A Good Volunteer Program Is Vital To An Animal Shelter 5 Rules For Solving Pet Problems in Your Homeowners Association – A Guide For HOA Board Members

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5 Rules For Solving Pet Problems in Your Homeowners Association – A Guide For HOA Board Members

The Joneses have a very friendly golden retriever named Sparky. But they let him loose in the common areas of your homeowner’s association, and the mutt bonds with the neighbors and jumps on them to say hello. The neighbors love the Joneses and Sparky, but they’ve asked you to remind them to follow HOA rules and leash their dog.

Or maybe you’re in an apartment association that allows cats, but residents have complained that Mike in unit 249 has 13 of the feline creatures and the smell is becoming noticeable.

If your community association allows pets – but with restrictions – you need a plan to deal with scofflaws. Here are five rules for addressing uncaring landlords in your homeowners association.

1) Enforce the rules. Although you may love pets yourself, people bought into your HOA in part because they liked the rules governing landlord behavior. It’s your job – and duty of loyalty – as a board member of your homeowner association to enforce those rules. It doesn’t matter that Sparky is friendly. If the Joneses are breaking the rules—and their neighbors’ ability to live peacefully is diminished—put on your enforcement hat and do your job as an HOA board member.

2) Document the problem. If the Wilson family lets their dogs out at 6 a.m. every day and lets them bark until they go to work at 7:30 a.m., start taking notes. Create a log of incidents and document them in as many ways as possible. Take pictures, record the barking, and ask disgruntled neighbors in your HOA to write a complaint. Only when you have strong evidence that there is a problem should you approach the owners to resolve it.

3) Look for compliance. Before you come down like an anvil on the landlords in your HOA who are oblivious to the stress their pets cause, try honey first. Either in person or through a letter, explain the problem and ask that it be corrected. It’s hard for owners to get angry or dismissive if you stand up to them, so a personal discussion can resolve the matter more quickly. However, if you take that route, document the discussion immediately afterward. Be specific in explaining the problem and the actions owners need to take, and don’t threaten them with fines or other punitive action. The time may come for threats, but at this stage, they may be counterproductive.

4) Follow up. After you have notified the owner that there have been complaints and sought resolution, check back to assess whether the problem has been corrected. If not, get tough. Now is the time to remind owners of the rules and penalties for breaking them. Review your governing documents to make sure you know your options. Then write a letter explaining the problem, your efforts to solve it, and the fact that it hasn’t been fixed. Explain that if the problem is not corrected within a certain time, you will start the HOA process to deal with the non-compliant homeowners. Keep this promise and take all necessary actions to bring landlords into compliance.

5) Be compassionate. If homeowners are in a difficult position—perhaps they have too many cats or dogs but don’t want to give them up because they’re afraid they’ll be euthanized—volunteer to help. You might think this is above and beyond the call of duty, and you’re probably right. But if you don’t have the time or temperament to help owners, ask an animal lover in your homeowner’s association to pick up the score. The job may require calling local shelters or posting pet information on adoption websites, but chances are the outcome will be positive. If you take that route, everyone wins.

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