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Roundtop Condominium Owners, Association v. McMahon

A-3049-02T2 (N.J. Super. App. Div. 2004) (Unpublished)

CONDOMINIUMS; RESTRICTIONS; PETS—Pet and other restrictions on the use of one’s condominium unit are enforceable even if they appear only in exhibits to a condominium’s master deed.

By the act of buying a condominium unit, its owners had agreed to be subject to the provisions of a master deed and to the by-laws of the condominium owners association. Although the master deed did not recite any restriction on pets, the association’s by-laws limited owners to two domestic cats. The public offering statement gave notice of the pet restrictions in the by-laws. Despite this, one pair of dog-owning owners insisted that because the master deed did not contain the pet restriction, they could keep a dog. The master deed made numerous references to the by-laws and incorporated the by-laws by reference. Nonetheless, the dog owners insisted that absent a direct restriction in the master deed, they could keep their dog.

The lower court held that the dog owners’ position defied any fair interpretation of the plain language of the master deed which unquestionably incorporated by reference the restrictions of the by-laws. To support their contention that any enforceable restriction on the use and occupancy of any unit must be explicitly stated in the master deed, the owners pointed to the Condominium Act, N.J.S.A. 46:8B-9. The lower court held, however, that the owners misread the statute because the opening paragraph of the relevant section states, “[t]he master deed shall set forth, or contain exhibits setting forth the following matters,” and then lists various items, including the relevant “restrictions or limitations upon the use” (emphasis added). The Appellate Division held that the owners ignored the phrase, “or contain exhibits setting forth,” and in this case the by-laws were listed as an exhibit or attachment to the master deed. Therefore, the Court affirmed the lower court’s decision against the dog owner.

The owners then argued that the distinction between cats and other pets was arbitrary and unreasonable. The Court disagreed, pointing out considerations of noise, sanitation, and safety concerns. Even if that were not the case, the distinction was disclosed in a document given to all prospective buyers, and the dog owners did not deny that they knew of the restriction prior to their purchase.

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