Most 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. So, 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 homeowning experience.