Selective Rules Enforcement by Condo Board

A.V. from New Haven County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Can the association file a complaint against one owner and not the other for breaking the by-laws?

Mister Condo replies:

A.V., the short answer is “it depends”. Boards have some discretion in how vigorously they enforce their own covenants and rules. Depending on the nature of the rule violation, the Board may choose not to take action. However, the Board is not at liberty to pick and choose which unit owners they take action against without facing some very serious consequences in the form of discrimination lawsuits that can be brought upon by the unit owner who the Board is acting against. Let me give an example. If your condo has rules against pet walking on the property and rules against pet noises and received complaints about both items, the Board could decide that enforcing the rule against pet walking isn’t worth pursuing because the pet walking isn’t causing any real harm and the unit owners are picking up after their pets. The Board retains the right to take action even though it does not actively take action at the time of the violation. However, the dog that barks for hours on end creates a noise violation that the Board decides to take action against. This isn’t discrimination; it is just the Board exercising its right to enforce the rules. If there were multiple dogs making noise and the Board only acted against one owner, that owner could claim discrimination because they were unfairly singled out and the other dog owner was not. These are the types of cases that would routinely head to court to be settled.

You didn’t mention which by-laws were being broken so I am not sure if that example is helpful to you. In an ideal situation, all community members would simply comply with the rules and there would be no need for the Board to enact enforcement. I don’t know of too many places where that happens, but wouldn’t it be nice? All the best.