Current statistics reflect that approximately 65% of U.S. households have at least one pet and 42% have more than one pet. The vast majority of these pets are various breeds of dogs and cats, but many people also become very attached to many other types of animals that become their pets. While most homeowners associations are now pet-friendly, and welcome pets as members of their community, it is commonplace for such associations to experience a multitude of issues with pet owners concerning the type of animal that the owner has as his or her pet and the behavior of their pets. Such disputes typically result from complaints by other homeowners that the pet owner has violated rules and regulations that are contained in the associations governing documents that impose pet restrictions. Common homeowners association pet restrictions that are imposed by state laws and/or a homeowners associations governing documents include:
Restrictions on the number of pets allowed per household
It is common for a homeowners association to impose a limit on the number of pets a household can have.
Breed restrictions
Because certain types of animals and certain breeds are by nature more aggressive than others, they are more likely to cause personal injury or property damage. As a result, such types or breeds of animals may not be covered by homeowners insurance policies and can be prohibited by homeowners associations.
Size restrictions
Many homeowners associations have rules that limit the size of a permissible pet. This limitation is usually expressed in terms of the weight of the petfor example, a maximum of 35 pounds.
Other restrictions
Additional homeowners association pet restrictions that are commonly included in a homeowners associations governing documents include general requirements that are imposed on pet owners such as keeping pets under control so that they do not injure anyone or cause property damage, or create a nuisance to other people within the community. Common nuisance claims relating to pets within homeowners associations relate to noise created by the pet and not cleaning up pet waste.
Exception for Service Animals
State and/or federal laws prohibit the enforcement of many homeowners association pet restrictions against the owners of service animals that are owned by disabled people. Such laws enable a person who suffers from a disability to have a service animal even if it might otherwise violate an associations pet restrictions. Because the ramifications of improperly denying a disabled persons right to have a service animal can be very serious, when confronted with requests for accommodations from pet restrictions in order to retain a service animal association management personnel should consult with legal counsel before denying such a request.
Owners of properties that are part of a common interest development that is controlled by a homeowners association, and people who are planning to move into such properties, should carefully review the associations rules and regulations concerning pets and state statutes that pertain to the ownership of pets within households that are part of a homeowners association. With the exception of service animals that are generally exempt from typical pet restrictions within homeowners associations, pet owners who are not able to comply with applicable laws and the provisions contained in an associations governing documents regarding pets should not purchase or lease properties within such communities. Disregarding the applicable laws and pet restrictions will ultimately lead to conflicts between homeowners and their homeowners association concerning the enforcement of those laws and restrictions.