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Yes to dog, no to eviction in NYC dispute over service pet

Despite how much one may crave the companionship of a pet, lease agreements and condo bylaws often prohibit residents from owning pets on the premises. However, as we discussed in a previous post -- "When must a landlord waive a no-pets policy?" -- there are situations in which tenants and condo owners can fight to keep their furry companions.

For example, a condominium board in Battery Park City has stopped efforts to evict a 76-year-old resident who allegedly had violated the condo's policy of "no big dogs." The elderly man is deaf, and he fought back when the board sued him in 2012.

The board claimed that the man's dog, a Doberman pinscher, was a pet and not a service animal. The elderly resident disagreed, however, and sought legal support to protect his rights.

When the condo board moved to dismiss the lawsuit, the judge hearing the case pointed out that no one was a "winner." The resident's Doberman pinscher has died and been replaced with another Doberman pinscher, and the man has reportedly accrued $100,000 in legal fees that he wants to recover from the board. A discrimination lawsuit has also been filed against the board on the man's behalf.

These sorts of pet disputes have become more common in New York City, as residents with disabilities have begun to challenge condo and co-op rules that effectively ban service or therapy animals.

According to the Fair Housing Act, apartment, co-op and condo buildings are required to offer "reasonable accommodations" to people with disabilities in order to give them an equal opportunity to live in and enjoy a residence. Of course, what is reasonable is often a point of contention in real estate disputes.

Source: New York Observer, "Cove Club Condo Drops Eviction Suit Against Service Dog Owner, But Discrimination Case Against Condo Will Press On," Kim Velsey, Jan. 30, 2014

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