforced and the buyer's dog should be just fine. This was just wrong on so many levels. I am not a party to the contract and would never sign such an addendum. No manager, agent, seller.. can overrule the by-laws, it takes a majority vote of all the residents. Try rallying up the masses to get that pushed through! Secondly, see #2. It's in the by-laws. It's enforceable. That is all that matters at the end. 

Posted by

Andrea Bedard
Thompson Co., REALTORS®

Silver Spring, Maryland

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Comments (22)

Michael Jacobs
Pasadena, CA
Los Angeles Pasadena 818.516.4393

Hello Andrea - buying, selling or representing either one in a real estate transaction can be fraught with learning experiences gone amok.  Barking up the wrong tree can come to mind too.  When a condo purchase (or even a lease) is part of the picture, it can become frustrating.  One's due diligence can be tested.  And tested.  It's never easy.   

Sep 09, 2022 03:46 AM
Andrea Bedard

This transaction was definitely an exercise in frustration Michael Jacobs  - and one in how to remain calm and professional while feeling so! It was unbelievable how unresponsive and misinformed the management office was. Did I mention that the listing agent neglected to correct the pet policy disclose in the listing after she put it back on the market? It still said: no pet restrictions. True story!  

Sep 09, 2022 10:40 AM
Nina Hollander, Broker
Coldwell Banker Realty - Charlotte, NC
Your Greater Charlotte Realtor

Hi Andrea... I'm always amazed at how restrictive some condo communities are when it comes to pets. As a pet mom, I couldn't live in one like that.

Sep 09, 2022 04:12 AM
Andrea Bedard

I consulted with legal counsel to confirm the worst case scenario: should the pet restrictions ever be enforced in the future, my clients could have faced a nightmare scenario.. find a new home for their pet or move. All it takes is one "Karen". This is not a chance my clients were willing to take, and neither would I!

Sep 09, 2022 10:44 AM
Richard Weeks
Dallas, TX
REALTOR®, Broker

Great information, thanks for sharing.  I hope you have a great day.

Sep 09, 2022 04:48 AM
Kat Palmiotti
406-270-3667,, Broker/REALTOR® - Kalispell, MT
Helping your Montana dreams take root

Excellent example of what needs to be verified prior to purchasing a home. Thankfully your client had you on their side to get to the bottom of it. I can't believe the property management company didn't know the rules either. They might need to retake a property 101 class. Know your property!

Sep 09, 2022 04:55 AM
Andrea Bedard

I placed this property management office on my red list: non-referable. Most communication was through the admin, the "manager" refused to call us (I got my broker involved as well) back and only sporadically responded to emails. Her lack of communication was so unprofessional that I was relieved to find out that she was not a licensed REALTOR. She called herself "administrator" and, as such, she does not need to be licensed in the State of MD. 

Thank you Kat Palmiotti

Sep 09, 2022 10:49 AM
Brian England
Arizona Focus Realty - Gilbert, AZ
MBA, GRI, REALTOR® Real Estate in East Valley AZ

If someone is buying a property within an HOA or any type of community that has restrictions they would be wise to know what they are getting into before they close.  Most don't and then complain later, haha.

Sep 09, 2022 05:43 AM
Andrea Bedard

I hear it all too often Brian England : "I never read the docs" and "I didn't know." I tell my clients if you don't want to read every single line, that's understandable, but make sure to look at the by-laws, rules and regs, architectural provisions, and the budget plus reserve study... and then I joke (or am I? ;) that I'll quiz them on it later.

All can impact quality of life and/or once bottom line. Not a document I would skip reading. 

Sep 09, 2022 10:53 AM
Kathleen Daniels, Probate & Trust Specialist
KD Realty - 408.972.1822 - San Jose, CA
Probate Real Estate

This was hard to read Andrea Bedard. It is well written and detailed yet the story irritates me - no wonder this industry has a not-so-great reputation.  Lazy comes to my mind. 

In California, I get an HOA compliance review that combs through all of the documents to ensure all required docs are there, they are current, and of course, pet and other restrictions.  

Sep 09, 2022 04:04 PM
Andrea Bedard

I thought about whether or not I should share it Kathleen Daniels, Probate & Trust Specialist, not wanting to highlight the negative. The reality is that not all licensees are created equal. The good news is that consumers have a choice! 

