Pets are now considered an integral part of the family. It’s only right for homeowners associations to welcome pets into their communities. If you’re a pet-friendly association, you likely already know the importance of having rules for homeowners with furry companions. For those who have yet to develop a clear policy, here are HOA dog rules that your association should implement.
BASIC HOA DOG RULES TO IMPLEMENT IN YOUR COMMUNITY
HOAs generally have discretion over the kind and number of pet rules that they want to implement in their communities. However, there are some basic pet rules that all associations should consider including in their HOA pet policy. Here are some sample HOA pet policies to keep in mind:
1. HOMEOWNERS MUST REGISTER PETS
HOAs will have difficulty implementing pet rules if they don’t even know how many pets there are in their community.
Associations can require new homeowners to register their pets before moving in. Meanwhile, current residents should also submit pet registration forms before acquiring a new pet.
Pet registration enables the HOA to monitor all the domestic animals in their community. They can easily follow up with homeowners who violate the pet rules. It also makes it easier to follow up on pets’ rabies annual vaccinations.
2. ENFORCE WASTE CLEANUP
Animal waste is one of the most common problems of pet-friendly associations. If left unattended in common areas, animal waste can actually be toxic and hazardous.
When crafting your HOA dog poop rules, consider requiring all homeowners to pick up after their pets and properly dispose of their waste.
The HOA can provide bags and trash cans throughout the community to encourage rule compliance. You may even decide to levy fines on homeowners who do not clean up after their pets.
3. HOA DOG BARKING RULES
What can an HOA do about barking dogs? It’s normal for dogs to bark and make noise, but not all the time — and not at a level that annoys the neighbors. And so, one of your HOA dog rules could be to have homeowners report any persistent barking problems to the board. Some pets might need to be taken inside at night if they are not able to settle down.
When faced with complaints, the HOA should have a talk with the pet owner. Oftentimes, they are not even aware of the problem. Together, they can come up with ways to remedy the noise problems.
4. KEEP PETS LEASHED
Your HOA can require pets to be kept on a leash when walked in the neighborhood. Not only is an unleashed pet a danger to itself — with the risk of running into traffic or running away — but it can also be dangerous for those in the community.
Even if the pet isn’t aggressive at all, there are certain circumstances that can trigger them. This could lead to a terrible fight and injuries to both pets and humans.
As a happy medium, the HOA can create a dog park where pets can roam or run freely without having to be leashed. This would be a very appealing amenity to have if you are a pet-friendly community.
5. ESTABLISH LIABILITY FOR PET OWNERS
A good rule when it comes to the HOA and dogs is to establish liability for pet owners in the community. This is to protect the association in the case of injury, damage, or extreme disturbance caused by pets. Having a clear liability policy also reduces the chances of costly and tedious legal proceedings for all parties involved.
Homeowners should be accountable for the actions of their own pets as well as the pets of guests who stay in their house/unit. They should indemnify the association or other residents for any loss or damage caused by their pets.
ADDITIONAL HOMEOWNERS ASSOCIATION PET RESTRICTIONS
Can HOA dictate pets? Can HOA enforce a pet limit? These are common questions homeowners ask. The answers to these questions, though, are rather simple.
Generally speaking, homeowners associations do have the ability to dictate what kind and the number of pets are allowed in the community. These additional HOA pet restrictions can vary from association to association. Some of the most common HOA dog restrictions, though, include the following:
- Limit the number of pets per household
- Impose an HOA pet weight limit for each dog
- Only approve select dog breeds
- Require pets to be spayed or neutered
Many associations use a blanket term of prohibiting “aggressive” dog breeds. That sort of language can be tricky, though. While a few breeds are generally considered to be aggressive, there is some debate when it comes to other breeds. What happens if your HOA allows a dog that some members find aggressive while others don’t?
Additionally, you may run into issues with technicality if the dog is a mix of two or more breeds. In these cases, it is best to defer to a pet control official or look to local ordinances about dog breeds.
CAN HOA RESTRICT INDOOR PETS?
In a word, yes. The same rules can apply to pets even if you only intend to keep them indoors at all times. Keep in mind that most HOAs offer homeowners some sort of compromise. In other words, only a handful of HOAs bans all kinds of pets. That being said, these associations generally do have a right to establish HOA dog rules or even have a strict no-pets policy.
CAN HOA MAKE ME GET RID OF MY DOG?
Many associations have a clear no-pets policy, offering no leeway whatsoever. In that case, the answer to this question depends on when the policy was enacted. If such a policy already existed before you decided to get a pet, then the HOA can legally make you remove your pet. Conversely, if you already own a pet and the HOA introduces a new no-pets policy, then there is a good chance the HOA can’t enforce the policy against you.
The type of association can also influence whether or not an HOA chooses to adopt a no-pets policy. Such a policy is usually more common in condominium settings than single-family home settings. This is because pet noise is a much greater concern when units are so close together. Additionally, there is not much green space in condos where dogs can roam and play.
The question remains, though: Can a condo association restrict pets? Simply put, condo associations generally have the same right to restrict or prohibit pets as single-family or townhome communities.
HOA AND EMOTIONAL SUPPORT ANIMALS
Can HOA deny emotional support animals? When establishing your community’s pet rules, make sure that they are compliant with local, state, and federal laws. For example, even if you are a community that prohibits pets, you still have to follow the Fair Housing Act (FHA).
According to this law, people with disabilities have a right to reasonable accommodations such as having service animals and emotional support animals. Similarly, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) allows people with disabilities to have service animals. But, the ADA makes a distinction between service animals and emotional support animals.
Regardless, the association may want to consider the added stress that will come with having to differentiate between service animals and emotional support animals — as both provide valuable assistance to people with disabilities. When dealing with these cases, the HOA can always ask for certifications or documentation for clarification.
If you are amending your governing documents to include new HOA rules on dogs, you may also need to think about the grandfather clause. This would exempt current homeowners from the new pet rules. However, if the new pet rules are really important, it’s still best to talk with your community to ensure cooperation and compliance.
MAKE HOMEOWNERS ASSOCIATION PET RULES CLEAR UPFRONT
When a new homeowner joins the community, make sure that they are clear on the HOA pet rules from the beginning. They should be clearly outlined in your governing documents, which should be provided to new homeowners as part of their welcome packet. It is also a good idea to remind homeowners of these rules every so often by posting them on your HOA website or including them in your newsletter.
If your board decides to amend the HOA dog rules, see to it that you disseminate the change or addition to all members in a prompt and effective manner. You should also consider setting aside a few minutes of the next meeting for questions regarding the changes.
HOA DOG RULES ENSURE THE SAFETY AND APPEAL OF YOUR COMMUNITY
Over 63 million households in the United States have a dog and you will see this reflected in your HOA community. Instead of banning pets altogether, it’s better to have clear, established, and easy-to-understand HOA dog rules for your homeowners.
As a board member, make sure that your homeowners understand why such rules are necessary. It’s not to cause them additional burden but rather, to ensure the safety and appeal of your community. As long as everyone cooperates, the association won’t have to deal with pet-related problems in their community.
If your board is finding it difficult to juggle homeowners association dog rules, perhaps it’s time to seek professional help.