Condo Boards Increasingly Scrutinize Owners’ Pets

December 6, 2019

After studying a possible owner’s financial statements, tax returns, recommendation letters, and more, now condo and co-op boards are making an added request: They want to interview the buyer’s pets.

Some boards are requiring headshots, resumes, and even recommendation letters for pets.

Heidi DeCoo and Carl Norton told The Wall Street Journal they fielded such an unusual request when trying to buy a co-op apartment in Manhattan for just under $500,000. The building’s co-op board wanted to meet the couple’s two gray-haired schnoodles (a breed combining a miniature schnauzer and poodle). The dogs were brought before a small panel of board members who interacted with them for a few minutes to see if they would be problematic. The pups passed, to their owners’ relief.

Some home buyers and their real estate pros are finding the requests for pet interviews by condo boards absurd.

“It’s an animal,” Janna Raskopf, a real estate pro, told The Wall Street Journal. “It’s not like you can say to it, ‘We’re going on an interview, so be on your best behavior.’”

But co-op boards, particularly in New York City where pet interviews are becoming more common, say they have the right to meet pets, whether that’s the owner’s dog, cat, or bird. After all, they argue, they don’t want an owner’s dog squatting in the lobby, fighting with another dog in the elevator, or awakening other residents with barking. Boards are also concerned that they could be held legally liable if a dog bites another person in one of their common spaces.

Some boards have brought in third-party “dog whisperers” who will do a 10-minute evaluation and observation of the pet to determine if they’d be a good neighbor.

Several condo applicants are trying to take the pressure off of having their pet be perfect in the interview process. Some buyers admit to giving their pets veterinarian-approved antianxiety medication or even taking their pet to a counselor to find ways to ace their interview in behavior. Some real estate pros say buyers will even dress up their pups in a bow tie or sweater to make a good first impression.

Some co-ops and condo boards have been banning certain breeds of pets that they’ve deemed aggressive. For example, one New York City building has banned a long list of dog breeds, including Alaskan malamutes, caucasian mountain dogs, chihuahuas, chow chows, dachshunds, dalmatians, doberman pinschers, German shepherds, huskies, Jack Russell terriers, lhasa apsos, Old English sheepdogs, papillons, pekingese, pinschers, pit bulls, presa canarios, Rottweilers, toy poodles, and schnauzers. The co-op says it will approve an owner’s dog only if a resident signs a letter that acknowledges the dog can remain in the building only at the board’s discretion and on a trial basis. After that trial period, the board can require the dog removed.

Real estate pro Nicole Hay told The Wall Street Journal that she has helped several clients get their pets through a board’s approval process. "I've been calling myself the Dr. Dolittle of deals," Hay says.

So Your Dog Can Roll Over. Can It Pass a Co-Op Board Interview?” The Wall Street Journal (Dec. 5, 2019) [Log-in required.]