Dear Mr. Richardson,
Our CC&R’s limit the number of pets a homeowner can have to a “reasonable” number. City law states a resident outside of an HOA can have up to 4 dogs. Our association manager insists we have to abide by city law. Is that right?
F.D., San Pedro
Per Civil Code Section 4205, governing documents cannot conflict with state law. Unless your city in its ordinance exempts HOA residents, your association must, like any homeowner in that city, follow the law. The association could adopt a stricter standard, but it cannot be less strict than the city, as the public law sets the floor below which associations may not go. Also, it is the city’s job to enforce ordinances, so the board might not have to become involved (except for a call to the animal control department).
Most homeowners do not research city ordinances, so if a pet limitation is important to your community, it is better to state it clearly in the governing documents. Pet limits are probably best placed in CC&Rs, so they are more permanent and cannot be changed from one board to the next.
Several residents used to take our dogs to an enclosed common area to play. The area was not designated for any specific purpose. One day the HOA president announced that dogs would no longer be allowed in that area. The board then invited residents with grandchildren to take advantage of that common area for play. Wouldn’t each resident who takes their dog to the area be covered through each individual homeowners insurance?
D.S., Cherry Valley
Managing common area is a basic association responsibility, but if enough members want the area as a dog park, and the board will not listen, elect a new board. After that, seek membership approval to amend the CC&Rs, to preserve that area as a dog park. Hopefully each homeowner has liability insurance in case their dog bites someone. Associations should avoid statements or rules directed only to children – that may violate Fair Housing laws, unless your community is established as an age-restricted association.
I have two service dogs. The board has received a picture of me and one dog, on leash, standing or urinating on their grass. The board wants to find my dog a nuisance and fine me. The county ordinance says all owners of pets shall try to keep animals off property but in the case of defecation, shall immediately pick it up, which I do, and nuisance only applies to noise and acts of attacks or biting, however, this board seems to reserve the right to declare an animal a nuisance.
M.S., Huntington Beach
Most associations have in their CC&Rs a general provision banning community nuisances, and sometimes will specifically prohibit nuisances caused by pets. The fact that your dog is a service dog does not exempt it from complying with the rules applying to other dogs, and if its activities become a nuisance it might become an “unreasonable accommodation” and have to go. However, one incident is not normally considered enough to make a dog a nuisance (aside from serious misbehavior such as biting or menacing others).
Kelly G. Richardson Esq., CCAL, is a Fellow of the College of Community Association Lawyers and a Partner of Richardson | Ober | DeNichilo LLP, a California law firm known for community association advice. Submit questions to Kelly@rodllp.com. Past columns at www.HOAHomefront.com. All rights reserved®.