HOA problems in GA...


In the Brooder
11 Years
Jan 15, 2009
Flowery Branch, GA
I am having difficulty with my HOA regarding my backyard pet chickens. Our covenants are very vague and my local ordinance allows chickens. Please read what I have and give me any insite, help, etc on this. Plans for my structure were approved - I did not have to state the purpose of my structure - it looks like a playhouse. The HOA says they may change the covenants to 'no' chickens, so trying to figure out if they have to grandfather me in or not. Here is what I have:

HOA Covenant reads:
Animals: No Animals, including birds, insects and reptiles, may be kept on any Lot unless kept thereon solely as household pets and not for commercial purposes. No animal shall be allowed to become a nuisance. No structure for the care, housing or confinement of any animal shall be constructed, placed or altered on any Lot unless plans, specifications and location for said Structure have been approved by the ACC (Architectural Control Committee).

Thanks for your help.
They haven't got a leg to stand on. Unless there is an additional provision that prohibits livestock or poultry or fowl, the terms are vague enough that having pet chickens is allowed--even a pet rooster. Make friends of your nearby neighbors and share eggs. Do NOT sell eggs--that would make you commercial. Ask nearby neighbors to write a letter in your behalf to the board expressing their approval for pet chickens. Make sure you keep the appearance clean, neat & tidy, and that you don't break covenants or rules.

How easy/difficult is it to change the covenants? It should be difficult, and it should be something the board cannot do on its own. Bylaws are another issue--and they may (or may not be allowed to make those changes--also check your state laws governing HOAs.

Grandfathering depends on your state laws, but generally once a use is there it cannot be denied, and would be grandfathered; however they could say "no" to additional chickens or to replacing the ones you have.
You can fight HOA, but it's not like fighting the government. Get written statements from neighbors saying they are ok with it. Talk to the board members one on one and just be nice, tell them they are pets and if there is a misunderstanding your sorry etc. Also invite them over to see them, most people boast BLAH BLAH BLAH dirty animals and then go AWWWW when they see the little guys. The key here will be to be nice and work with the council.

If all this fails sue the HOA and see if you can compromise that way, I prefer being nice etc first.

It depends on the State rules governing what a HOA can do if they can make a new rule retroactive. I moved from an abusive HOA that I fought a few times, and lawyers seem to scare them. I never had to pay one a lot, just enough to draft a letter for me with there logo and send it.
Thanks! To answer a few of your questions...

I only have 6 hens in a 6 x 6 house that looks like a playhouse. It is cleaned out daily, no odor, very clean!!!
Our county does allow chickens, they are considered fowl and it the county & state they are classified as domestic animals. I have a letter from the county stating that my address, within the nieghborhood, does not have restriction pertaining to chickens.

Also, we had a HOA meeting yesterday w/ homeowners - many stated that I should move to the country if I wanted chickens, said other 'ignorant' statements, and some stated they never knew I had them and didn't mind at all. My next door neighbor likes them (he is my only immediate neighbor, the rest of my property surrounded by woods.) I'll be looking into the Ex Post Facto Law and if it applies if they decide to change the covenants.

Why is it when we try to do something "green" and more healthy & education for our family on our own property we are punished for it? What has happened to America?
How large is your HOA, that will likely make a difference in how easy it is/isn't to deal with them. Another question is whether they are managed by a management firm or are they self-managed. If by a management firm, be polite, but don;t try to negotiatre with them--they are simply hired hands to implement policy and rules as determined by the board.

The CC&Rs are a legal contral between you and your HOA. There are rights and restrictions on both sides, and generally one side cannot change the contract without agreement from the other.

Yes, HOAs, especially smaller ones, do not like the idea of being sued--costs are generally awarded to the prevailing side, which means that if you win a lawsuit they would have to cover all your attorney fees and court costs--this can be a LOT of money.
Our HOA consists of 4 members and the ACC (Architectural Control Committee) has 3 members. They are all volunteer homeowners and no management company involved.
I assume you mean four board members, not four homes?

This is not an architectural issue--structures (and sometimes colours and plantings) are their purview.

Who is talking about making the changes to outlaw chickens?
oops, yes I meant 4 board members...

At the meeting, the president mentioned it...if the homeowners & board decided to amend the covenants...they would either outlaw chickens in the subdivision OR they would allow them w/ certain restrictions, limit # per household, etc. I think they are concerned about the future and if other homeowners have chickens, then they won't keep them as clean and nice as I have....and I understand that. If that is the case, they need to limit the # of dogs, cats, snakes, pet rats, etc too.
Well, the ACC's main idea is control, which is why I hate those things-bunch of busybodies run them, usually. So, you can have pet chickens, but not build a house for them without their say-so. So, get approval for a playhouse. Later, if the pet chickens just happen to move into it, oh well. As they stand now, seems you can have a few pet chickens, but they'd have to live in your house.
Guess you'd better get those pets before they change the covenants, then if they exclude chickens, you should be able to claim grandfathering.
In general, how restrictive are your covenants? I'm guessing not because of the lack of typical boilerplate in the portion you cited. Changing the covenants is probably pretty difficult (check to see the percentage of howeowners who must approve a change), and I expect it will be at least 50%; possibly even 2/3rd, and that is likely to be of the entire membership, not just those voting. Changing bylaws and rules is usually easier, but they can't conflict with the covenants, at least not an be legally binding. What they can do is make rules about cleanliness or odors.

Make sure that you maintain an interest in the direction they are heading--you might even volunteer to put together a set of rules relating to pets (notice I've changed the focus from pet chickesn to pets in general). Address noise from a standpoint that is not arbitrary--mention decibels and/or duration/frequency--and does not specify a particular animal (you could make it general enough to include loud music and parties), address odors and flies from the overall standpoint of sanitation, not from the standpoint of "oh my gosh it's a 'dirty' chicken!"

Become involved and participate. And take a few fresh eggs to each of the board members.

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