QUESTION: I live in a 56-unit community association. The units are townhouses built on a seven-acre parcel of land. Since pets are a continuing source of problems for our association, the board sought the advice of our attorney.
The attorney states that it is possible to amend the CC&Rs to prohibit pets, using a "grandfather clause" to allow the existing pets to remain.
What can you tell us about other associations that have dealt with this problem?
ANSWER: Many association boards spend too much time on enforcing pet rules when their meeting time should be spent on weightier issues like budgets and reserves. I know of many associations that have passed pet restrictions by amending the CC&Rs. The grandfather clause allows the owners to keep the pets they currently own. When the pet dies the owner is not allowed to replace the pet with another one. Eventually, the association becomes a pet-free environment.
Prohibiting pets is not accomplished by a rule adopted by the board. It should be a CC&R amendment, approved by the super majority required, and recorded at the county recorder's office so that future buyers are informed of the CC&R change.
For the amendment to be effective, the board and each new board must be committed to enforcing the no-pets restriction. There are important exceptions. The association must allow animals that provide assistance to the handicapped.
There are positives and negatives that your association should discuss in open hearings prior to proposing a vote of the membership to amend the CC&Rs.
Restricting pets will affect resales but I am unable to provide statistics on the percentage of potential buyers who own pets. A segment of buyers who own pets will be turned away, but there may be other potential buyers who are specifically looking for a pet-free association.
Well-behaved pets and conscientious, rule-abiding pet owners seldom cause problems. There has been proposed legislation on the state level that would have prohibited the banning of pets in community associations. The proposed law was not adopted, but I anticipate that it may be proposed again in the future. Such a state law would supersede a no-pets restriction in CC&Rs.
If pets are a problem for your association, I would suggest calling a meeting of the pet owners. After all, the pet owners are the real problem, aren't they? The board should communicate with them and ask for the owners' help in resolving the problems.
Encourage the pet owners to abide by the rules so that amending the CC&Rs is unnecessary. More rules may be needed. Find ways of reducing the nuisance factor. Perhaps somewhere in your seven-acre complex, you have an area that can be set aside for walking and exercising dogs.
By improving communication and involving the pet owners in the solutions, you may find that a CC&R amendment is unnecessary.
Hickenbottom is a community association management consultant and a founding director of the California Assn. of Community Managers. She selects questions of general interest for the column and regrets that she cannot respond to all questions received. Send questions to: Condo Q&A, Box 5068, Thousand Oaks, CA 91360.