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Plaza 447 Office Condominium Association, Inc. v. Petrocco

A-5324-02T5 (N.J. Super. App. Div. 2004) (Unpublished)

CONDOMINIUMS; PETS—Where a condominium’s rules prohibit dogs, “keeping” a dog includes situations where a dog is kept in a condominium only a few days a week and only during office hours.

In 1987, a doctor purchased an office condominium. Shortly thereafter, his office manager began to bring her dog to work on a daily basis. The dog was then used to advertise and promote the doctor’s practice. In 1988, another condominium unit owner complained about the dog urinating in the hallways. The original dog died in 1989, but the office manager continued to bring other dogs to the office. In September 1998, another condominium owner brought a complaint to the condominium association about a barking dog. The association fined the doctor.

The association’s bylaws prohibited dogs. They were in effect in 1987 when the doctor purchased his unit and he was aware of the prohibition. Nonetheless, the doctor maintained that he had not “kept” a dog in his unit because he did not own the dog, and because the dog was only present during office hours. He also argued that the doctrines of laches, estoppel, and waiver precluded the association from invoking the bylaws after years of the dogs’ presence in the condominium.

The lower court concluded that the doctor had in fact “kept” the dog, since it was on the premises continually for thirteen years, for at least three days per week. It rejected the doctor’s arguments because he failed to show detrimental reliance upon a false representation; because the association did not intentionally relinquish a known right; and because the doctor knew his actions were prohibited but that he had “got[ten] away with it for a long period of time.” The lower court concluded that, as a matter of equity, the need to enforce the bylaws was far greater than the doctor’s claim of waiver, if the claim was valid to begin with. The Appellate Division agreed with the lower court’s analysis.

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