Creating and Enforcing Sample HOA Pet Policies That Work
With several Arizona cities ranking on WalletHub’s 2022 listing of most pet-friendly cities in the country (Scottsdale coming in at #1), it’s likely that your community allows residents to have pets, thus requiring sound pet policies. So, what are some good sample HOA pet policies?
To prevent disturbances and possible health and safety hazards, your homeowner’s association (HOA) needs to have a clear policy to prevent residents’ furry family members from becoming a community problem. After all, it isn’t really Rover’s fault if issues arise. It’s up to his owners to clean up after him, to ensure that he remains well behaved, and to follow the HOA rules.
The board of directors should have a pet policy in place to ensure the safety and well-being of both the residents' pets and those who may be allergic to pets. Residents need clear guidelines on what is allowed within their building or community so they can follow proper protocols when it comes time notify authorities in case something goes wrong, or if an issue arises with a furry friend. It is important to communicate with all tenants, so they know about the new pet regulations and the penalties for a violation.
To learn more about how you can successfully communicate HOA policies, check out our article, “HOA Policy: Why Consistent Communication is Key”.
1. Best Practices from sample HOA pet policies.
If your community wants to be welcoming and inclusive, they should have a pet policy that is reasonable and not prohibitively restrictive. For instance, requiring pet owners in the area to pick up after their pet to prevent any messes or harm on local property would make sense. In fact, most cities and towns do enforce a "pooper scooper" ordinance. It would also be appropriate to fine residents who don’t comply with the policy. If your community does not currently have a pet policy in place, or if your board members think it might be time to update it, survey your residents to find out what is important to them.
Additionally, you may want to invite residents with and without pets to form a pet policy committee. Committee volunteers could be responsible for creating and distributing the survey and advising the board. When you have a pet, it is important for them not only to be loved but also to thrive in their environment. An experienced community management company can help with establishing and enforcing policy compliance according to your bylaws, making sure everyone knows what is expected from both human residents and furry friends alike.
2. Specify pet limitations.
The value of protecting the safety, health, and enjoyment of HOA residents is one reason why many associations have pet policies. It is important to make sure that it includes limitations, such as the number of pets allowed per household, breeds, and maximum size. You will probably want to prohibit dog breeds that are known to be aggressive or difficult to manage, especially if local ordinances already prohibit them. Furthermore, should your HOA allow birds or other small animals? Should it allow exotic animals like boa constrictors or pot-bellied pigs? Be specific about the types of pets your association will allow so there are no misunderstandings.
3. Enforce your pet policy fairly.
As with all sample HOA pet policies, your board should be consistent and fair when it comes to enforcing your community’s pet policy before voting a policy into action. For the most part, pet owners want to be good neighbors and will do their best to keep their pets under control. But what if a resident’s pet becomes a problem? If your HOA is professionally managed, ask your community manager or another staff member to speak with the pet owner. Ideally, this should be a friendly, face-to-face conversation. Sometimes, pet owners simply need to be made aware of their pet’s behavior or reminded of the policy. However, you may need to issue a written violation notice if a resident ignores this friendly reminder or is a repeat offender. The notice should be accompanied by a copy of the policy, as well as the penalties for violating it. Still having issues with a particular pet owner? In that case, speak with your community manager and with your HOA’s attorney to determine whether legal action would be appropriate.
One of the most common questions asked is what can HOA do about dog poop? Your HOA can fine you for not complying with their pet policies about dog waste. However, as stated before, fair and reasonable pet policies should be implemented by HOAs so infractions can get dealt with properly instead of harshly. Unreasonably harsh actions taken against a resident could lead to more problems down the road, such as resentment from either party involved due to unfair treatment. Another question frequently asked by residents is can an HOA make me get rid of my dog for barking? Depending on the HOA CC&Rs, the association has the right to send a letter to the owner, informing them of the nuisance. If the owner does not comply, the association can impose a fine for the violation.
4. Know when to bend the rules.
The policy should apply to everyone equally, but there may be times when exceptions are necessary. For example, if the HOA decides that they don't want pets in their community, you might want to exempt those residents who already have them to avoid any problems with this decision. Be sure that such exceptions are explained clearly in sample HOA pet policies before making a decision to avoid any backlash.
The Federal Fair Housing Act and Americans with Disabilities Act provide protections to people who need service animals for physical ailments. Not only must your HOA allow the animal, but you also cannot require payment or security deposit for it either. These laws also cover individuals with mental or emotional disabilities who are prescribed “emotional support pets”. The main purpose of this act is to protect those who need animals due to a disability from discrimination in communities while protecting renters’ rights. However, they do not preclude your HOA from establishing rules about service or support pets, such as requiring owners to clean up after them or keep them on a leash. Check with your attorney to make sure your rules are in accordance with the law.
Pets are great additions to a community, but they can be challenging too. You need transparency and consistency with pet policies so that residents know what is expected of them before joining or renting an apartment complex where these guidelines exist. With clarity about rules – especially if it includes enforcement mechanisms such as fines for violating posted restrictions on doggy spots – people will want to keep their animal companions safe while also ensuring all users feel welcome.
For more information on setting and enforcing pet policies, contact FirstService Residential, Arizona’s leading community management company.
Disclaimer: This article is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Consult with your association attorney.