Co-op Buying Tips for Dog Owners

When a buyer is ready to purchase a co-op, she usually drafts a list of must have features before beginning her search. If a buyer owns a dog, the one item that must be at the top of the list is “dog-friendly building". However, dog lovers too often assume other people have the same affection for animals, but when it comes to co-ops, dogs are often unwelcome and unwanted.

Co-op boards in New York City have wide latitude in deciding who can purchase in their building.  Many prohibit dogs, with some going as far as banning all pets, including cats and birds. The main reason is liability.  Boards don’t want to risk being sued by another shareholder or visitor if they are bit by a dog when walking in common areas such as elevators and hallways.  Another concern is barking.  Since noise is the number one complaint among building residents, many boards ban dogs to minimize a potential source of irritation and complaint from neighbors.

Given this reality, it’s critically important that dog owners conduct a careful search, using common sense – and the advice of a real estate professional -- when looking.  If a building doesn’t allow dogs over 20 lbs., don’t expect that your 30 lb. terrier will be an exception because it’s well trained. Buyers may even see dogs in buildings where they are prohibited. That's because these dogs have been ‘grandfathered in’ -- they are allowed because the owners lived in the building before it converted to a co-op, or before the doggy ban was instated.

And buyers should never assume they can get past the board by denying dog ownership.  In a recent case in Forest Hills, a long-time co-op owner fell in love with a Chihuahua and decided to keep it, despite her building’s dog ban.  Eventually she was found out and was told she had to get rid of the dog. Since she wasn’t prepared to give away her dog, she was forced to sell her co-op.       

The best solution for anyone with a dog is to research and select a licensed real estate agent who has multiple sales under her belt with dog-friendly buildings.  Buyers should work with an agent who will ensure that the buyer – and the dog – will pass the board.

As a professional real estate agent working in Queens, I have helped many dog lovers find the perfect co-op.  I have also served as the president of a co-op that was dog-friendly, and I can advise buyers about how to find the perfect co-op that is welcoming to both humans and animals.

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Dolores Gleksman
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