We all love our pets, and most consider them part of our families. However, homeowners may be surprised to learn that their Association may be able to restrict the number, type, or breed of pet allowed in their community. With certain limitations, the presence of pets or other animals may even be prevented altogether. While some, including myself, may choose not to live in a planned community with these type of restrictions, there may be perfectly good reasons for their implementation, including prevention of pet waste on common areas, damage to Association property, and increased liability.
In order to restrict or prevent pets on a homeowner’s private property, those restrictions will have to be in the Association’s original Declarations, Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions (“Declarations”), or an amendment to the Declarations, recorded with the local Office of the Register of Deeds. We have seen many instances where Boards have attempted to restrict pets on a homeowner’s private property in the Association’s Rules and Regulations. Boards should remember that Rules and Regulations may only be used to control the usage of Association property or common area.
There are exceptions to an Association’s ability to enforce these types of restrictions. Even if your Association has valid Rules and Regulations, or Declarations restricting pets, it must still be aware of the Fair Housing Act (“FHA”) and how it impacts the ability to enforce pet restrictions. The FHA prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, and familial status. The FHA provides specific protections that permit certain animals under limited circumstances (such as service animals), regardless of what the Rules and Regulations or Declarations provide. Homeowners may require service animals for disabilities that are more obvious, such as blindness, or those that may not be as apparent, such as animals that alert their owners of oncoming seizures. Associations must make “reasonable accommodations” for homeowners with disabilities, including allowing service animals.
If your Association needs assistance formulating Rules and Regulations or Declarations that address pet restrictions, or if they have questions as to how they can assess whether or not an animal must be permitted, they can contact one of our HOA Attorneys.