County says Yes "HOA" says No WWYD?

Discussion in 'Local Chicken Laws & Ordinances (and how to change' started by LMS, Sep 9, 2012.

  1. LMS

    LMS Out Of The Brooder

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    Our house is 30+ years old, in a subdivision with an optional HOA. (Optional participation, fees are $5/year or something silly like that.) When we bought the house 10 years ago, we asked for the CCRs and got a copy of a fax of a copy made in 1970. It was almost completely illegible.

    We are planning to build a coop and get a few chickens. I checked the county rules and we are allowed to have them in limited number, certain distance from neighbors, etc. Fine. We started to move ahead with the plan when I decided to seek our CCRs online. The HOA has posted the same barely legible document we were given at closing, but parts are readable, including the very clear (or is it?) language that poultry is not allowed:

    "No...poultry...shall be kept or maintained on any part of said property. This restriction should not be construed, however, as prohibiting the keeping of ordinary domestic animals on said property; provided, however, that the Owner, its successors or assigns, shall have the right to order the removal from any lot any birds, fowl, or animals which are objectionable to any residents of an adjacent property."

    So are chickens allowed or not??? The subdivision was built on former farmland, and one end of the division is still horse farms, complete with chickens and roosters I can hear from my yard less than 1/4 mile away.

    Here's the thing:
    My former neighbors had chickens. One day, while they were away, they left their hens free-ranging in the yard. One (or more) had laid an egg and everyone was squawking about it. The lady across the street came over and asked me if the hens were okay b/c they were being "so loud." They were audible. Much quieter than her son's muffler-less car and car stereo. She wasn't exactly complaining, but she seemed unhappy to have them across the street from her house. I don't need a complaint from them.

    Neighbors and chickens have moved away, so we don't have anyone else (other than the farms down the street) for support. And the house is now vacant, which means future owners could complain.

    I don't have anyone to give them to if we are asked to remove them (although I'm sure I could find them good homes, but I don't want to!) and the coop is part of a big investment in our back yard. I'm reasonably certain my hubby will have a conniption if we spend all this money and trouble designing a garden/chicken area in our back yard and then have to get rid of the chickens. And I probably will, too...

    The HOA is optional, but I'm sure that doesn't mean we don't all have to follow their rules, does it?? It seems you only have to pay the $10 to make a complaint against someone, but you don't have to pay to be required to follow the rules.

    The rules are completely unclear to me. The first sentence in my quote above says it loud and clear: NO CHICKENS. And then they say not to interpret it that way. Are chickens "ordinary domestic animals" or not? Seems to me that they are... But I do acknowledge that other than on this forum, they are not generally considered "ordinary pets."

    So.... Would you just move ahead? Call someone to ask first? Hubby always refers to the saying about better to ask permission now than have to beg for forgiveness later. I don't know which path I want to take on this.
     
  2. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Chicken Obsessed

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    You can do whatever you want. The first thing I'd do is get hold of a legible copy of those rules and read them. They have to have a legible copy somewhere. Maybe somewhere in those documents they define an ordinary domestic amimal. Maybe they mean a dog?

    Of course, I'd have gotten a legible copy and read them before I paid the money to buy that house to start with, but that is just me. I know that does not help you now.
     
  3. LMS

    LMS Out Of The Brooder

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    There is no more legible copy available. We asked when we bought the house (from a realtor who actually owned a house in this neighborhood and was the original owner of her home -- even she didn't have an original copy from when she bought her house to share with us). We asked when we met the HOA folks. The HOA themselves have posted the only available copy, which is barely more legible online than the copy we were given. I guess when it's an optional $10/year they don't have the resources to get someone to retype them up... Maybe I should offer my services.
     
  4. HEChicken

    HEChicken Overrun With Chickens

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    My Coop
    An HOA covenant overrides any city or county ordinances, so yes, the way I would read that is that chickens are not allowed. One thing to look into though, is any expiration of the covenant. I don't know a lot about covenants but when we were house-hunting last year, the one thing we knew we did not want was any restrictions. We looked at one property that had covenants in place but they expired 30 years after they were originally signed. I think there was some addendum that they could be reinstated after the 30 years if a majority of the neighbors agreed or something like that, but it might be worth looking into whether your covenants are even still valid.

    If they are, I would not take the risk. As you say, a coop is an investment but there is also the emotional investment of getting attached and then having to get rid of them, not to mention the stress that will put on you and your DH to have to go through that, and the resentment you will feel towards the neighbor who complained.

    In most cases, you can get away with keeping chickens in an area where they are outlawed as long as no one complains. So you *could* go around and get all of your current neighbor's written consent to proceed, and then give it a try. However as you are aware, when neighbors change, the new neighbors might not be happy and make a complaint and/or even a neighbor who has previously consented can change his or her mind, and you will still be forced to give them up.

