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Pet Restrictions

Our community limits the size and number of dogs a homeowner can have. Several months ago a homeowner complained about dogs off-leash in the community. At the time I volunteered to participate on a committee to address our pet restrictions. My request was ignored, even when I followed up. I was told the Board was looking into it.
These restrictions are complicated to enforce. Violators need to be identified (how?) and addressed. Once identified, enforcement of the violation could quickly become a burdensome expense to the community, requiring costly legal fees for enforcement. Homeowners who flout the restriction and move in with a dog weighing more than 30 pounds are required to defend their right to house their pet…a pet who may have been in the “family” longer than the children. The remedy for dogs off-leash is to notify the local police or animal control and doesn’t require enforcement by the HOA.
I’m interested to learn how communities enforce pet restrictions. I support amending the documents to either remove or modify pet restrictions. How have other communities dealt with this issue?

6 Responses

  1. Dennis Legere

    Kathy;
    As long as the CC&R’s clearly identify a restriction on size or number of pets the rules adopted by the association are valid and enforceable, but they must be authorized in the CC&R’s. Your board is correct at least in-part. Pet issues are difficult and are often subjective. Its sounds to me like you are talking about two separate issues. The number and size of pets and pets off leash. Leash laws are enforceable by the police in all public streets and parks. But if the association owns your streets or all your common areas than the police will not enforce those laws on private property.
    As to the original issue of number and size of pets. if the CC&R restrictions are clear and valid than the association has the right and in fact obligation to enforce those restrictions and make the homeowner get rid of their pets. Yes i know that this is harsh, but it is why no one should ever buy into a common interest community without knowing and understanding the CC&R’s. You are required by law to be provided a copy of those documents prior to closing and you have 5 days after you receive the documents, to either accept or reject the home based on those documents without penalty. But once you close on the home you are contractually bound to their restrictions. If you have a 50 pound dog and the CC&R’s restrict all dogs to 40 pounds or less that the association has a duty to make you remove that dog from the community. If you decided to take the chance when you bought your house that the association would not make you get rid of your long term family pet, that was a gamble that you can never win if you are challenged.
    The arguments that it is too hard id nothing but crap. Associations do it every day. What is hard is enforcing the CC&R’s fairly and equally across the community. The board also has enforcement discretion but that discretion must be applied equally across the community and not selectively for the friends and not for others. The board has a duty to treat all homeowners fairly and to act reasonably in their enforcement discretion.

    I absolutely hate hearing that boards simply reject offers for help from community members. This simply reflects that the board does not want to encourage community involvement, they want all the power and are not willing to share that power with the community. This attitude will spell nothing but trouble for your community and it is time that new board members be put in position that will be willing to work with the community to address their issues.

    Dennis

  2. KATHY HARRISON

    Yes, but…how to “prove” that a homeowner is housing an overweight pup? Do neighbors rat on neighbors? Does the Community Manager follow people home and notice them? Seriously. BTW my dog weighs 12 lbs so I don’t have a dog in this game.

    Homeowners actually do have recourse, don’t they? CCR’s can be amended, and there is a process in place to do that (it has been done in my community with parking regulations). I’ve lived in the community 9 years. Pet restrictions have not been enforced once during that time (I asked). A precedent has been set. How does that fact play into enforcement.

    What I see in beginning enforcement now is lots of legal fees the homeowner will end up paying to basically bust the balls of their neighbors. IMO as long as the dog is on a leash what’s the difference how much it weighs.

    1. Dennis Legere

      Kathy;
      Again you are absolutely right, remember I do not have the luxury of seeing exactly what your CC&R’s say. Nor do I have the long term story of what your association did or did not do in the past. My response is based on what the association is within it’s rights to do. Your restriction could be size or weight based or even breed based. The fact are that if you are in violation of the restriction you could be cited for that violation at any time. This is simply Russian roulette, sooner or later you will be caught. Remember the board has enforcement discretion and the community has the power to amend the CC&R’s to reflect the consensus of what the community truly wants in these restrictions. As I often explain the attorneys and community managers will gladly give the board their opinion of what they can and cannot do, but they will not provide any guidance on how to do it or what they should do.
      As for the precedent issue again that depends on what is included in the CC&R’s. In recent years attorneys have been dealing with this by placing in the CC&R’s what is called a non-waiver provision. What this provision does is basically state that no matter if the board failed to enforce the provision of the CC&R’s in the past they do not waive those provision and can decide to enforce them or enforce them differently in the future. If your CC&R’s have this provision whatever the board did in the past becomes irrelevant. If however you do not have this provision than lack of enforcement in the past will prevent reinforcement in the future. This will not stop an association for doing it but if challenged in court the case law will support the provision being void. Association often do not care about the law because they know that homeowners are not likely to challenge them in court based on the cost, so they get away with what ever they want no matter what the law says.
      Dennis

  3. KATHY HARRISON

    Thanks for clarifying. Enforcing the rule seems like a sticking point. Is the Board itself responsible for identifying the violations? Does the Board assign that task to a Community Manager–to patrol the streets and follow people home until each and every overweight dog is identified? Do you know how other communities enforce pet restrictions? It seems the Board needs to begin uniform enforcement once they receive a complaint–otherwise enforcement of the CC&Rs becomes arbitrary (i.e. some CC&Rs are enforced, others are not).

    1. Dennis Legere

      Kathy;
      Only slightly more than 50% of the common interest communities are professionally managed in this state all the rest are self managed. With most professionally managed association the responsibility of day to day enforcement is relegated to the community manager. I’ve never heard of any association tasking the manager to specifically target one provision of the CC&R’s or regulations. The manager typically does community driveways and sees what he/she sees. It’s usually any violation noted at that time and date. There clearly have been situations where the board has directed that the manager or the manager on their own focuses their attention on only certain homes based on retaliation tactics, for the homeowner criticizing the association or the manager. This is not only to punish the homeowner for getting involved but primarily to send the message to the community that if anyone else dares to question the association board or the community manager they too will be targeted.
      Your closing point is also directly on target the courts have repeatedly decided cases where without documented and clear rules and restrictions and consistency in the enforcement action of the associations were found to be acting in an arbitrary and capricious manner and those actions were struck down by the courts.
      Dennis

      Dennis

  4. KATHY HARRISON

    My community has specifically targeted street parking by hiring a parking enforcement provider. It seems we also target leaving trash bins out since it is by far the most common violation notice issued. We once had a Manager who would occasionally do a compliance tour at night in order to notify homeowners of a carriage light that needed bulb replacement. In the case of a homeowner complaint about aggressive dogs running loose, no action was taken. :-/

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