Covenent law I never heard of banning my chickens?

Discussion in 'Local Chicken Laws & Ordinances (and how to change' started by Mattsculpt, Mar 20, 2012.

  1. Mattsculpt

    Mattsculpt Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I have an acre lot in the country, with several other 1 acre properties on the road. we are surrounded by farmlands on all sides.
    I bought my property 6 years ago and I never was notified or signed off on any coven laws. Today one of my neighbors showed up and told me that I can't keep chickens as they are livestock. According to some coven law that is attached to the property no one can keep livestock and he has a lawsuit going on with the neighbor down the road who has goats, chickens,ducks and horses.
    Before I ordered the chickens or built the chicken house I asked at the county records office and there was no restrictions listed on the property.
    I just finished my coop and my chickens were shipped today!
    How can I be held to a property law I was never notified of at the time of buying the property?
    I'm in Crittenden county, Arkansas.
    I bought it from the owner of the development who never said a thing about a coven law.
    What can I do?
    Edited to clarify coven law means covenent law.
     
    Last edited: Mar 20, 2012
  2. MonsterMom

    MonsterMom Out Of The Brooder

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    I'm sorry I can't help you - I don't even know what a coven law is. But the people here are really smart, so I'm sure someone has an answer.
     
  3. Mattsculpt

    Mattsculpt Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Its a Restricted Covenets of the subdivision. I was just now handed a copy of it. Apparently the owner wrote all these up himself but didn't bother to disclose this when I bought the place.
     
    Last edited: Mar 20, 2012
  4. k3llyVA

    k3llyVA Out Of The Brooder

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    Arlington, VA
    Sounds like it might be time for a phone call to a real estate attorney! Do the Restricted Covenants specify chickens or just livestock? If livestock, who gets to define that term? Are the covenants even legal?

    And what's with that neighbor?! So sorry you dealing with this. Maybe go introduce yourself to the neighbors who are being sued- they probably can tell you exactly what you're up against.

    The sticky thread at the top of this forum about "Free Legal Advice" may have some helpful information for you:
    https://www.backyardchickens.com/t/203404/free-legal-advice-is-worth-what-you-pay-for-it

    Good luck!
     
  5. Mattsculpt

    Mattsculpt Chillin' With My Peeps

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    The neighbor who gave me the restrictive covenants paper is sueing another neighbor who has many chickens, ducks, goats and now two horses on a one acre lot. The smell and flies from all the animals make it difficult for neighbor 1 to enjoy his yard. He just now noticed the coop I am building and came down to tell me not to buy chickens. (Too late)
    Neighbor 1 is joined by the development owner in the lawsuit against the livestock owner. I can understand his point of view as that is too many animals on such a small piece of land.
    The real estate covenants state no fowl or livestock, but allow domestic dogs cats and pet birds.
    Apparently my bees and beta fish are not allowed also.

    The folks on the other side of the suite are not folks I want to be involved with.
     
  6. k3llyVA

    k3llyVA Out Of The Brooder

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    Yikes! That's certainly not going to make your job any easier, having someone in the neighborhood who's giving chicken keeping a bad name.

    Hopefully someone with experience with neighborhood covenants will chime in. Now I'm curious to know if you can be held to them if you didn't even know they existed. Wouldn't you have to sign a copy at your real estate closing? I seem to recall having having to sign a copy of the by-laws when I purchased a condo years ago...
     
  7. Mattsculpt

    Mattsculpt Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Well after researching on the internet were to look, I went back over the title insurance pages. I found a notation listing the book and page number of the restrictions buried in a paragraph of legalese.
    So even though the doument itself was never included in the sale documents, the note referring to it was.
    I even checked at the county clerk's office prior to ordering the chickens, but they didn't bother to tell me about any restrictions on the property either.
    I cannot tell you how upset I am.
    I don't know wether to wait and see how the lawsuit turn out or just start looking for new homes for the birds.
    Thanks for the help though.
     
  8. yakibert

    yakibert Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Usually the CCRs of a neighborhood can be changed by some sort of majority vote from the association. You might want to look into that.
     
    Last edited: Mar 21, 2012
  9. Sonoran Silkies

    Sonoran Silkies Flock Mistress

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    Check your state statutes. If you were not notified of restrictions or covenants at the time of sale, and if they were not a recorded public record, including being a part of the plat for the development, there is a really good chance that they are not legal/valid/enforceable. At the very least you have cause for action against the seller who failed to disclose covenants. The county should have been able to find covenants/restrictions when you first requested, and since they did not, I'm wondering how they are showing up now, six years later. Check the dates they were recorded, and compare with the date you closed on your property. If it was after your purchase, they cannot apply restrictions to your property--it is no longer theirs to do so. If it was not WELL before your purchase commenced, you have cause against your seller.

    Typically normal nuisance laws can and do deal with odor, pests, noise, health, etc., which is their legitimate concern.

    You also need to read the whole set of covenants and see how they can be changed; you also need to become conversant with any state statutes that deal with this. More and more states are passing laws to protect those who live in associations with restrictive covenants--making sure that the covenants are not heavily biased against homeowners, and that they have collective control of the association. As an earlier poster mentioned, votes by a large percent (typically 60-75%) of the votes can usually change the covenants. Unless there are significant differences in some properties, it is usually one vote per property. Since you own several, that would mean that you have several votes say in making a change.

    If you do decide to try to make changes, make sure the real nuisances are what are addressed, not the cause of the nuisance. Chances are pretty good that with better care the property owner being sued could have better kept his livestock so that they did not become a nuisance. You might also check into the zoning uses for your development. Zoning typically allows fewer uses on smaller properties than on larger ones. Chances are fairly good that that property owner has more livestock on his land than zoning allows.
     
  10. Mattsculpt

    Mattsculpt Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Thank you for you help Sonorian Silkies
    I spent a bit of time on the phone today and found out that Arkansas State law supports the developers not the purchasers.
    Unfortunately the covenants were in effect 4 years before I bought the property. They were in a public record and that record was mentioned in the title insurance, though buried in a mess of legalese that you'd have to be a lawyer to really understand. I think the reason the clerk couldn’t find any restrictions the first time was because I gave her the subdivision and plat number. While said restrictions are often noted or referred to on plat maps they aren’t always there. These weren’t. Instead they are listed in a separate set of books where you need to know the book and page number to find them. In other words you already have to know they exist and where they are in order to locate them.
    So its my fault for not catching the phrase restrictions in the title insurance and making them come up with said restrictions before I signed. I would have never bought the property had I known of the restrictions beforehand.
    Apparently all the other purchasers bought from the original developer and were given a copy. I didn’t get a copy when I bought my property from the developer's nephew, (the lawyer who is representing the developer’s widow and neighbor 1 in the suit against the animal owning neighbor) .
    There is no way to change the covenants as long as the developer holds 51% of the property. She or her heirs have complete control. Since the other half of the “subdivision” has not sold a single lot in over 10 years and there are 5 lots here that are still in the developer's hands I don’t see that happening any time soon. I only own one lot, out of a group of 13 lots. Sorry for the confusion.
    The HOA is only on paper. There are no amenities, fees, meetings, votes, etc..
    The only thing I find out is one of the developer’s family is listed as Reg. Agent and “LLC Member information is now confidential per Act 865 of 2007”
    In order to get someone to comply with the restrictions a Homeowner has to sue another homeowner, paying his or her own money to bring the case to court.
     
    Last edited: Mar 21, 2012

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