HOA Rules Gone to the Dogs

I have spent part of the past three weeks working with one of our buyer clients looking for the perfect condominium. They are the nicest people. (Note to other clients: All of our clients are the nicest people.) They are well qualified, they have high FICO scores, and they have a 20% down payment. They are also very flexible, and we have seen many properties that would work perfectly for them. So, you ask, why haven’t we succeeded in getting into escrow?

Because, nice as they may be, they have a scarlet letter. His name is Bob Barker.

OK, I made that up. I don’t actually know his name – he has requested anonymity in case this thing ends up going legal — but this fellow who we shall call “Bob Barker” is a dog.

Bob is not just any dog, mind you, and that’s the problem. I am told he weighs in at a whopping 45 pounds. While this is not enough to bench press Elvis (the old Elvis in the jump suit, not the other one), it is certainly enough to put a respectable dent in one’s sofa.

So what we have here is a case of the dog wagging the house tale, which is as it should be. Bob is a member of the family. While he is not a dependent in the strictest IRS sense, he doesn’t (strictly speaking) have any visible means of support other than my nicest among nice clients. (Did I mention they are nice?) Which means, where they go, he must necessarily follow. And, what I have learned over these past few weeks is that while many condominiums permit pets, most have pet restrictions. You need to confirm the “pet policy” in each case, since they all seem to be different. The listing agents and the MLS rarely help since most agents do not appear to have the time or interest to call the HOA property manager and determine the pet facts before listing the property.

But here is the real kicker – the blatant discrimination, the assault on all that is just and decent. Why, in one project, is a 29 pound dog okay while a 31 pound dog is not? Sure, if we are going to discriminate, there has to be a cutoff, but the point at which the various HOAs have determined that man’s best friend is no longer an adorable, scruffy, whimsical companion but a bloated, gluttonous beast in need a of a Pilates regimen is random at best. Sometimes it is 30 pounds, other times 35 pounds, and still others, 15 is the magic number beyond which there is no room at the inn.

How is it that an HOA can blatantly discriminate like this? It’s arbitrary and capricious. Take my dog, Simon, please. He only barks when someone comes to the door (and when I am holding something that appears edible) which, in the case of the former, is exactly when a dog should bark. Do HOAs think that little dogs bark less or less loudly? That’s crazy talk. I have encountered plenty of little yippee dogs that are obnoxious barkers (none of whom belong to my clients, who are all very nice, by the way – and responsible).They bark every time they hear a sound (yippee dogs, not my clients). And what happens when the 30 pound dog gains weight and becomes a 40 pound dog, thus exceeding the weight limit? Does the HOA make the owner put their dog on a diet? Are they reported to their lender who in turn is compelled to call the loan?

I am assuming it is the barking issues, but maybe it’s the waste product issue. But how can you discriminate against a bigger dog with theoretically larger do-do if the waste product is promptly picked up and removed?  I know some little dogs that are really messy, poop a lot and bark incessantly. Why aren’t they barred from condominium projects?

Let’s consider the Lhasa Apso, which weighs in at approximately 13 to 15 pounds. According to BetterHousekeeping.com, “Alert and watchful, these dogs are suspicious of strangers and will bark in alarm.” These dogs were originally guard dogs for the monasteries and palaces of Tibet. I am guessing that the guys in charge of monastery security weren’t taking any chances.

Llasa apso

Now, consider the Golden Retriever. Simon Berg weighs in at 95 pounds, assuming he skipped breakfast. He is suspicious of no one. A poorly organized gang of hooded strangers could be busy carrying our television and toaster oven out the rear window, and he would sleep through it. He eats rocks.

Simon

Who do you want as your neighbor?

I have not checked the data, but I will bet that condominium projects that permit pets have a higher average sale price than comparable projects that don’t. And I’ll bet that the projects without restrictive, biased rules have even better sales results.

I had a neighbor once that liked to wash his cars in the driveway while wearing a Speedo. Give me a Rottweiler any day, yet I respected my neighbor’s right to look silly. These puppy-hating HOAs are setting a dangerous precedent. Banning random, healthy dogs is the first step. Next, my neighbor will be cited for offensive swim wear, and before you know it, the HOAs will be slapping a weight limit on me. Something really should be done.

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