Many people when they think about their homes or families, they think about the family pet or pets. Dogs, cats, birds, hamsters, chickens.... Many people who live in homeowners associations or condominiums, however, are told that they are not allowed to have pets or that they are only allowed to have certain pets or that their pets are only allowed if they fall within certain size and weight restrictions. We recently met with a gentleman whose dog had gained weight and it went from being "allowed" to "not allowed" due to his added girth. "Sorry, Cooper is no longer welcome here at the condominium. We look forward to seeing him back here when he loses the extra five pounds."
The questions we most common encounter with pets is whether an association has the right to ban pets altogether and whether the association has the right to ban a particular pet.
Generally, if the CC&Rs do not prohibit the right to restrict pets or animals, the HOA is probably barred from attempting to create a new rule without unanimous consent. If a declaration expressly allows pets is silent, a board of directors lacks the power to adopt rules banning them. This is not to say that associations cannot impose reasonable restrictions (they can). Of course, what constitutes reasonable restrictions is, as with beauty, often in the eye of the beholder.
However, associations generally cannot prohibit support animals (such as the emotional support pig shown in the photo above). Both the Arizona and Federal Fair Housing Act require HOAs and condominiums to make reasonable accommodations to ensure that homeowners are afforded equal opportunities to use and enjoy their property and the common areas. An association that refuses a reasonable accommodation can face a lawsuit, damages, and attorneys' fees. Both the state and federal versions of the FHA exist to ensure that individuals with disabilities, whether obvious or not, receive the same rights, benefits, and privileges as their neighbors.
Keep in mind that a homeowner cannot simply declare any animal to be an emotional support animal. You can't just grab any bird out of the air and call it your emotional support pigeon. There are rules and requirements as to what constitutes such an animal and there is usually a certification process that is required.
Associations need to tread lightly when it comes to emotional support animals, in general, and the state and federal Fair Housing Acts, in particular. Please give us a call at 602-274-5400 if you have any questions about your emotional support dogs, pigs, chickens, or other animals.