A covenant, in the condominium or co-op context, is used to regulate the use, appearance, and maintenance of property. It often restricts what homeowners can do on their property. For example, some covenants do not allow homeowners to hang their laundry out to dry, have lawn maintenance standards, or prohibitions on home additions. Then there are noise and pet covenants.
A common covenant is one controlling noises, particularly during certain hours of the day, e.g., between 10:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m. Violation of such a covenant often parallels local ordinances, so neighbors may simply contact police to immediately address the problem, then later file a complaint with a neighborhood or homeowners association for covenant violation.
Clearly, covenants may address the number and type of pets that residents may keep on their property. It is imperative that prospective residents seek out the nature of any such covenants prior to purchasing the property or bringing animals or pets onto the property. Property associations do have the right to compel removal of pets in violation of covenants. However, this generally can only be done after proper notice and hearing, followed by judgment in a court of law to enforce the covenant. Members of homeowners' associations do not have authority to enter the property of another and remove pets.
A request for a variance is a request for permission to depart from the literal requirements of a covenant. Variances are usually granted where enforcement would cause undue or unfair hardship on the requesting individual or resident. Examples include pets that exceed the size, weight, breed, or limit on number as contained in a covenant.