How can we enforce ‘no dogs allowed’ rule in our complex?

Owner-occupiers fear being bitten as dog numbers continue to increase despite rule

“The house rules in our multi-unit development complex do not allow the presence of dogs yet the dog numbers continue to  increase.” Photograph: Getty Images/iStockphoto

“The house rules in our multi-unit development complex do not allow the presence of dogs yet the dog numbers continue to increase.” Photograph: Getty Images/iStockphoto

 

The house rules in our multi-unit development complex do not allow the presence of dogs and there are notices in common areas to this effect. Unfortunately, the dog numbers and indeed their sizes are increasing.

Their prevalence is blamed on landlords who at the time of letting, do not specify the “no dogs allowed” rule and it is then too late as it were to lock the kennel door.

Owner-occupiers are concerned about getting bitten – or worse, witness the terrible tragedy in Galway recently – as well as the potential health dangers through the transmission of toxocariasis from dog poo. The local villages have warning signs about this.

I would like to know:

  1. Is there anything that can be done retroactively – fines are imposed for other breaches of the house rules.
  2. What are the consequences for the complex/landlord if someone is bitten? (Health issues would be difficult to prove.)
  3. What is a reasonable voting threshold to secure all house rules? A simple majority with a low turnout is a concern.

In most apartment complexes pets will either be prohibited entirely or only permitted on the proviso that they do not become a nuisance. Every letting within the complex is subject to the observance of these rules.

You mention that the house rules do not allow dogs and that there is already a system of fines for house rule breaches. In this instance the owners’ management company (OMC) is within its rights to seek the removal of any dog (or pet) within the complex and to impose a fine upon the apartment owner for the breach of the rules. You should contact the OMC (or its agent) to raise your concerns.

The difficulty that often arises for OMCs is when tenants/owners do not comply with such requests and it is then a matter for the OMC to decide whether or not to take legal proceedings to enforce the lease covenants to which the apartment owner signed up to. However, unless the OMC has a legal fund to cover such expenses most will not seek to incur the costs (and time) associated with this course of action.

Exercising proper control

Under the Control of Dogs Act, it is the person who owns the dog who is responsible for its behaviour and is responsible for exercising proper control of their pet. In the event that someone is injured by a dog within the complex it is therefore the dog owner who is liable.

The issue of dog fouling, however, is much more of a grey area as local authority by-laws do not cover private property. The OMC relies heavily on its pet-owning residents to behave responsibly and pick up after their pets.

If the OMC believes that it needs to amend its house rules to be more explicit about the prohibition of dogs from the complex, it may propose such amendments for consideration at a meeting of its members.

Typically this would be done as a special resolution at the annual general meeting and requires the approval of at least a minimum 75 per cent of members in attendance (in person or by proxy) and eligible to vote in order to approve.

In any event, it may be time for the OMC to remind its members and residents of their responsibilities when it comes to the complex so as to ensure that all residents can enjoy living within it.

Aoife O’Sullivan is a Chartered Property Manager and member of the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland, scsi.ie