(written for the Pet Gazette, Nov-Dec issue 2017)
I heard a sad story yesterday about a couple who had to re-home their beloved dog. They had moved to a new neighborhood and the Home Owners Association did not allow dogs as large as their Siberian Husky. This could have been prevented by doing a bit of research and turning to a professional for assistance. If you are in the market to buy a home, it is a smart decision to hire a Buyer’s Agent that is representing you and your best interests. This real estate agent will uncover any covenants and restrictions that might affect your pet owning family. They will make sure that your next purchase fits your needs so that Skippy isn’t out on the street.
Home Owners Associations are governed by the rules set forth and recorded in the Covenants and Restrictions. These are on file at the courthouse and any real estate agent knows how to dig around and find them. Not all C&R’s are written the same. They often address fencing, number of pets, type of pets and what you can do with your pets. If you breed dogs (responsibly, of course!) you don’t want to move to a community that prohibits dog breeding. If you run a rescue or you foster pets, a home in a community that limits your number of companions won’t work. And fencing……don’t get me started.
I once had a discussion with a developer who was in the process of writing restrictions for a new development. He told me that these would be luxury homes and he didn’t want fencing. I told him to specify that chaining and tethering was also out because this would then be the option of choice for some people. He said he preferred underground fencing. That’s fine until one home owner has a thick-headed pooch that ignores the beep beep of the collar and charges the fence to freedom. It only takes one time to have an escape artist who then goes visiting the neighborhood. Or how about coyotes, bears and other predators that have free access to your back yard? Underground fencing does not keep them out and puts your pets and children in danger. Fences make good neighbors. They keep your pets safe and your worries are minimized. The best solution for a developer is to put the fencing under architectural approval and specify what type of fencing is allowed. As a home buyer, look at the restrictions carefully and make sure that any fence you put up conforms to the neighborhood rules.
Pet limits are always difficult. Some developments think that restricting the number to two household pets is reasonable. It’s not reasonable when those two pets are a different species. A much better compromise (if you are head of an HOA and you are reading this) is to limit homes to two or three pets per species. One development had a very caring restriction; they limited homes to 3 household pets but if any of those pets were over the age of twelve, they did not count in the total. That developer is concerned for our seniors. Good for them! Be careful also of restrictions on dog breeds. Not every development is happy to welcome bully-breeds into its community. As dog lovers, we know this is unreasonable but we also know that sadly, not everyone agrees. Watch also for weight limits. Often communities are ok with dogs under a certain weight and no larger. Don’t find yourself in the same position as the Siberian Husky owner.
My best advice has always been to ask for and read any covenants and restrictions carefully BEFORE you make an offer on a home. If you have a hard time locating them, ask your real estate agent. Sometimes we have to dig a bit but these are important documents and it’s worth the time spent looking for these restrictions and any recent amendments that may have been recorded. You are buying a home for the whole family so let’s make sure it works for the whole family!