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CCOC Decision Summary

#14-13, Sherman v. Plymouth Woods Condominium Association, (April 16, 2013) (Panel: Alkon, Molloy, Farrar)

The tenant alleged that the condominium acted unreasonably against her when it ordered her to remove her pit bull from the condominium.  The condominium denied the charge, asserting that, the pit bull had injured another dog, that the condominium had allowed the dog to stay only if it were kept leased at all times when outdoors, that the dog had since then been seen running free.  The condominium filed a Section 10B-9A motion with the CCOC to lift the automatic stay so that it could force the tenant to remove the dog because it had proven itself to be dangerous and was not kept under control.

Pursuant to Section 10B-9A of the County Code, a special CCOC  hearing panel must find that enforcing the stay would result in undue harm to the community association, and that lifting the stay would not result in undue harm to the rights or interests of any opposing party.

For the purpose of the pending motion, while the panel accepted the fact that a leash violation and a biting incident had occurred.  It noted that the condominium alleged no facts that another violation were likely or that injuries were likely to occur. The panel found it significant that the Incident, apparently, was reported to the City of Rockville, that Rockville prescribed action to be taken by the tenant and that she obeyed.  The City did not order the tenant to remove her dogs.

During the pendency of the case, condominium amended its rules to ban pit bulls and pit bull mix breeds effective December 1, 2012, based on the decision in Tracey v. Solesky, a case where the court held the    landlord strictly liable for an attack by its tenant’s pit bull.  The court later reconsidered its opinion and excluded mixed breed pit bulls from its ruling.  As the dogs in question were mix breed pit bulls, the condominium would not face strict liability exposure if a further similar incident occurred. 

With the facts in dispute, the panel concluded condominium did not meet its burden to show that the stay, if continued, would result in undue harm to the Respondent.  Further, as Complainant would have to make arrangements for the care of the dogs and will be deprived of their company the panel decided that lifting the stay would result in undue harm to the Complainant.  A final decision on the dispute would be made by a hearing panel appointed for that purpose.

The panel denied Respondent’s Motion to Lift Automatic Stay, without prejudice, reserving the right to review the matter and consider a renewed motion should further incidents occur.

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