How enforceable are subdivision restrictions? (small update 2/28)

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by chad76, Feb 27, 2008.

  1. chad76

    chad76 In the Brooder

    Feb 27, 2008
    I have been researching and considering getting my own "backyard chickens" (just 2 or 3 hens). I bought an 8 year old house from an individual (NOT from the subdivision developer) and have been living there 5 years. There is NO homeowners association.

    To make sure it was legal to keep a few chickens in my backyard, I contacted the state dept of Agriculture. I was told it was okay and they even told me where to get chickens tested for illness free of charge. Next, I looked at the actual laws for my parish (I live in Louisiana, outside of the city limits). There was nothing there to prevent keeping chickens. Everything was in order until I decided to look up the restrictions (covenants) for my subdivision and found that they don't allow chickens... not even as pets.

    So, my question is... how enforceable are these restrictions? I'm 99% sure I never signed anything agreeing to follow them. The guy that owned the house before me actually bought the lot (from the development corp) and built the house, so I wouldn't be surprised if he had to sign something. The transaction between us didn't involve the developer at all. The introduction to the restrictions also states, "...shall be binding upon each and all of the transferees of each of said lots..." Is it just supposed to be understood that I have to follow this set of rules that I have never seen until I went to the courthouse and looked them up myself?

    Personally, I don't think they do much to enforce them... but I don't want to spend the time and money and find out they do. My neighbor actually built a workshop that violates the restrictions right after I moved in. I asked the "development corporation" about it (only because the roof actually just barely crosses the fence... rain water runs from his roof into my yard) and they said they didn't see a problem with it since the fence was a few inches on his side of the line anyway (never mind the restrictions say buildings should be 7 FEET from the line). :|

    Any advice on whether I'm legally bound to this would be GREATLY appreciated!

    Last edited: Feb 28, 2008
  2. speckledhen

    speckledhen Intentional Solitude

    They are completely enforcable, if someone wants to enforce them. They supercede county and city laws, in fact. If there is no HOA now, there is probably no one to enforce them, unless some nasty person looks up or knows the covenants and wants to make a point of it. If it was me and someone complained, then I'd tell them to go back and enforce all other covenants that have been violated first. Bet they won't.
  3. chad76

    chad76 In the Brooder

    Feb 27, 2008
    Quote:Thank you for the quick response!

    My dad suggested something similar. He said to drive around and make note of anything I see that's already in violation. If someone complains, tell them I'll get rid of the chickens IF everyone else has to follow all of the rules.

    So... how would someone enforce the restrictions if they decided to? Civil court?

    Just as a side note: My dad is the one that got me interested in the idea of having a few egg-laying hens. He's planning to get 6 chickens (he lives on 3 acres) and told me about the eglu. That's over my budget, but that's what got me thinking about having my own. He also pointed me to this site.

    Also... I'm reading the fine print looking for a loophole or anything. I did find that, if all lots have been sold (and I'm pretty sure they have), the restrictions can be amended by a majority of the owners of the lots. That would take a lot of work, but I guess it's worth a shot.
  4. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

    Apr 20, 2007
    Ontario, Canada
    It seems to me that any chickens you keep will be there on the goodwill and forbearance of your neighbors. As long as you are on good terms with everyone and stay that way, you would probably be fine. But it would probably be very much worth doing whatever you can to, er, maintain and enhance that situation [​IMG]

    At a minimum, you would prolly want to make sure that your coop fits in as nicely as possible with whatever the neighborhood aesthetic tastes seem to be, and does not in and of itself violate any covenant rules such as distance from property lines.

    It is all well and fine to say "if someone complains, I will tell them to enforce all the *other* violations as *well*", but in fact life does not really work that way, and there is absolutely no reason on earth why someone who takes a dislike to you or your chickens can't successfully press the matter no matter how many people are violating *other* rules around you. So it would be good to be cautious, and become popular, perhaps by having extra eggs to hand out [​IMG]

    Good luck,

  5. chad76

    chad76 In the Brooder

    Feb 27, 2008
    Quote:That's true... but with 2 or 3 hens, I don't expect to have enough eggs to be that popular! [​IMG] Part of me wants to try to get the restrictions amended... but I know that will be an uphill battle. Everyone in this area immediately thinks of commercial chicken houses and how bad they stink. The other part of me wants to get them and hope nobody notices, but that wouldn't last too long. The guy that built the shed with the roof that crosses the line... his house sits higher than mine and he can see into my backyard even with my 6 foot privacy fence. He's pretty nosy.

    So... how loud are 2 or 3 hens?

    Thanks for the advice!
    Last edited: Feb 27, 2008
  6. speckledhen

    speckledhen Intentional Solitude

    So... how loud are 2 or 3 hens?

    That, my friend, just depends on the hens. They pretty much all cackle when they lay an egg; some like to tune up beforehand, some do it when others lay an egg, etc.​
  7. chad76

    chad76 In the Brooder

    Feb 27, 2008
    Quote:That, my friend, just depends on the hens. They pretty much all cackle when they lay an egg; some like to tune up beforehand, some do it when others lay an egg, etc.

    So, it probably wouldn't take long before I have him looking over my fence.

    I guess my only real option is to try the amendment route. I found something on here where someone was working to change the laws in their city... I'll look at that later and see if I can't come up with something to show my neighbors and talk them into amending the restrictions. I live in a fairly large subdivision, but the restrictions specify "Unit 3" of my subdivision. I'm sure all the other units have the same rules, but I should only need to get the majority of my "Unit" to support it.

    Thanks again!
  8. JaciesCoop

    JaciesCoop Songster

    Aug 16, 2007
    You had an interesting question and one I was curious about having served on an HOH board for 10 years (I now live in the country way a way from the city).
    So I called my hubby who is CEO for the Realtor Assoc in AZ. He went to the in house attorney.
    Her were her comments when she called me back.

    "He needs to check his contract of purchase because if there were covenants then by law they had to be disclosed and he had to sign an agreement to them when he signed all the sale papers.

    But if there is no HOH to enforce them then who is going to complain to whom?

    But if the subdivision was approved by the city with the covenants then someone could complain to the city if the covenants are on record and then it would probably be up to code enforcement. "

    Then she said. "If he gets the chickens and someone complains the worse they can do it tell him to get rid of the chickens!"

    Hope this helps
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 27, 2008
  9. d.k

    d.k red-headed stepchild

    * you might be surprised by how much 3 hens can lay, too! [​IMG]
  10. arlee453

    arlee453 Songster

    Aug 13, 2007
    near Charlotte NC
    The covenants are part of the deed of purchase around here and are disclosed and signed as part of the home purchase process. Get a copy of your deed of trust and any other relevent documents you signed when you closed on your home.

    Some covenants do go from owner to owner when a home is sold, others may be just riders for the first owner, etc.

    Either way, if there is no homeowners and you stay small and get no roosters I would doubt you will get any grief.

    OR do my favorite route and get SILKIES. When someone asks, they aren't chickens...they're 'rare asian ground parrots'.

    Good luck!

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