    I do have to laugh though at the neighborhood around me. I am on 10 acres with no restrictions and our west fence is a tree hedgerow, that divides our property from a neighborhood that consists of 5 houses on 5-acre tracts that share a small man-made lake. That neighborhood has covenants that restrict their use of the land quite severely, including that they are not allowed to have chickens. When we moved in, two of the houses kept chickens anyway, and since we've moved in two more have joined them, and the house closest to our hedgerow now also has goats which I'm sure are also not legal. I couldn't be more delighted to have neighbors sharing a common interest and I was glad when they added their chickens last month because I had worried the crowing of my rooster might bother them but since they now have one of their own, it clearly doesn't.
     
    Last edited: Sep 9, 2012
  5. leadwolf1

    leadwolf1 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    If you do not belong to the HOA, how can you be made to follow their rules? Sound slike a loophole there. Contact an attorney. Most will do a free consult. You should be able to get all the answers you need in that amount of time. Good luck! Please let us know what you find out.
     
    1 person likes this.
  6. LMS

    LMS Out Of The Brooder

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    I just brought it to hubby's attention, and he said, "Yeah, and it also disallows detached buildings like sheds." We JUST built a shed in our back yard for storage. Nearly everyone else in the area has one, too. He had gone to an HOA meeting back in the winter time, just to see what there was to see. The "attorney" for the HOA was there (as a member himself) and basically said that they don't pursue legal action on most complaints b/c there is no money to pay the attorney.

    So if it's legal for the county, and someone complains to the HOA, can the HOA get animal control to come out and remove the chickens like they would if it were against county rules? Or is that not animal control's jurisdiction?
     
  7. leadwolf1

    leadwolf1 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    My best advise..seek out an attorney that will consult for free. That way, you are covered. You don't want to just 'think', you need to know before you purchase the coop and chickens.
     
  8. Breezy_Living

    Breezy_Living Out Of The Brooder

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    I can't but wonder about the enforcement of the "rules" of the HOA as well. If you are not required to pay into it, as an owner, it seems like they created it just to keep out people they don't like and not let disturbances get out of hand, you know? But in the case of a courteous neighbor who simply wants some non-invasive livestock, it doesn't seem like they have any legal rights against you because all you would have to do is appeal to the county, who does allow for poultry.

    I'm not an attorney though, so don't take my words as an absolute, but I would certainly just call around and see if that is true.
    If it's not a mandatory HOA, and you're not a member (plus with other things like neighbors' sheds, goats, and other livestock not required to be removed), how much legal authority do they actually have over you?
     
  9. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Chicken Obsessed

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    That may not be that bad an idea if you are willing to do it. There will be some work and lots of frustration involved, but you would be doing something proactive to solve the problem. If you can read it well enough to type it up you will at least know what's in there. If you can't read it, you may be able to tell how it can be amended or maybe you could propose certain language and see if if is accepted. Maybe you could figure out what you get for that optional $5 or $10 per year or whatever that fee is. Does that gives you voting rights on proposed changes and the right to propose changes?

    There is no way any of us can tell you what is in your HOA covenents. Sounds like your HOA can't either. Those vary from HOA to HOA, let alone county to county or state to state. There are a lot of county or small town enforcement officials that will ignore things unless somebody complains, then they relunctantly have to do something. Some will strictly enforce whatever is in the books. It's just up to the people in charge. Same with HOA's. You don't know what you have and those officials can change. Offer to type those up and they may want you to run for an official HOA office! You never know where becoming proactive can land you.

    I'm the type of person that likes to have things spelled out so I know what the limitations are. That way I can deal with them. Some people are very content to have things nebulous. That's just different personalities. I'd personally be relunctant to build a coop and run and get chickens until I had a better handle on what is going on. But I also believe in trying to work with people to resolve these things between us before I escalate it to lawyers. Since a legible copy is not available, I think I'd be talking to the HOA officials about this. Sounds like the current group is pretty lax which gives you a lot of freedom to do what you want, but I find this can lead to conflict since nobody knows what their boundaries are.
     
  10. LMS

    LMS Out Of The Brooder

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    Yes, it's exactly that. There are countless "violations" of the CCRs running rampant in the neighborhood, so it's easy to see just how lax they are. As long as you're not hurting anyone, you're not wrong. I'm good with that. I'm kind of a mix between hard line rule-follower and anti-regulation. I'm more than willing to comply with whatever rules I agreed to when I bought the house, but those rules aren't exactly clear.

    And there is a much more clear addendum that extends the life of the original/unreadable document to 2020, so I have awhile before I can get a change in place.

    What type of lawyer do I need to contact? I really have no clue about this stuff.
     

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