Condo docs in MD have to be delivered at least 15 days prior to closing and then the buyers get 7 days to review. More often than not, listing agent/seller wait until a contract has been ratified to order the docs, sometimes having to put a rush on it then. If certain restrictions were not disclosed upfront (or misrepresented) then that can lead to ugly situations later on. Ideally, the condos docs have already been issued and the review period coincides with the inspection contingency timeframe.

Sep 13, 2022 09:32 AM
Eileen Burns
Trans State Commercial RE Ft. Lauderdale/Miami/Palm Beach - Fort Lauderdale, FL
FLorida Real Estate Connector

Andrea Bedard thanks for your submission.  We have had issues here in Florida as well.  Nowadays buyers obtain emotional support certificates to have their pet on premises.  Often these buyers go off to work and leave a barking dog behind.

Sep 10, 2022 05:41 AM
Andrea Bedard

I've heard similar stories Eileen Burns and even one where the owner got a certificate for the second dog: an emotional support companion for dog #1!

I have nothing against restrictions, but it's an issue when those are not being disclosed correctly.  

Sep 13, 2022 09:36 AM
Wanda Kubat-Nerdin - Wanda Can!
Red Rock Real Estate Brokered by Real - St. George, UT
St. George Utah Area Residential Sales Agent

Agents must be vested enough to either know about pet policies in condo associations or search out the the answers like you did, Andrea. An agent I know had to buy a condo back from her client because the CCR's changed after they went under contract, banning dogs. They closed and recorded and as the woman was moving in, her neighbor said that her pet was not allowed. How sad!

Sep 10, 2022 11:00 AM
Andrea Bedard

Oh that is terrible Wanda Kubat-Nerdin - Wanda Can! What happened in this case? I cannot imagine having to give up my dog. My clients' couldn't either and just couldn't take that chance, even if a slim one. 

We have a Change in Terms Addendum in MD that must be given to a buyer if there are any substantial changes to the docs or the dues increase by more than 10% while under contract. In that case, the buyer gets the opportunity to rescind. 

Sep 13, 2022 09:39 AM
Wanda Kubat-Nerdin - Wanda Can!

Agent bought the condo from the buyer and the buyer found another condo that allowed pets. Not a good situation!

Sep 13, 2022 09:41 AM
Kathy Streib
Cypress, TX
Home Stager/Redesign

Sep 10, 2022 05:35 PM
Andrea Bedard

Thank you, thank you, thank you Kathy Streib!  

Sep 13, 2022 09:40 AM
Wayne Martin
Wayne M Martin - Chicago, IL
Real Estate Broker - Retired

Good morning Andrea. When people don't have skin in the game, they tend to be free wheeling in their advice. Some listing agents are order takers and never verify anything Enjoy your day.

Sep 11, 2022 05:41 AM
Andrea Bedard

Sad, but true. I still cannot wrap my brain around the fact that the listing agent in our case didn't correct the pet policy after putting it back on the market. 

Sep 13, 2022 09:41 AM
Leanne Smith
Dirt Road Real Estate - Golden Valley, AZ
Relocation to NW AZ with elbow room & more freedom

Thought I don't sell condos, I have considerable miss information regarding other aspects such as CCRs, HOAs, utilities and even zoning.  Securing HOA information more often than not is like pulling hen's teeth. Glad you were able to make your clients happy and save them their earnest funds.

Sep 11, 2022 08:14 AM
Andrea Bedard

Thank you Leanne Smith. Some property management companies/managers are (much) easier to deal with than others. In this case, it was nearly impossible. I can't count how many times I, or my broker, called in and were told by the admin that "she's not in the office today". We were always asked to email, but almost never got a response. It was beyond frustrating. 

On the other hand, it showed my buyers how important it is to buy into a properly managed community with a responsive management/board! The way our situation was handled was not a good sign. 

Sep 13, 2022 09:46 AM
June Piper-Brandon
Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage - Ellicott City, MD
Piecing Dreams One Home at a Time

This is great information for pet owners looking to buy a condo.  Thanks for sharing!

Sep 11, 2022 08:35 AM
Andrea Bedard

Thanks June! 

Sep 13, 2022 09:47 AM
Adam Feinberg
Elegran - Manhattan, NY
NYC Condo, Co-op, and Townhouse Advisor

While most condos allow dogs in Manhattan- not all do, and a large percentage of co-op's don't allow dogs. In fact many co-op's may require not only you do go through a board review and interview, but they require your dog to interview (by meeting the board). Lots of owners have to wear their dogs down prior to the interview or give them sedatives - because a co-op board can reject you for any reason and not tell you why. 

