Before Getting A Pet, Know Your HOA Pet Policies

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Some homeowners associations will have HOA pet policies that place restrictions on homeowners’ pets. What pet policies are common in planned communities? Moreover, are they enforceable? 

What Are HOA Pet Policies?

Homeowners association pet policies are the rules a planned community has about pets within the association. In some cases, HOAs may impose a “no pets” policy, indicating that no homeowner can keep pets of any kind. However, many communities only impose certain rules restricting the number of pets, type of pet, and pet breeds.

Are HOA Pet Restrictions Enforceable? 

HOA pet rules may be limiting for homeowners, especially since people usually feel they can do whatever they want in their own homes. However, because HOAs are private entities, they can legally enforce pet restrictions. The only catch is that homeowners associations should indicate these restrictions in the bylaws and pet policy. 

Sample HOA Pet Policies: Common Community Restrictions

Homeowners associations can include various rules in their HOA pet policies. Let’s examine some of the most common rules an HOA might have about pets. 

1. Pet Rules and Regulations

Homeowners associations that allow pets will have certain rules and regulations in place. For example, an HOA may require homeowners to keep their pets on a leash when outdoors and practice proper waste disposal. 

In some cases, HOAs may even be allowed to impose regulations on spaying and neutering. Many homeowners associations also have rules regarding aggressive behavior, inappropriate urination, property damage, and excessive noise from barking or howling. 

2. Registration

It’s not uncommon for homeowners associations to require residents to register their pets. The HOA asks to see the pet, takes photos, and writes their details for documentation. This way, the HOA is aware of all the pets that live within the neighborhood. 

Pet registration is also an efficient way to ensure that pets are updated with their vaccinations. As a result, the community residents can feel more at ease if something happens. Often, HOAs like these explicitly state that homeowners cannot hide unregistered animals. Otherwise, it could lead to a violation and penalties. 

3. HOA Breed Restrictions

HOAs are typically allowed to enforce pet limits, which can include breed restrictions. Homeowners associations implement these rules to ensure residents do not keep destructive or harmful dog breeds around. 

Some of the most dangerous dogs include pit bulls, rottweilers, and German shepherds. While homeowners may sometimes want these dogs to protect themselves and their property, they can be hazardous for the neighbors and other residents. For this reason, homeowners association dog rules may include a ban on these breeds.

4. Number of Pets

It may seem unfair, but HOAs are generally allowed to limit the number of pets you can own — or at least how many can stay on your property. This prevents the neighborhood from becoming chaotic and limits noise. Typically, HOAs limit the number of pets to one or two per household.

5. Maximum Weight and Size

Even without specific breed restrictions, homeowners associations may implement pet weight and size rules. Larger dogs can cause more property damage and incite fear. Most often, HOAs will impose a weight limit of about 25-30 pounds. 

6. Liability

Pets can cause accidents and damage property. As such, most HOAs include rules about legal liability. They clearly state that each owner is responsible for their pet’s actions and resulting property damage or injury. This indemnifies the HOA from legal vulnerabilities. 

Violations Against HOA Pet Policies

HOA pet policies are enforceable, and homeowners who violate the rules will face several consequences. Firstly, homeowners associations often notify homeowners of the violation and issue a warning. This is the standard procedure for most first-time offenses. 

However, if a homeowner refuses to correct their violation and comply with the rules, HOAs can levy fines if the governing documents allow. To ensure compliance, they may also suspend the homeowner’s rights and privileges to use certain amenities. 

Still, some homeowners may be stubborn and continue violating the rules. If non-compliance threatens the community’s safety, the homeowners association may take legal action. HOAs can file a lawsuit for injunctive relief and force the resident to comply. Otherwise, the offender risks paying fines and even jail time. 

Exceptions to Pet Restrictions

While HOA pet policies are often enforceable, there are exceptions to the rule. 

Grandfather Clause

If the HOA’s pet policy is new or receives amendments, homeowners with existing pets violating the rules might be worried. For example, let’s say the homeowners association implements a rule restricting the number of pets to 2 per household. However, some residents may already possess three before the rule was enacted.

In these cases, the homeowners association can create a grandfather clause that lets the HOA enforce the new rule without affecting existing homeowners. As such, the current homeowners don’t have to worry about getting rid of a pet they’ve owned for years.

However, grandfather clauses should also have certain guidelines. For instance, the exceptions may expire if the homeowner is no longer in possession of the animal, and they could also be invalidated if there’s a change of ownership. 

Apart from these, homeowners associations should carefully assess which rules need a grandfather clause. If the pet policy’s new rule only touches on waste disposal, then the HOA doesn’t need to make exceptions for current pet owners. It applies equally to everyone.

Service Animals

The Fair Housing Act mandates HOAs to provide reasonable accommodations to people with disabilities. Part of offering reasonable accommodations is allowing them to keep their emotional support animal or service animal. 

In these cases, the HOA cannot impose a pet restriction on the animal. They must make exceptions and cannot refuse the pet because of their size, weight, breed, or species. Moreover, service animals should be allowed in every area of the property.

However, HOAs can ask for documentation to prove that a resident’s pet is a service animal. Despite the exception, they can also hold the owner responsible for the service animal’s actions and behavior. Moreover, the residents are still expected to follow the rules, such as those that require leashes or proper waste disposal. 

Protect Your Community

Homeowners associations have the power to govern their communities and restrict residents’ pets. This ensures the community’s peace and preserves property values. Residents should be aware of their HOA pet policies before considering getting a furry friend.

88 Doors offers industry-leading HOA management to communities in Texas. Call us at (512) 348-8821 or contact us online for more details!