Article Courtesy of The Miami Herald

By Joey Flechas

Published February 14, 2015

Ian Diaz strolled out of the lobby of his building into a warm afternoon in North Beach with his two furry companions.

In one hand, the 36-year-old clutched the leashes that kept Milo and Gigi by his side. In the other, he held a small plastic bag that he’d use to pick up what the dogs would leave behind.

“This is a nice place,” he said, standing in front of 401 BLU, the 17-story condo tower at 401 69th St. where he rents. “It’s known for being the most friendly to pets.”

At least, it was known for that.

It’s a common sight to see people walking out of the building with multiple dogs for walks. But Diaz worries that once his lease is up in the next few months, he won’t be able to stay because of a recent change to the building’s unusually liberal pet policy.

Owners in the building’s condo association voted this week to allow only one pet under 40 pounds per unit, where before residents could have up to two pets with no weight restriction. Most of the buildings 206 units are rented by tenants with pets, but renters don’t have voting power.

Bruce Fish, president of the association, said he is still working on a census of the building’s four-legged population, but he and several residents acknowledge the building’s reputation for being very pet friendly has drawn a large number of residents more than one dog.

Technically, the rules had allowed for up to 412 dogs or cats to live in the building.
Fish said the board proposed the amendment to the condo’s by-laws after some residents complained and after carpet replacement costs recently totaled $80,000.

“There are people that have their dogs do their business in the lobby, and they just walk away,” he said.

Fish, who owns 16 units, voted for the new rule. He said he has tenants who might not be happy with the change, so the issue could be revisited in another vote, even if it is just to extend soon-to-be-expiring leases to give renters with more than one pet more time to find another place.

“I understand that pets are like children for some people,” he said. “I want to see if there’s a way to re-ammend it.”

With the new rule, owners living in the building are grandfathered through the rest of their pets’ lives. Few owners live there, so the change will have a bigger impact on the many tenants who rent and came to 401 BLU because of its generous pet policy. Renters with more than one pet would have to make a choice when it comes time to renew their lease: either move out or lose a pet.

Some renters welcome the change. They say some pet owners just don’t care if their dogs urinate or defecate in the building’s service elevator, which is meant to be used by residents with pets.

Sandra Vega, 52, said she’s sometime embarrassed to invite visitors to come over because of the foul smells.

“If I’m going to pay for a nice place, then I don’t want to live with all this filth,” she said.

Vega had a Maltese named Snoopy until he passed away last month. She loves dogs — she plans on adopting another Maltese soon — but she thinks the new rule is a fair way to keep the number of dogs from getting out of hand.

Others don’t really mind keeping the status quo. Jonathan Burns, 32, said he thinks the issue really lies with a pair of central elevators, which are meant to be just for people. He said they’re often out of service, and because the stairs are supposed to be strictly for emergencies, it forces people who wouldn’t normally take the service elevator to take the ride downstairs with canines.

“And some people just don’t like dogs,” he said.

Burns, guardian of Jefe the English bulldog, suggested a compromise like having big dogs wear a muzzle in the elevator, where they might get aggressive with smaller ones. He also noted that bigger pets might even get to stay if they are service animals.

Isabelle Fernandez, one of a small group of owners who live in the building, said she has two dogs in her apartment who would get to stay, but she feels for renters.

In a letter sent to all the units in the building, she said a one-pet policy for all units went too far, and that cats should be left out of it.

“This is an extreme measure,” she wrote. “Cats should be kept out of the equation. Cat do not go for walks or participate in the ‘wear and tear’ of the common area.”

In an interview, she said finding a place as good as 401 BLU that accepts pets is difficult.

“It’s very difficult to live anywhere decent and have a dog,” she said. “Some of the owners are going to lose their good tenants.”


If you or a loved one have been struggling with your condo association issues, contact our Florida HOA Attorneys at Bakalar & Associates today to discuss your case.