Whether it’s a dog, cat, bird, reptile, or some other fuzzy, four-legged creature, approximately 67% of US households have a pet. Those numbers have increased in recent months, as even more people have decided to foster an animal or rescue a pet during the quarantine. While these creatures can be a welcome and life-enriching addition to any home – having a pet could land you in the “doghouse” with your Homeowner’s Association.

Joining a Homeowner’s Association

When you purchase a home, condo, or townhouse that is part of a Homeowner’s Association (HOA), you are required to join the HOA and follow the rules established by the HOA board. A Homeowner’s Association is an organization comprised of a board of directors responsible for the management of the community and its shared spaces. The HOA rules are in place to regulate any activities that could affect the neighborhood or its residents’ safety and wellbeing. While every HOA has different policies and regulations, most homeowner’s covenants, codes, and restrictions (CC&R) include stipulations about pets.

HOA Policies on Pets

In every HOA, there are rules and limitations on what homeowners can do to and on their property. HOAs can have a variety of pet policies, ranging from a complete ban on pets to limits on certain pet activities. The majority of HOAs do not prohibit all pets from the community; the rules are in place simply to ensure that one homeowner’s pet(s) do not disturb the other residents.

Common HOA pet policies include limitations on the number of pets you can have on a property (both inside and outside of the home), as well as the size or breed of pet. For example, an HOA may limit a resident to two pets per household, or the HOA may prohibit any pets over 50 pounds. Another restriction may be against particular dog breeds considered “potentially dangerous” under local or state law. The HOA may also require homeowners to register their pets prior to moving into the community or once the established homeowner purchases or adopts a new pet. (This way, the HOA can ensure the pet is licensed and vaccinated).

While the HOA has the right to restrict pets, this is not an absolute right. Under the federal housing and disability protection laws, individuals who have physical, mental, or emotional disabilities can have a service dog on their property. An HOA cannot prevent a homeowner from having a service dog that is necessary for their health, safety, and productivity.

HOA Policies on Pet Activities

In addition to pet ownership, HOAs may have rules related to how the pet can/cannot behave. For example, a Homeowner’s Association may require that all pets be leashed while they’re in the neighborhood’s common areas. HOAs typically have rules related to the removal and disposal of animal waste. (Some HOAs will provide trash bags and bins to encourage compliance with this rule). Another common HOA rules relates to noise. The occasional animal outburst is understandable, but if your dog is outside barking at all hours, the HOA will likely get involved.

Violating the HOA Pet Policies

Your Homeowner’s Association is responsible for enforcing the community’s rules, regulations, and restrictions. If a resident or their pet violates one of those rules, the HOA will take enforcement steps against them.

The first step is typically a note from the HOA, with a description or photo of the violation and a request to rectify the problem. If the homeowner does not comply, they may face a fine. At this time, the homeowner can also meet with the board and ask for an exception or an amendment to the HOA rules. If the problem persists, the HOA can take legal action such as injunctive relief (ex: removing the pet from the property), or even jail time for the resident who’s committing the violation. Removing a pet is a last-resort option, but it can happen.

Have Additional Questions? Contact the Real Estate Team at Brian M. Douglas & Associates

Pets can add so much joy to a household. But before you bring home a new, four-legged family member, be sure to check with your HOA rules. If you have additional questions about HOA policies, or if you feel your HOA is unfairly enforcing its rules, please reach out to us at (770) 933-9009. We’d be happy to help.