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Consider limiting dogs by breed

Question: Our board recently discussed the size of dogs, and we found ourselves confused as to how to define which dogs are acceptable according to weight. What is the reasonable weight of dogs?

Answer: I remember a story about a board that passed a rule saying all pets must be carried in the lobby and in the elevators. A woman with a Great Dane used to pick up her dog by the front legs and drag it across the lobby and into the elevator. Confronted by a board member, she said she was complying with the rule and carrying her dog, and the rule said nothing about dragging the rear end.

I don't like to limit dogs by weight because dogs do get fat. Furthermore, some small dogs have habits just as offensive as large dogs.

I recommend that you obtain a list of dog breeds from the American Kennel Club. Select those that would be appropriate for your association. This list of approved breeds should consider temperament and disposition, not just size.

To deal with mixed breeds and mutts, consider allowing only those that are mixes of known, approved breeds. I also recommend you require that dogs be registered with the management and that a copy of their shot or medical records be placed in the unit owner's file.

Assessment methods

Question: The four condos I have lived in have each assessed fees differently. In one, we paid equal fees; in another, by size; in the other two, by formula. What's the fair way?

Answer: The developer or the person writing the documents creates the technique to assess fees. Any formula will displease some owners.

Since the formula is developed in the beginning stage of the association, before any sales, buyers must accept the way their share is apportioned or not buy the unit. Changing the assessment formulation is virtually impossible because it requires a 100 percent approval vote. You may feel it is unfair, but I'm sure others in your condo association feel it is fair.

Repair complaint

Question: I have lived in this condo for 13 years. The water heater that services the washers has been out of order for several weeks. The board refuses to repair the heater because many residents are away for the summer, and they do not want to spend the money now.

Since they do not fix the problem, I have withheld my monthly fees. Now the board is threatening to place a lien on my unit. Is this legal?

Answer: Pay your fees immediately. No owner has the right to withhold fees without a court order.

Your board is wrong not to fix the water heater. One of its fundamental duties is to maintain the property.

Board members and unit owners often feel unsympathetic toward other owners when problems occur that don't affect them. Say one apartment's roof leaks and the others must pay for a roof replacement. The other owners fail to understand that the value of one unit reflects on the value of all.

The board's failure to replace or repair the water heater immediately runs the risk of lowering the value of all units in the building. If you were selling your unit now, would a buyer pay the same price for your unit without hot water that he or she would pay for a unit with hot water? Who would make up the difference of your loss? You would then have a legitimate reason to sue the board, and I am sure there are several attorneys who would happily take your case.

Write to Richard White, c/o Community Living, St. Petersburg Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731. Sorry, he can't take phone calls or provide personal replies by mail, but you can e-mail him at CAMquestionsatt.net. For specific legal advice, contact an association attorney.

To discuss provisions of the state condo/co-op acts, call the state Bureau of Condominium office in Tallahassee at (800) 226-9101 or (850) 488-0725 or call the Tampa bureau at (800) 226-6028, (800) 226-4472, or (813) 744-6149. Or write to the Bureau of Condominiums, Education Section, Suite 200, 4524 Oak Fair Blvd., Tampa, FL 33610. Please note that this office provides no information about homeowners' associations. The state has no bureau or department covering those associations.

You can access the Bureau of Condominium web site at http://www.state.fl.us/dbpr/html/ lsc/copage.html.

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