Question: My father purchased a condo in Rancho Palos Verdes late last year. The condo homeowner association (HOA) allows most pets, but not dogs. My father has a small dog that has been his companion for 12 years. He knew of the restriction going into the purchase, but since he planned on transitioning slowly from his current home to the condo it was not a concern. The dog has some health issues and my dad's thinking was that the dog might not be around when he was ready to finally complete the move.
The problem is that he loves the new condo at the new place and wants to make the move sooner than expected. My father is so deeply attached to this dog that he just cannot bear the thought of moving without his companion. How might the newly passed Assembly Bill 860 help my elderly father with his predicament?
Answer: Assembly Bill 860 became Civil Code section 1360.5 early this year, and is now law in California. It says, in part, that "(a) No governing documents shall prohibit the owner of a separate interest 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. (b) 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."
Often, it takes an appellate court to determine that laws mean what they say. In the case of pets in common interest developments (CIDs), it was the dissent in a Supreme Court decision that formed the basis for what was to become Civil Code section 1360.5, that now says governing documents "entered into, amended or otherwise modified after January 1, 2001" shall not prohibit the keeping of at least one pet.
Though at the time of your father's purchase the association's rules allowed all types of pets except dogs, this is contrary to the mandate of the present code, which specifies dogs among the types of pets allowed. The law requires association rules be reasonable and does not allow an HOA's documents to prohibit an owner from keeping one of the allowed types of pets. Hence your father's efforts to keep his dog are reasonable.
The hierarchy in a CID with an association is such that a management company serves the homeowners at the pleasure of the board and the board reports to the homeowners. He needs to meet with the HOA board, not the management company representative, to discuss intentions to move into the condo with his dog, even though the association's governing documents prohibit his type of pet. In speaking directly with the board, he is dealing with those who are vested with a duty of making decisions in the CID.
Once advised of the law, common sense dictates the board be willing to abide by the statute. But be prepared for the board's denial. If he brings his dog in, the HOA board may attempt to levy a fine or impose penalties, then pursue collection and enforcement in court. If the association lodges a lawsuit against your father, he needs to immediately contact an attorney.
When the Supreme Court decision was written in the case that led to the introduction of Assembly Bill 860, it was the inspiration of Justice Armand Arabian's lone dissent in Nahrstedt vs. Lakeside Village Condominium Assn. Inc. that contained the foundation for what ultimately became Civil Code section 1360.5.
Your father is not alone and others might be interested in learning of your plight. With his attorney's permission, he should also contact Karen Raasch of AARP at (916) 922-8285 to see if they may be able to assist in this situation.
Proof That Homeowners and HOAs Can Be Happy
Q: We are writing to tell you that all 45 of us homeowners love our HOA and our management company. We've been a happy homeowners association for four years, since the units were built. The management company came with the association because the builder included them in the CC&Rs.;
Why are so many people dissatisfied with their HOAs?
A: Congratulations. You have proved that the ideal board exists. Your situation seems to mark what one homeowner we know calls the transition "from hostility to happiness." We suggest you enjoy it.
As old owners sell and new owners move in, the character of your neighborhood and board can change.
One can only hope you have written everything down in a manual that gets passed from board to board. There are no guarantees that the new board will follow the precedents or that the "happiness" your present board is nurturing will continue to grow.
Stephen Glassman is a writer and an attorney in private practice specializing in corporate and business law. Donie Vanitzian, J.D., is a writer and arbitrator and manages commercial property. Both live in common interest developments and have served on various association boards. Send questions to Common Interest Living, P.O. Box 451278, Los Angeles, CA 90045; or e-mail CIDCommonSense@aol.com.