Blog post by David Swedelson, Partner, SwedelsonGottlieb, California condo lawyer and HOA attorney
I recently posted a blog article and link to my article about the $55,000 dog. Out of Toronto comes word of an (almost) $40,000 parrot. Some owners are finding that their pets can be very expensive if they do not comply with their condominium or homeowner associations' governing documents.
According to the article (follow this link), a Toronto (Canada) condominium association took action when neighbors complained of hearing the parrot. Apparently, this condominium association has a no pet policy. The homeowner, who owned the unit at the association since 1989, thought that the “no pet” policy applied only to dogs and cats. At first, the owner claims he tried to make a joke of the dispute, writing a sarcastic letter to the board asking if it would be OK if he had a goldfish. The answer was no. Apparently, his association takes the prohibition on pets very seriously, as they should.
The owner claims that he was merely taking care of the parrot for a friend for about 2 weeks, and that he did not even remember the parrot’s name nor what it talked about. But apparently, the neighbors did hear that parrot, and the board did not believe that the bird had been removed from the unit. After the owner provided 3 affidavits confirming that the parrot was not living in the unit, the board made its own inspection. After not finding the bird, the board claimed that the owner had removed the bird in a blanketed box (which they observed on surveillance video). And we thought that this kind of thing only happened at California condominium associations!
After the owner consented to a court order to get rid of the bird (the one he claimed did not live in his unit), and pay $3000 in court costs to his condo association, he learned that his board was recording a lien on his unit to recover “actual additional costs” that the board claimed the association incurred while trying to evict the parrot. The board was seeking a whopping $41,599.
Not quite sure how the dispute got before a judge (perhaps when the association sought legal assistance to foreclose on the lien), but the judge rejected the association's claim and ordered that the homeowner pay $6500, less $5000 in court costs awarded to the owner for winning a motion challenging the fees and costs being demanded by the association. The owner's attorney was quoted as saying “we argued the fees were excessive, and the court agreed with us.” The court noted that both parties had waived opportunities for mediation. That may have been a mistake, as the Toronto condominium association spent a fortune to get rid of a bird that may not have existed.
In the case of the $55,000 dog, the subject of the “$1000 Per Pound Dog” article, the owner also argued that the fees were excessive, and the court rejected that argument. “A lesson, perhaps, in what happens when most of the talking is done by a bird.”
Have pet issues at your California condo or homeowners association? Comments or questions? David Swedelson can be contacted via email: firstname.lastname@example.org