need ideas to help change no-pets rule in co-op apartment building
April 2, 2010 5:11 PM   Subscribe

Need to butter-up the board of directors in my co-op in order to allow pets (cats in particular). They are strict- 2 grand penalty leading to eviction if they find you break their no-pets rule. Any tips? thanks!

(and it is too much of a hassle to sneak cat in without anyone seeing him sitting on the windowsill from outside the building, etc)

We elected 3 new board members a few months ago who don't seem like they'd be uptight about cats living in the building.
The other three don't look like they are up for change (they've all lived in the building for over a decade and I am not sure about their stance on pets). So its pretty much 50/50.

I've thought about getting all their names, baking cupcakes and personally delivering them to each person. I have a bit of social anxiety though, and I know all it takes is planning it out and simply starting it up, but I don't want it to be so obvious that I am only introducing myself now, that I want something from them. I have only spoken to 1 member from each side (1 conservative, 1 non-conservative).

Any tips from you guys, I would much appreciate!
Thanks for reading!
posted by dentro to Pets & Animals (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
have you tried asking the reason for the no pets rule? if you can come up with concrete answers and solutions to the road blocks, it'll probably go further than cupcakes.
posted by nadawi at 5:14 PM on April 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

Have you considered tossing the cat and attempting to find out if they will take a "therapy animal"?

For more information on therapy pets, go to, or your local Humane Society.
posted by parmanparman at 5:21 PM on April 2, 2010

Agreed. Showing up and begging for your cat, while ingratiating yourself via cupcakes et al, might not go down too well.

Perhaps you should take a long view. Attend the next three meetings. Each time, bring cupcakes for everyone at the meeting. Listen carefully, learn about the people you're dealing with and how they interact.

Then, on the fourth meeting (if you feel the mood in the room is positive; otherwise put it off) raise your hand and state that you're interested in finding out the reasons for the current ban on pets, as well as whether potentially lifting that ban has been discussed in the past. Phrase it so everyone understand you are not presently asking for them to lift the ban, but are looking for information.

Based on the reaction/information you get, you should be able to judge whether there's an easy way to get the ban lifted, or if you'll have to do social machinations, or whether it is a lost cause. Regardless, keep on attending the meeting and bringing the cupcakes, as being viewed as an interested and reasonable party may serve you well later regardless of whether it helps now.
posted by davejay at 5:24 PM on April 2, 2010 [5 favorites]

Your best bet is to ask them about the policy politely and honestly. No need for the cupcakes or anything that smacks of ass-kissing; just be polite and friendly--maybe invite them over for coffee/tea and bring the subject up. Be very wary of just talking to the new board members--you don't want the old board members to think you're trying to go around the rules by taking advantage of the new blood on the board.

Tip #1: Approach the discussion as though you and the board member are on the same team, both searching together for the solution to a problem, rather than on separate teams (you vs. board), trying to compromise on an agreement. Let's say the board members are resisting the change because they think the other residents find pet cats to be nuisances. You want to couch your negotiation in these terms: your goal is to have a cat; their goal is to avoid creating nuisances in the building. Their goal is NOT to ban cats, but rather to ban the negative things they think cats lead to. Therefore you can BOTH win if you can demonstrate to them that your having a cat will not lead to the objectionable results they imagine.

Tip #2: Don't get your hopes up about changing the policy. They may well have it for valid reasons, and you may not be able to persuade them that your cat will not lead to bad things in the building. Maybe someone is severely allergic. Plus, they have no real reason to change the policy--you hold no real leverage here. I really hope you aren't actively breaking the rule already, because if you are and they find out, I would say you're screwed. You'd seem less trustworthy, and they would be much warier about your demands.
posted by sallybrown at 5:41 PM on April 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

Go ahead and get the cat right now. They won't confront you about it for a long time. When they finally do confront you, you'll be all "Oh, well, I'm babysitting it for my mom while she's out of town." They'll be all "Hmph." Then they'll have a secret meeting to discuss it. By this time months have gone by. Finally, they'll decide to let it slide, since you are such an outstanding member in all other respects. ...or they'll politely ask you to get rid of it. and you'll be all "Well, my lease is up in two months, can't I just keep it until then and move out when my lease expires?" They'll say "Alright."

Meanwhile, you will have the kitty to pet and hold.

That's how cat's role.
posted by water bear at 5:42 PM on April 2, 2010 [2 favorites]

Oh and don't be self-conscious that you're only approaching them now because you want something. I would bet they are very used to this. As long as you're polite and you maintain whatever relationship you develop (smile and chat when you see them as opposed to ignoring them when they're not of use to you), you'll be fine.

Have you considered tossing the cat

Go ahead and get the cat right now.

