California Supreme Court rules against animal guardians in condos
- [From today's Chronicle; it's a sad day for animal guardians.]
Court rules against condo owners, pets
Bob Egelko, Chronicle Staff Writer
Wednesday, June 16, 2004
Condo owners have to part with their pets if their homeowners association says so, even if the owners and the animals moved in before the association's rules were changed, says the California Supreme Court.
Monday's unanimous ruling also found that a veterinarian who wanted to keep her dog at a 24-unit condominium complex in Palm Springs wasn't protected by a state law entitling each condo owner to at least one pet. The law took effect in 2001 and doesn't apply to associations that passed their bylaws earlier and haven't changed them since, the court said.
The case is the court's first look in a decade at the rules governing condominiums and other planned developments, where a growing percentage of Californians live. Their homeowners associations are regulated by state law.
In 1994, the court upheld a condo association's no-pets rule and said an association's restrictions on property use, adopted by a vote of the owners, could be enforced unless they were arbitrary, overly burdensome or in conflict with an important state policy.
The current case involves Paula Terifaj, who bought a unit at the Villa De Las Palmas complex in 1995 and has been fighting its no-pets policy ever since. The policy was an unwritten rule until 2000, when the association included it in a formal bylaw approved by a majority of the owners.
Terifaj tried unsuccessfully to get the association to change its rules, continued to keep a dog at her unit, was repeatedly warned and fined, and was finally sued by the association in 1999. After a judge refused to order her to comply with the unwritten rule, the association passed its formal bylaw in 2000, which Terifaj challenged on the ground that it wasn't in effect when she moved in.
In Monday's ruling, the court said a new restriction in a condo association's governing rules applies to all owners, no matter when they bought their units.
Restrictions on property use can be upheld only if they apply uniformly, a requirement that "would be severely undermined if only one segment of the condominium development were bound,'' said Justice Carlos Moreno.
Terifaj also argued that the 2001 state law, allowing a condo owner to have a pet, applied to her case or at least showed that a no-pets rule was unreasonable. The court said the law was clearly drafted to apply only to bylaws adopted or amended after the start of 2001 and did not invalidate earlier bans.
"As we observed in (the 1994 ruling), prohibiting pets is 'rationally related to health, sanitation and noise concerns legitimately held by residents,' " Moreno said.
Terifaj and her lawyer were unavailable for comment.
The case is Villa De Las Palmas Homeowners Association vs. Terifaj, S109123.
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