Can We Limit Dogs?

Can We Limit Dogs?

Hi Kelly,  Our HOA recently voted to update our CC&R’s. One section prohibits ownership of numerous breeds of dogs that the board considers dangerous. Since California law (Food and Agri. Code 31683) outlaws dog breed discrimination by counties and cities we are the only HOA in the region that bans ownership of certain dogs. Isn’t it illegal under Davis-Stirling to violate state law?  R.L., Rancho Santa Fe  Dear R.L., The Food and Agricultural Code section you mention applies to ordinances adopted by cities and counties, but not restrictions passed by common interest developments. So, when the association members voted to approve an amendment to the CC&R’s prohibiting certain dog breeds, the amendment would not violate that specific law. However, the Davis-Stirling Act does protect the right to have a “pet,” which per Civil Code 4715 includes dogs. Under that statute, an association must allow an owner to keep one pet on the property. The statute defines “pet” as including ”any…dog,” so if one takes the statute as written, it is the homeowner who chooses what breed of dog to have, not the HOA. Thanks for your question, Kelly Dear Mr. Richardson, How can HOAs handle large, aggressive service dogs that otherwise would be barred by CC&R’s? How can HOAs accommodate residents’ allergies or legitimate fears re: service animals? A.Y., West Los Angeles Dear A.Y., The Fair Housing Act requires associations to provide reasonable accommodations to residents with disabilities, and one of the most common accommodations allowing a service dog or support animal. However, if the dog creates a nuisance by damaging property or menacing other residents, that accommodation may...
Boards Barking About Dogs

Boards Barking About Dogs

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? Thanks, F.D., San Pedro Dear F.D., 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. Thanks, Kelly Dear Kelly, 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.,...
Where There’s Smoke, There May Be Unhappy Neighbors

Where There’s Smoke, There May Be Unhappy Neighbors

Dear Kelly, My tenants are extremely allergic to smoke – the tenants next door smoke around the clock. I have been working with our board and management, and still the situation has not improved. Our CC&R’s call for “no noxious odors”. I may be losing my tenants. Any suggestions? Thank you, D.M., Costa Mesa Dear Mr. Richardson, I live in a gated community of single family homes on small lots. I’m wondering if there are any restrictions for cigarettes, cigars or pipes. One owner is asthmatic and lives next to a chain smoker that smokes only outside. Another dislikes the smell and must close windows when the neighbor smokes. Thank you in advance, T.G., Simi Valley Hi Kelly, The HOA Board made a rule a few years ago to make our complex a “non-smoking community.” This was done without any information to home owners or requested feedback. I recently learned that smoking is even prohibited inside units! I resent being told what I can or cannot do in my own home. What’s next? All lights out by 11:00? I smoke only in my living room and use a large air cleaner, with all windows closed. Regardless, my neighbor frequently complains smoke is coming in their unit. There is nothing in the CC&R’s about this. Can a board impose this rule on me? LM., San Diego Dear D.M., T.G, and L.M., Our society is smoking less. Adult tobacco smoking declined by 51% between 1988 and 2016 (California Department of Public Health statistics) and public acceptance of the habit also is clearly declining. Many California cities have various smoking bans in place. Can smoking inside...
Recipe for Reasonable Rules

Recipe for Reasonable Rules

One important board responsibility is to adopt and enforce community rules. Developers, when creating common interest communities, provide CC&Rs and Bylaws (usually boilerplate), but typically do not create rules. So, it is up to the volunteer boards to create necessary and reasonable rules for their communities. Rules can cover many important topics, such as parking, community room use or architectural and landscaping standards. Rules should be tailored to the needs of each community. However, the Civil Code does require each association to have certain rules. These required rules are: Internal dispute resolution procedures, election rules, delinquency enforcement policies, architectural modification application rules, and a schedule of fines. Rules must be written, per Civil Code 4350(a) From time to time, an association will describe to me “house rules” but cannot point to any place where the particular rule is written. Unwritten rules are traditions, not “rules,” and are unenforceable. Also, rules must be adopted per the process in Civil Code 4360. Keep it simple Draft rules in straightforward language. Rules should be clear and concise. Avoid overly complex rules, because most likely the manager, board and homeowners will not remember all the technicalities in a complicated rule set. Consider starting each rule section with a positive introductory statement Beginning a section of rules with a short explanation about the purpose of the rules makes a more positive statement to the community, and hopefully increases community compliance by the residents. People do not like being told “because I said so”, regardless of age, and explaining the importance of the rules shows respect. Avoid having separate rules for kids Rules cannot single...

Condo Trapper, Wrong Insurance

Dear Mr. Richardson, I’m on the Board of a 20 year old complex. We have over 200 units. The CCR’s state that all pets in the common area must be kept on a leash, even cats. The rule has been enforced sporadically over the years, however one of my fellow directors is very interested in setting traps and removing anything caught. The CCR’s state that “any pet deemed a nuisance by the Association shall be removed from the Property”. Wouldn’t that mean that before removing a pet, it should be determined whether it’s a nuisance?….If this director succeeded in setting all of these traps, could an owner challenge us if their pet was taken away without a warning? It seems to me that if a pet is roaming, the violation should be treated as all violations:. letters, hearings and fines. S.S., Garden Grove Dear S.S., So, your Board has somebody who wants to be an urban trapper? Will the director be duly authorized to be judge and executioner, without a board meeting? When a pet is trapped, where will that animal go, and if the animal is injured in the process, who will pay the veterinary bill? You may want to ask the Orange County Animal Control Services about all this. Yes, it’s a bad idea. If someone violates the rule, set a hearing and impose a fine. Your city probably has leash laws regarding dogs, so a complaint could also be lodged there regarding dogs. Best (and good luck to the dangerously roaming kitties),Kelly Dear Kelly, I am president of a very small HOA in a gated community. One member...