Homeowners Associations and Pet Restrictions
Most San Diego homebuyers know to review the HOA (Homeowner’s Association)
documents provided by the seller during disclosures to ensure the rules will
not interfere with their lifestyle. Yet, once they become homeowners, often
these same people do not pay attention to bylaw changes over the years.
Sometimes when they find themselves in violation of a bylaw, they are caught off
guard. When this affects a beloved pet, this can be very upsetting. But can
an HOA force a homeowner to get rid of their pet? Often, they can.
An HOA has a duty to create and enforce restrictions to ensure the
well-being and safety of the homeowners in the association. If they operate
within the guidelines of federal anti-discrimination laws, HOAs have broad
latitude to create their bylaws, including the complete restriction on having
animals in one’s home or on HOA property.
This is an extreme rule, however. Typically, restrictions include the
requirement to keep pets on a leash, to remove pet waste, and to keep
pets off association grass or landscaping. Considered “reasonable
restrictions,” an HOA may prohibit a specific type of pet, such as a pig or
bird. It may also limit the size or breed of a dog.
One exception to any restriction is the ability of an owner to have a service
animal. Another situation that may allow a pet in contradiction to a bylaw is
a member who has already had a specific animal when the rules changed.
In most cases, these animals are allowed to remain.
Most HOA communities welcome pets, but an HOA does have significant
power to influence the standard of living within the community. Careful
understanding of the HOA and climate of a community will avoid painful
issues and ensure a pleasant home-owning experience.