While dogs are often lauded as man’s best friend there are times when they, as well as other pets, can pose legal issues for HOAs and condominium associations. Many of the legal issues can be avoided by regulating and enforcing pet policies in HOAs. Whether you want to place restrictions on animal and pet owner conduct or prohibit certain pets altogether, HOAs need to ensure the safety of both themselves and the members of the community at large. To assist Arizona HOAs, Brown Law Group put together a guideline of what every HOA needs to know about effective pet policies for pets and support animals.
Crafting Reasonable and Effective HOA Pet Policies
Many Association’s Declaration of Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions (CC&Rs) will include language governing pets, so that upon purchase of a property by a pending member of the community, the owners are on notice of any pet restrictions. Some of the terms in the CC&Rs may govern the acceptable breed, type and number of dogs per household. Many CC&Rs will also give the Association the power to adopt additional rules and regulations regarding pets.
HOA Boards must then craft policies that are reasonable and effective so that pet owners behave in a responsible manner. This includes taking into consideration circumstances where some rules may not be applicable to all situations. For instance, HOAs should not expect that all the rules in the pet policy that covers the conduct and nature of pets in general can be adhered to by owners of support animals according to the measures outlined in the federal Fair Housing Act.
Arizona HOA Laws On Support Animals
Pursuant to A.R.S. § 41-1491.19(D)(2), Arizona HOAs are required to allow residents reasonable accommodations to assist with disabilities so that the resident may use and enjoy their housing. This includes allowing for emotional support or comfort animals when the owner provides documentation from a medical provider that the animal is necessary to assist with a disability. All kinds of animals can serve as emotional support for residents with disabilities. The resident must have control over the support or comfort animal.
HOAs are permitted to inquire into whether a resident of the community is disabled so long as the disability is not obvious or readily apparent. If any HOA receives a request for an emotional support or comfort animal as a reasonable accommodation, the Brown Law Group is able to assist the association in evaluating the request and determining if any additional information or documentation is necessary. An HOA should carefully evaluate all requests for reasonable accommodations, otherwise HOAs may find themselves involved in a lawsuit for denying disabled owners accommodation for their support animals, as homeowners may file a complaint at no expense with the Arizona Attorney General if an association refuses a homeowner’s request. Before any request for accommodation is refused, your association should work with an experienced HOA attorney in Arizona.
Potential HOA Liability for Dog Issues
It is important to have pet policies in place as HOA communities can be held liable for damages caused by dangerous dogs within the community. Pet policy restrictions should include regulations that address issues such as securing or removing dangerous dogs from the premises, ensuring that homeowners have completely enclosed yards if they are pet owners, and ensuring groups of aggressive pets are not left together in common areas.
HOAs can also put rules in place that require certain dog breeds to have insurance policies that cover dog bites. This provides a means by which victims of dog attacks can make claims.
Regulations also need to be in place with regards to what qualifies as a “dangerous” dog or pet. These can be classified based on attributes such as the breed of dogs or based on whether the particular animal has had any history of injuring people or other animals. The Association’s insurance carrier can also help to determine if a dog poses an increased risk to the community.
If an HOA fails to put restrictions like these in place, they leave themselves open to the possibility of being liable for personal injury and property damage cases caused by pets of homeowners in the community.
Enforcement Options for HOA with Pet Violations
As an HOA board, it might be difficult to enforce rules put in place concerning pet restrictions. However, there are measures you can put in place to assist with enforcing the pet rules and regulations.
One of the measures that HOAs can take is to impose fines on the homeowner in violation. It is important that each association adopt a fine policy so that it may address violations of the pet policies.
Work with a Law Firm that Specializes in Arizona HOA Representation
The Brown Law Group only represents Arizona homeowners associations and condominium associations. Our firm can make sure your HOA pet policies are reasonable and legally enforceable. This can help keep your association members happy and make the process for dealing with violations more straightforward. We can also make sure that your policies still allow for responsible pet owners to enjoy living in your community. Contact us today at 602-952-6925 to schedule an initial consultation to review your HOA representation needs or make an appointment on our contact us page.
The Brown Law Group shares this article for informational purposes only, and it does not create an attorney-client relationship.