Sep 11, 2022 09:49 AM
Andrea Bedard

Wow Adam Feinberg, you must have some stories to tell! I can only imagine the grooming appointments before hand, obedience training and what not before every interview. Ohhh, perhaps there's a business there: Prepping your dog for the coop interview!  

Sep 13, 2022 09:49 AM
Adam Feinberg

Hi Andrea Bedard,

The dog grooming isn't a significant issue. Many co-op boards are seeking the inteview to indicate that the buyer/buyer's family (including the dogs) are not going to give them any more headaches than they can handle. While that might not be obvious during an interview- some people out themselves as an inappropriate match during the interview. For the dogs- they are generally seeking that the dog's temperament isn't too loud (bark at everything type) or too aggressive. Lots of building residents have gotten bitten by a dog in the elevator over the years- so the boards are seeking to minimize this risk.

Sep 13, 2022 10:14 AM
Sheri Sperry - MCNE®
Coldwell Banker Realty - Sedona, AZ
(928) 274-7355 ~ YOUR Solutions REALTOR®

Hi Andrea,

You helped your clients make the right decision for them.  That is commendable.  Doing the right thing can be a lot of work on our part but so important for our clients.  On a side note, I know an agent who has a lawyer on retainer. That is a red flag for me!

Sep 11, 2022 10:30 AM
Andrea Bedard

There were a few days that I did almost nothing else than try to get through to the manager, update my broker, get back to the listing agent, research options, reach out to our legal hotline and circle back to my buyers. Sometimes this is what it takes. We left no stone unturned and my clients got all the information they needed to make the very best decision for themselves. 

Thank you Sheri Sperry - MCNE®

Sep 13, 2022 09:55 AM
Grant Schneider
Performance Development Strategies - Armonk, NY
Your Coach Helping You Create Successful Outcomes

Hi Andrea - it id best t answer all of he contingency questions and them  agree in advance

Sep 11, 2022 05:26 PM
Andrea Bedard

No question Grant Schneider! In MD the condo docs have to be delivered no later than 15 days prior to closing. More often than not, sellers/listing agents wait until a contract has been ratified. If the docs are delivered late or reveal surprises then that can lead to a roadblock. It would be best if every listing agent verifies the pet policy and existence of other restrictions beforehand.. I certainly do!  

Sep 13, 2022 09:58 AM
Lynn B. Friedman CRS Atlanta, GA 404-939-2727
Atlanta Homes ODAT Realty - Love our Great City - Love our Clients! Buckhead - Midtown - Westside - Atlanta, GA
Concierge Service for Our Atlanta Sellers & Buyers

Andrea Bedard 
K I S S --- if it is in the By-Laws, it rules!
What lucky Clients to have such a great agent!
All the best - Lynn

Sep 11, 2022 07:10 PM
Andrea Bedard

Thank you Lynn B. Friedman CRS Atlanta, GA 404-939-2727 😊

Sep 13, 2022 09:59 AM
Peter Mohylsky
PMI. Destin - Miramar Beach, FL

Pets are family and need special provisions.  Not everyone likes animals. Not everyone likes kids.  

Sep 12, 2022 07:54 AM
Ed Silva
Mapleridge Realty, CT 203-206-0754 - Waterbury, CT
Central CT Real Estate Broker Serving all equally

Great work on your art to get that client into a qualified condo. Sad that so many agents will just throw up the listing without doing the necessary work. That could have backfired big time on them had you client sought to get their expenses returned by the agent/seller

Sep 13, 2022 10:24 AM
Joan Cox
House to Home, Inc. - Denver Real Estate - 720-231-6373 - Denver, CO
Denver Real Estate - Selling One Home at a Time

Andrea, every condo and townhome complex has different rules and regs, and when it comes to pets, you need to read them all to be sure you are in compliance.

Sep 15, 2022 07:02 AM
Debe Maxwell, CRS | The Maxwell House Group | RE/MAX Executive | (704) 491-3310 - Charlotte, NC
The right Charlotte REALTOR!

Shaking my head, Andrea! I do hope your clients know how very fortunate they are to have you in their corner. Like you said, I wouldn't want to take the chance of moving in and having a 'Karen' as a next door neighbor.

GREAT job and a wonderful submission to September's challenge!

Oct 02, 2022 02:57 PM