If your homeowners association allows pets, but with restrictions, you need a plan for dealing with those who don’t comply with your standards. Sometimes dogs bark too much, or make messes in public areas, or even injure other animals or people. It may be tempting to jump straight to fines and other disciplinary actions, but before doing so, it is worth trying these preliminary solutions for addressing negligent owners in your HOA.
Though you may love pets yourself, there are guidelines in place for individuals who bought into your HOA in part due to the rules that governed dog owners’ behavior. It’s your duty to enforce those rules. It doesn’t matter if a dog is friendly, or if you like their owners. If dog owners are violating the rules and their neighbors’ ability to live in peace has been diminished, it is your job to buckle down on enforcement.
Above all, be consistent with your rule enforcement. It might be tempting to let some residents off with warnings or look the other way in certain cases, but inconsistent discipline could instead lead to your HOA being hit with a D&O liability claim.
If a particular dog is constantly barking, begin taking notes. Create a record of incidents and document them as many ways as possible. Take pictures, record the barking, and ask upset neighbors to write a complaint. Approach owners about resolving it only after collecting strong evidence.
Ask for Compliance
Before confronting dog owners in your HOA who are unaware of the tension their pets are causing, try honesty first. Either in person or through a letter, explain the problem and kindly ask that it be corrected. It’s hard for owners to be angry or dismissive if you’re standing in front of them. A personal discussion is the best route to take first; it may resolve the issue more quickly.
However, document the discussion immediately afterward. Be specific in explaining the problem and the actions you need the owners to take, and don’t threaten them with punitive action. The time for threats might be needed eventually, but at this stage, they could be counterproductive.
After you’ve let the owner know there have been complaints and asked for resolution, check in again to evaluate whether the problem has been corrected. If not, it it time to be strict and remind owners of the rules and the penalties for breaking them. Review your governing documents to be sure you know your options; then write a letter explaining the problem, your efforts to resolve it, and the fact that it hasn’t been fixed. Explain that if the problem isn’t corrected within a certain time frame, you’ll begin the HOA’s process for dealing with noncompliant homeowners. Take necessary actions to follow through.
If owners are in a tough position, such as having too many cats or dogs but don’t want to give them up because they fear they’ll be euthanized, offer to help. You might be thinking that’s above and beyond your responsibility, and that may be so. If you don’t have the time or temperament to help the owners, ask an animal-lover in your homeowner association if they would be willing to help. This could also require calling local shelters or posting information about the pets on adoption sites, but it is likely to have a positive result for everyone involved.
About Scott Litman Insurance Agency
At Scott Litman Insurance Agency, we are dedicated to protecting HOA’s like yours. We have a unique understanding of the industry and the common risk exposures that you face in your daily operations. In fact, we find that 90% of the policies we review are missing coverages that violate the Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions (CC&R), exposing the board, HOA and management to lawsuits– which is why our comprehensive policies are tailored to meet your specific needs at competitive prices. For more information about our products, contact our experts today at (818) 879-5980 ext. 201, or fill out our online form.