New Royal Court Case to determine if chickens can be pets in HOAs

Discussion in 'Local Chicken Laws & Ordinances (and how to change' started by jandeligans, Feb 6, 2014.

  1. jandeligans

    jandeligans New Egg

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    Feb 6, 2014
    I read with interest this case about chicken zoning. I am the secretary of a group called "Hensforth" which has formed to support 7 people in Eldorado at Santa Fe in NM who are being sued for having hens on their lots. Our covenants do not specify any particular animal can be a pet or not. They specify some requirements - reasonable numbers, on the lots, kept as pets, no nuisance and no commercial purpose. We claim these hens (we recognize that roosters would make too much noise) are pets. And that our covenants should allow them. Indeed in the 40 years of Eldorado history many people have had pet hens with no issue. Problem is, we have a new group of homeowners who are led by some retired lawyers who are trying to change the formerly peaceful neighborhood into a country club - or more like a military base. We have 1- 4 acre properties in a scrub desert setting. Many of our older homes are passive solar and southwest architecture. Horses are allowed on lots above 3 acres. You wouldn't believe the animosity and hatred that has been generated over this. One anti-chicken person said at a Board meeting "If 51% don't want chickens and 49% do then the 49% should just move out." And that is mild. So we have been through a lot - mediation, depositions, summary judgments and so far nothing has helped resolve it. Hensforth raised over $20,000 through 2 yard sales and 2 music events that we put on and that has covered our legal costs so far. The HOA spent at least $20,000 last year on 2 lawyers and have budgeted $35,000 for this year but it may go way above that. We do a lot of legwork for our lawyer to keep the costs down. But March 24th now it will go to court. If we win, that chickens can be pets within our covenant language then many other city codes and HOA covenants might use it as a precedent for other cases. Chickens clearly are recognized as pets but they can also be livestock. Our defendents (my friends) all have pet hens only. They take their hens to the vet if needed, care for them for life and enjoy them. If anyone else fought any battles, especially around the pets issue, I'd love to hear about it. I was on the Board of the HOA when this was all percolating and it was a depressing experience to see such ignorance and narrow mindedness. I am all for letting people live their lives in freedom as long as they respect other's freedom and don't create any nuisance. This whole episode is based on our HOA's lawyer who irrationally keeps saying "A chicken can never be a pet" no matter what evidence is in front of him. Wish us luck!
    You can read the background on our case at hensInEldorado.com or facebook/hensineldorado

    I think anyone should be allowed to keep a few hens as pets because they can be pets.
     
  2. downrangechick

    downrangechick Out Of The Brooder

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    I agree with you and wish you guys all the luck. I have chickens, turkeys, ducks, rabbits dogs and cats as pets. They are great for the soul because they bring happiness. It is hard to have neighbors that are cold hearted people that don't find enjoyment in their life and want to make everyone around them feel like that. Good luck! I'm sending positive vibes. :D
     
  3. Sonoran Silkies

    Sonoran Silkies Flock Mistress

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    As an HOA member, the $$$$$ being spent by your HOA are YOUR dollars. Is the HOA spending all that money a wise use of its resources, in your opinion? To what extent does the membership support this fight (not have an opinion on one side or the other,of it, but support spending all the money to legally dispute it? It would be one thing if the anti-chicken faction were suing the HOA, and it had to defend its actions, but in this case they are the ones who apparently initiated the suit.

    Read up on your state's statutes pertaining to HOAs (in Arizona law, they are listed as Planned Communities) to see what if any protections you do/don't have against run-amok HOAs. Arizona has a pretty reasonable amount of protections against HOAs built into its statutes, but some states do not.

    That you can document the existence of pet chickens throughout the HOA's 40 year existence with no enforcement against them probably means that they are now protected as pets so long as they are treated as pets.

    Thoroughly read your CC&Rs, Bylaws and Rules and see what it takes to force a membership vote to either remove board members and/or disallow them from continuing the suit. Put it to the neighborhood as a money issue, as well as protecting their property rights. Changing CC&Rs usuallly takes a very large percentage of the membership (typically 2/3rds or 3/4ths). Changing Bylaws is usually much easier; the board usually is the entity that can make rules, but only within the scope allowed by the CC&Rs and Bylaws.
     
  4. gorillatron

    gorillatron New Egg

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    Aug 23, 2013
    I am going through the same thing but in California.

    Here is what you need to do:

    1) Read all of your CC&Rs. Look for language that says stuff like "if there is a conflict with the CC&R and state or local law, the state and local law shall prevail." This language will not be in the "animal section" but somewhere else. It has been put there to resolve conflicts in your badly written CC&Rs. My CC&R has a clear conflict because it says all animals are subject to the city code.

