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How to Find Pet Friendly Condos

By - 2012

Finding pet friendly condos seems like an easy enough task. Just ask the listing agent for any particular unit about the rules, right? Not quite... As we discovered when we moved to Naples, Florida, real estate agents often know almost nothing about the rules and regulations of the properties they sell. In fact, we found that something as simple--and important--as the dues you must pay each month or quarter are incorrect more than half of the time in the listing information. Information on the pet policies is incorrect or nonexistent on just as many listings. We have seen listings saying "no pets allowed" "with approval," and "limits"--all in the same development. And no, they do not make the rules unit by unit, so someone has to be wrong.

More than one person suggested that we simply lie about the cats and move them in at night. It was tempting, especially after discovering that 90% of places would not permit two cats. By the way, a loud dog that messes up the grass is perfectly fine in many places where two indoor cats that nobody will ever see are forbidden. But then the cats might be seen. In fact, our cats' two little heads are likely to be in the widow at the same time eventually, or one after the other, and they do not look enough like one another to fool people into thinking they are the same cat.

Some places claim they are pet friendly condos, but there is often a one-pet limit. Now, how do you find out just what the rules are? Get ready for some serious work. You might hope that you can just have the real estate agent you are working with check on this for you, but don't count on it. The time spent will be too much for him or her to contemplate.

You could start by calling the listing agent. He or she might know what the rules are. More often, though, you will be told that you'll get a copy of the rules when you make an offer. Of course, if your point is to avoid making offers on places that you can't actually live in, you have to go elsewhere for information. In general you have to locate the management company that handles the condominium development. Here's how I have been doing that...

Look at the listing information and find the name of the development or subdivision. Sometimes this will be confusing, but note any names you find. Winterpark Condos here in Naples, for example, are actually split into several developments, called Winterpark 1, Winterpark 2, and so on, each with different rules. But in any case, this is where you start. If, for example, you see a subdivision name of "Laguna Villas," and a development name of "Star Point Condos," you probably need the latter name.

Now you can search Google for "Star Point Condo Association," or "Star Point Association," or something similar. If you are really lucky, that might yield a URL of an association website, but don't hold your breath. Most of them do not have a website. More likely you will find (with various attempts to guess at the legal name) a link to the required state reports or a listing on a site that has information on corporations (try http://www.corporationwiki.com). In this case it might say "Star Point Homeowners Association Company Profile" or "Star Point Homeowners Association Annual Report" or something similar.

Once you get that far you need to look for the registered agent. If it is an attorney, you will then look him or her up online to get a phone number. If the agent has a common name you might need to add the name of the city when searching. Then you can call the office of the agent and ask who manages the condo development. If you are lucky the registered agent will be a management company, and you can look them up online to call them directly.

Now, it common for associations to go through many management companies over time, so this may not be your final destination. But usually, if the company no longer handles the development, they will be able to tell you which company does. Once you get the right company, you can ask them about the specifics of the pet policy. While you are at it, ask them to verify what the association dues are, because the real estate agent almost certainly got them wrong.

At this point you should know if you have identified a pet friendly condo development. But, alas, some management companies do not know what the rules and regulations are for the places they manage (it isn't clear that they always know what "manage" means). They may just refer you back to the listing agent to get the rules and regulations. If this happens, I suggest that you make life difficult for the listing agent until he or she finds a way to send you the rules by email. After all, it is really ridiculous to expect you to make an offer on a home without any idea whether you can even live there.

Good luck, and if you get too overwhelmed, remember that you can always buy a home on land to avoid the hassles of finding pet friendly condos--sort of. Some single-family-home neighborhoods around here still have pet restrictions, and houses cost twice as much as condominiums. It might be time to lie, and try to train the cats to look alike and look out the window one at a time.

Note: Just after writing this we called on a condo which was advertised as "pet friendly," only to discover that the agent who described it that way had no idea if two cats are allowed. If after we move in they ask us to get rid of a cat (we never would), or worse, can they really claim to be friendly to us or our pets?

Another Note: If in the future, after our cats have passed on, we live in a development that doesn't allow cats, I plan to put six very realistic cat mannequins in various windows at different times. They will make no sound, of course, so how could they offend? And if they do bother someone, I will allow legal proceedings to advance just so far before revealing their true fake identities, and it will be a lesson to whoever tries to go after my silent kittens: Mind your own business!


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