4 Tips for establishing HOA pet rules and HOA pet policy examples

If you live in a pet-friendly community, it’s essential that your association board set boundaries to keep order within your community. Many of the issues that become problems in pet-friendly communities have very little to do with the pets – after all, they can’t clean up after themselves. 

Pet ownership can be a great addition to any HOA community; however, it's crucial that the policies are clearly communicated and respected. To ensure peace in your neighborhood, create effective HOA pet rules outlining expectations for owning animals on the property. This includes detailing the consequences of rule-breaking so all residents respect their shared home.
  1. Draft Common-Sense HOA Pet Rules

    According to the American Humane Society, approximately 62 percent of U.S. citizens are pet owners, and 57 percent of Canadians own pets, as reported by the Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development. With these statistics in mind, it’s important to have rules in place that will ensure pets and their owners are on their best behavior and respectful to others in the community. A few main questions people ask regarding pets in HOAs are:

    What can an HOA do about dog poop?

    One common rule in most associations is that every animal’s owner must clean up any waste deposited in common areas, and refusal to do so will result in a fine. Higher-end communities can even collect your pet’s DNA during registration to identify the culprit of any infractions on the property.

    Can an HOA ban certain dog breeds or species?

    Restrictions are often made according to the size and weight of pets that are permitted within the community. Though this restriction can be tough to enforce, it will require each animal to be closely monitored. The breed of a dog is also commonly taken into account, and animals considered dangerous could be prohibited in the community and perhaps by local ordinances. Behavioral matters such as jumping, biting, or aggressiveness could also be grounds for refusing an animal’s inclusion.

  2. Seek the Community’s Feedback

    Your residents’ health and safety are of the utmost importance, so the homeowner association governing documents will usually stipulate the number, kind, and size of animals allowed per household. Board members should talk with residents to better understand their stance. Create and distribute a survey to see how the community feels about pet policies and their enforcement. Consider forming a committee comprised of both pet owners and non-pet owners so that policy can be crafted without bias. When it comes to how violations are handled and how policies are enforced, you may consult with a professional property management company to ensure these expectations are reasonable.

  3. Enforce Compliance 

    Like all association policies, HOA pet rules should be enforced fairly, swiftly, and consistently. Most animal owners are considerate of the association rules and prevent their pets from becoming nuisances.

    What do you do if a community member violates your association’s pet policy?

     First, your property management staff should approach the pet owner and address them in person in a friendly manner. The resident may be unaware of the rules, or the violation could be an honest mistake. If the resident is a repeat offender, sending a written notice to warn them of the issue and including a copy of the pet regulations and violation consequences, as reflected in the governing documents, would be an appropriate next step. If that doesn’t solve the issue, consult your association’s attorney for further action.

  4. Make Exceptions When Needed

    Rules and regulations regarding animals should be written and enforced for the well-being of the community, but there are some exceptions association boards should consider. Perhaps your community’s board has decided to become a no-pet community, but you have residents who already have pets. There is an option to “grandfather” them in so the animal can remain with its family. In that case, the updated regulations must be well-communicated to any new residents to avoid misunderstandings and exceptions to the rule.

    There is also the matter of service animals for residents who might require additional assistance. Service animals are not pets and must be allowed at no cost to the homeowner or resident. The Federal Fair Housing Act and Americans with Disabilities Act protect those who require service dogs. The association board should work closely with the association’s attorney to ensure reasonable accommodations for approved service animals.

    HOA pet rules can be a sensitive issue for community members. In these cases, the association board must be firm and clear in their communications, well-educated on the various legal aspects of the issue, and transparent in the creation of an appropriate pet policy. Always emphasize that these regulations are in the community’s best interest to ensure their health, safety, and well-being.
Contact FirstService Residential, North America’s property management leader, for more information on setting and enforcing pet policy.
Thursday April 27, 2023