Don't get a cat if you want to change the rule or stay in your building. You'll look disrespectful and untrustworthy and you'll have lost any credibility with the board. They won't believe you when you argue that cats don't lead to the negative results they've imagined; they'll just think you're saying whatever you can (true or false) to keep your cat, your $2,000, and your apartment. And it's really unfair to bring the cat into that situation, because no, you shouldn't just "toss the cat." It's a sentient being, not a piece of trash.
posted by sallybrown at 5:52 PM on April 2, 2010

Seconding sallybrown. If I were (to simplify) on a board of directors deliberating a no-cats policy, I'd have trouble seriously considering the viewpoint of someone who was trying to subversively bring a cat into the building by whatever means necessary.

From your post, it sounds like you don't much care about anyone else's rationale so long as you get your way.* Giving the directors that impression would likely be anathemic to your plan.

If you agree that any rules the board of directors espouse have any weight, then you must necessarily also agree that it should take more than cupcakes to abrogate one rule in particular that you in particular disagree with, yes?

*Obviously this may or may not be the case, and I do not intend to judge you in any way. But as a data point, I feel my impressions are meaningful.
posted by Phyltre at 6:08 PM on April 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks for the responses guys!

I've been living here for about a year (but I'm technically a share owner because my Dad owns my apartment). Everyone here knows him/me, just not on a very personal level.
I've spent most of the year thinking of ways to cat proof the apartment because I have a cat that I left behind at my mom's house. I miss him, he doesn't get much attention over there, and he has trouble being very nice to anyone but me :(

Any who, that last meeting was held because of the election. One running member approached me about changing things in the building because there are a lot of other unresolved issues of course. He wanted my vote. I asked about the pet thing, and he said that he wouldn't be opposed to it, and he made it sound as though it was an unnecessary rule being passed years ago without much reason... and that the other running members who later got elected are young and open-minded as well.

I mostly just need improvement in the socializing, being part of the building community etc., because I am very shy. I've been friendly, but uninvolved.

I understand that it sounds like I just need to get my way- that's because I truly do.
I just haven't taken action, and it feels like something can be changed here, I just need the right plan, and yes, I do want to be genuine about being involved with the other politics of the building.

Appreciate the answers guys!
posted by dentro at 6:34 PM on April 2, 2010

Can you get yourself onto the board?
posted by chairface at 6:35 PM on April 2, 2010

Be up front about why you want to talk to board members; avoid any appearance of bait and switch.

Use your conversations as an opportunity to understand why the rule is in place. Take time to really learn why each person thinks as he does. Only after you have this understanding should you make a case for changing the policy, and it might not be at the same meeting. You might mention that you're interested in exploring the possibility of changing the policy, but present your arguments later in a letter and/or separate meeting.

Talk to one or two other people in the building who also would like to have the cat policy changed. Get them to write individual letters to the board if possible, but make sure the letters are polite, sincere, and understanding of the possibly difficult positions of the board members.

Research whatever cat-related problems the board fears, and how serious they are and how to mitigate them. This might include things like noisy cats, cat hoarding, damages affecting property values, how to handle complaints, etc. Frankly, these don't seem huge to me, but someone will probably bring something like this up, and it would be great if you could address this.

Never be angry, insulting, or judgmental of a board member. For one thing, they're probably used to that, and your own treatment of them should be a refreshing change. For another, it's a stressful job and a little gratitude is a wonderful thing.

A little snack and light conversation is a nice adjunct to a discussion like this. You might realize a lot of benefit -- not only political, but personal -- by actually inviting a few people over for tea and cookies and a little Q&A about how things are done.

Make sure you mention to each board member that you _don't_ have a cat now. Otherwise, they'll probably be suspicious, just a little -- you can see how many people in this discussion seem to have the attitude that it's OK to just get a cat and ask for forgiveness later. If you distinguish yourself as definitely not in this camp, and taking the issue (and your future cats) seriously, that will help a lot.
posted by amtho at 8:16 PM on April 2, 2010

If it is a co-op it would be useful to find the cattitude of other people besides the board members. You can make your request and all, but if someone else has a real hate for cats then the board is more unlikely to change anything.
posted by psycho-alchemy at 3:15 AM on April 3, 2010

Talk to the board members like others said. Ditch the cupcake idea.
posted by vincele at 5:41 AM on April 3, 2010

One running member approached me about changing things in the building because there are a lot of other unresolved issues of course. He wanted my vote. I asked about the pet thing, and he said that he wouldn't be opposed to it, and he made it sound as though it was an unnecessary rule being passed years ago without much reason...

Given this, I would align yourself with others who are interested in thoughtfully reconsidering policies of various kinds. By supporting Ms. Hippie's issue ("is it really so bad to have a clothesline on our balcony? saving dryer electricity helps reduce global warming") and Mr. Maintenance's issue ("why haven't we done anything about the peeling entryway tiles? or the old paint? can we do repairs more regularly?") you might encourage a general updating of policies or at least get the board used to the idea of change. This doesn't guarantee cats will be allowed, but it will reduce the initial "rules are rules!" resistance.
posted by salvia at 2:10 PM on April 3, 2010

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