(WSVN) - When she bought her home, she told the association she did not have a dog. A few months later, she got one. A few weeks later, she had been hit with three violations for having the dog. Unable to win the battle with her association, she called Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.

An apartment can be nice, but it wasn’t big enough for Wonda and her daughter Alexa, and that’s why she bought a townhouse in Miramar.

Wonda Cooper, homeowner: “I wanted a good area. I also wanted a gated community. It was big enough, but not too large, so it was a perfect fit, and my daughter loved it.”

Of course, since it’s South Florida, it’s run by a property manager and an association, which had to approve Wonda.

Wonda Cooper: “Normal questions. ‘Where did you live before?’ ‘Do you have any pets?'”

Wonda wrote she did not have a pet. That was in July. Wonda was approved, and moved in.

Then November rolled around, and Alexa’s father gave her a dog.

Wonda Cooper: “Ace is a big kid. He just likes to frolic, and he is my daughter’s best friend. I’ve never seen her happier.”

Fortunately, dogs are allowed in the complex.

Wonda Cooper: “Almost everybody has a dog here. I would say 60 percent of the people in this community have dogs, and some have two dogs.”

But like their two-legged owners, the four-legged pets also have to be approved by the association.

Wonda Cooper: “And in the process of taking his pictures, getting the shots, you know, the records, and I get a violation. First violation. Illegal dog.”

Wonda let them know she was preparing the paperwork for Ace right away.

The property manager wrote, “This is unacceptable.”

Wonda Cooper: “It was unacceptable because of the original application back in July, I put down I didn’t have a dog.”

Wonda turned in the paperwork to get Ace approved. She then got a second violation notice. Two weeks later, she got a third violation for having Ace.

Wonda Cooper: “Essentially what they are saying is that if I bought this house five years ago and decided tomorrow to get a dog, then I’m in violation of the original application. I thought that was ridiculous.”

Wonda thinks it’s ridiculous, but the violation notices prove the property manager and the board don’t think so.

Wonda Cooper: “I want this nonsense to go away. I would like to be able to enjoy my new house. That has not been possible since violation after violation after violation.”

Well, Howard, how do you fight a violation that you are convinced you didn’t commit?

Howard Finkelstein, 7News Legal Expert: “You have to follow their rules, and if you do, and you keep getting violation notices, even after you have turned in the proper paperwork to get the dog approved, keep pointing out the errors of their ways. Keep a copy of the communications, and eventually you will win. If you don’t, I’d suggest you do what Wonda then did: contact Help Me Howard.”

Clearly, the property manager thought she acted properly, and made it clear in an email to Wonda she was not happy she called Help Me Howard, writing, “I am not sure how you believe a TV program will help you in breaking the same rules you agreed to follow.”

The president of the management company then got involved, writing to Wonda, “The information you sent is unreadable.”

When we asked what was unreadable on this application? We never got an answer.

The company president also wrote he thought Ace will grow to be over the association’s 40-pound weight limit.

Wonda’s veterinarian wrote that Ace probably would not go over the weight limit.

We then got an email from the management company that Wonda was cited the first time for being late with her application.

But, they added, the violations should have stopped after Wonda turned in her paperwork.

The next email we got said the board of directors has approved Wonda Cooper’s dog.

Wonda Cooper: “Forty-nine and I got the violations, all three of them, removed.”

Alexa and Ace are happy he can stay, and as Wonda explained to the property manager, she thinks the key was her call to Help Me Howard.

Wonda Cooper: “So when you guys got involved, that’s when things started happening. So, Help Me Howard is the reason why this nightmare is over.”

Nice that it got resolved. Now, sometimes an association will threaten you with fines. If that happens to you, check your documents to make sure they have the right to fine you, and if they do, they have to go through a fining committee, which you have the right to address. If they don’t do that, the fines aren’t legal.

Got a problem dogging you? Facing distractions from the infractions? Contact us, and let us apply for some legal logic to help you out.

Email: helpmehoward@wsvn.com
Reporter: Patrick Fraser at pfraser@wsvn.com
Miami-Dade: 305-953-WSVN
Broward: 954-761-WSVN

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