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Why is it important to review the declaration of condominium before buying a condo?

Probably the best way to explain the importance of getting and reviewing the condo docs is by relating to you a true story.  For practical purposes, let’s assume this story happened to you.  

It all began with a market search for a new home, in this case, a condo.  After several months of searching, you and your realtor find the perfect unit. It’s priced exactly within your budget and is located in a great community within walking distance to several shopping centers, near an A-rated public school, and has a beautiful view of a park across the street. The condo has several additional amenities and you decide this may be the one! You love the idea of having a park across the street because you have a beautiful four-year-old pet dog named Chubby, a Samoyed with thick, white, beautiful coat that you love and treat as a member of the family. The park is pet friendly, has a picnic area with benches, a playground, and a huge lake.  You then decide to buy the unit, and you’re all set to make your offer – you’ve been pre-approved, have great credit, solid employment history, and an impeccable background.  But before you make the offer, you ask the realtor if the association allows dogs. The realtor has seen several dogs in the community, checks the listing, and finds the community to be pet-friendly and tells you dogs are allowed.  You then tell your realtor you want to offer the asking price, so there’s no chance of you missing out on getting the unit. 

Your realtor presents the offer, and you wait patiently for several days for your offer to be accepted.  The seller receives multiple offers, so the seller takes a little longer than usual to decide.  On the sixth day after your offer, you get the good news from your realtor that the seller accepted your offer.  Congrats!!… says the realtor.  Your realtor gives you a copy of the executed contract and addendums and tells you the seller has three days to provide a copy of the condominium declaration (condo docs).  In the interim, to save time, your realtor suggests that you submit the condominium application for approval because the screening and approval process can take up to 30 days.  Two days later, you complete and submit the application with a $150 application fee to the management office.  It’s been only ten days since you decided to buy the unit and you’re one step closer to owning your ideal home.  The thought of owning your new apartment is exciting.  In fact, by now, you can even see yourself living in the unit and taking Chubby, your four-legged family member, out to the park to run and play and, of course, take care of business.   

Everything is going great, but unfortunately, the story takes a turn for the worse.  Within a week of submitting the application, you receive a letter stating your application has been denied. What! OMG!… you say. What happened? Why did I get denied?  –  I’ll tell you why you got denied. When you filled out the part of the application asking about the weight of the dog, you entered 45 pounds.  However, the condominium bylaws specifically state that dogs over 25 pounds are not allowed in the community.  And do you want to know what happened, the unit owner/seller assumed that there were no weight restrictions for dogs because he has seen large dogs in the community.  Therefore, when the listing agent asked the seller if there were any pet restrictions, the seller said no, there were none.  Consequently, that’s what the listing agent put on the listing, and that’s the information your realtor told you.  

You can replace the dog in the story for a vehicle, motorcycle, a BBQ grill, and even non-family members and have the same ending.  

So, what now you ask?  Let me answer with the following suggestions.  Begin looking for another ideal condo in a pet-friendly community. Once you find that ideal condo, apply the steps and procedures in this guide to get a copy of the condo docs of the condo association of interest and be sure to peruse the docs before making an offer.  So, if I were to ask you, is it worth the effort to get the condo docs and take the time to review them, the answer should be yes. Or, is it worth the effort to get the condo docs and take the time to review them? I think you can answer that question yourself. You don’t need to peruse the condo docs from cover to cover, just the most relevant parts about the unit owners’ rights and responsibilities. These are usually found in the Bylaws and Rules and Regulations.  

For more information on how to review the condo docs, please see my article titled: How to Review the Condo Docs and other Pertinent Documents.