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New Law Is Intended to Eliminate Prohibitions on Pets


Question: I am the manager for a large community association. I have been told that the state Legislature has passed a law that will eliminate pet restrictions in a condominium and any other form of community association. Is this information correct?

Answer: If your association has pet restrictions and it is considering any amendment to the governing documents, the association should seek legal advice immediately in order to obtain approval from the owners, record the amendment with the county and distribute the amendment to the owners before Jan. 1, 2001. After that date, any amendment to the governing documents may negate the association's authority to restrict pets.

Both houses of the California Legislature and Gov. Gray Davis approved Assembly Bill 860. It is intended to eliminate the prohibition of domestic pets in mobile home parks and common interest developments. Common interest developments include homeowner associations, condominiums, planned developments, stock cooperatives and community apartment projects.

Currently, there are provisions in federal law, the Americans With Disabilities Act, that make exceptions for residents who need service animals because of an emotional or medical condition or handicap. Assembly Bill 860 will add Section 1360.5 to the Civil Code as follows:

No governing documents shall prohibit the owner of a separate interest (unit or lot) within a common interest development from keeping at least one pet within the common interest development, subject to reasonable rules and regulations of the association. This section may not be construed to affect any other rights provided by law to an owner of a separate interest to keep a pet within the development.

For purposes of this section, "pet" means any domesticated bird, cat, dog, aquatic animal kept within an aquarium, or other animal as agreed to between the association and the homeowner.

If the association implements a rule or regulation restricting the number of pets an owner can keep, the new rule or regulation shall not apply to prohibit an owner from continuing to keep any pet that the owner currently keeps in his or her separate interest if the pet otherwise conforms with the previous rules or regulations relating to pets. For the purposes of this section, "governing documents" shall include, but are not limited to, the conditions, covenants and restrictions of the common interest development, and the bylaws and rules and regulations of the association.

The portion of the law that pertains to mobile home parks will amend Section 798.33 of the Civil Code.

Pay Off Delinquency With 'Good Faith' Plan

Q: I recently lost my job and have had financial problems. I have been unable to pay the monthly assessment to the association for the past four months. I just received a notice that the association is going to file a lien on my property. I am working again but it will be impossible for me to pay all of this debt immediately since I have other financial obligations.

I spoke to the treasurer and explained my financial situation. He said that the association has a delinquency policy and they must treat everyone consistently without regard for an individual's financial problems. Now I will have additional expenses added to my account because of the warnings and notices. How can I deal with this situation?

A: The board is handling this situation correctly, in my opinion. It is not a kindness to you to allow your delinquency to get so high that you can never pay it back. It may seem harsh but it is unfair to the other owners if you are allowed to ignore your responsibility to pay.

I recommend that you request a special meeting with the board, which should be an executive session to protect your privacy. Let them know what you can afford to pay and offer a payment plan that will eventually pay off the delinquency, preferably within six months. If you offer a "good faith" plan, perhaps the association will cooperate with you so that your additional costs are minimal.

Do not ignore the notices from the association. Extra collection costs will continue to increase and the association has the right to foreclose on your property if you cannot pay your assessments.

Board May Hire Management Company

Q: Our association board recently hired a management company without a vote of the owners. We have a small number of units and have never needed a management company previously. Now we cannot get any information about our finances. The board refers us to the management company and the management company will not allow us to look at any records.

What are our rights as homeowners? Can the board spend our money on a management company without getting a vote of the owners?

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