    2) If they fine you make sure that they did it by the book. Mine did not. I took them to small claims court for a fine paid under protest. They showed up at court and attempted to counter sue me in Superior Court. The judge denied their motion. Now what they did was spend $5,000-$10,000 of HOA money on a failed attempt to play hardball. This made the HOA board look like idiots to spend such money. Because of the counter suit there is a movement to remove the board for a breach of fiduciary duty.

    3) Get letters from all your neighbors that you share a property line with that the hens do not cause a problem. None of mine objected to this. This means that they did not complain. Furthermore, I found out that the HOA had asked them if they can take photos of my hens from their property. They all refused. They were angry at the HOA for even asking such a ridiculous thing.

    4) Get letters from some local Realtors that say the keeping of hens do not bring property values down. I have several. All the Realtors also said that barking dogs are more of an issue. One stated that an aggressive HOA will bring your property values down.

    5) You might need to argue that hens are pets. If you are not raising them for profit or food then they are not poultry in the sense of livestock. They are birds.

    6) CC&Rs are a contract. Contracts can be renegotiated. For them to be enforced they need to be reasonable and equally enforced.
     
  5. smnytx

    smnytx Out Of The Brooder

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    Is there any update on this case? I would appreciate any legal precedent I can cite.

    A homeowner in my neighborhood (not close by) saw pictures of my hens that I foolishly posted on Facebook. Mind you, I have had them for SEVEN YEARS, raised from one day old, and they are our pets. She ratted me out to the Property manager, who sent a Deed Restriction Violation letter. I have requested to be added to the agenda for the next board meeting to discuss the hens-as-pets issue, as well as the fact that they are ordering me to remove my pets based on social media "evidence." In seven years there have been ZERO noise or smell or any other kind of complaints. All of my adjacent neighbors know about my hens and like them. Hell, one of them has a tortoise in his yard, and another neighbor on the other end of the development keeps a screechy parrot outside.

    Anyway, I digress. The rules in our D/Rs are very nebulous and open to interpretation, which is why I got the hens in the first place. And a board member has already told me that they won't check to see if I've complied, as they can't enter my property without permission, so the whole thing is kind of silly.

    Let me know how your case turned out.
     
  6. gorillatron

    gorillatron New Egg

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    I ended up being sued in California Superior Court over 2 hens by my HOA. Here is the short story of what happened.

    1) I took the HOA to small claims court over a $100 fine.
    2) Before the Small Claims case the HOA filed a Superior Court case. However, they did not utilize ADR (alternative dispute resolution) before the case was filed. It is illegal for an HOA to file a case in civil court against a homeowner per the DavisSterling act in California.
    3) I tired to work things out with the HOA but they wanted me to pay several thousand dollars of their legal fees. I told them no way.
    4) The HOA filed an amended complaint with an injunction against my chickens.
    5) I filed a demure in response because they could not certify that ADR had taken place or been offered.
    6) Next I got the property management company removed as I threatened to recall the HOAs board of directors.
    7) I ended up running a recall against the HOA board of directors anyway because they were jerks.
    8) Recall worked, it seems people in the HOA liked the chickens more than board members who are unreasonable.
    9) Case was dismissed.
    10) I filled a court motion for costs and fees because they did not follow the rules.
    11) I have court order against the HOA for several thousand dollars.
    12) I sold the house and moved to an non-HOA community.

    The above was a lot of work. I don't recommend it to anyone. Also, the only winner here were the attorneys and myself because I made them play by their own rules. I estimate that this whole adventure cost the HOA about $10,000-$15,000 in legal fees.

    Also, chickens are allowed in the city, up to 10, the CC&Rs stated that the HOA go with the city code. The city code had provisions and rules for chickens making an exception to their rules.
     
    1 person likes this.
  7. the unicorn

    the unicorn Out Of The Brooder

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    good for you!!!! its nice to see a red-blooded american fighting to protect their rights!! but the real moral is dont live in a dictatorship like an hoa community. its like a communist compound of some kind! we are all better off being free to do as we please in life! if you can afford to live in that kind of place take less than a third of that money and own several acres and a nice cottage on ebay lets say, so then the only one to answer to is yourself! its nice to hear a success story of preserving our rights to live free as americans and have our resources!
     
  8. the unicorn

    the unicorn Out Of The Brooder

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    using the term 'ratted you out' insinuates you feel you were doing something wrong. is it legal for you to own hens there? hens are not pets they are a food resource. eggs and meat when they stop laying. as americans we have the right to produce our own resources as our founding fathers did before us and made our nation wealthy and powerful doin it. but hens as pets? i dont know about that one! if you only keep them for the fun of it as pets and are not being used for their food purposes,thats no different than say like a hippo tied up in your yard or an alligator living in your pool; just an exotic or strange 'pet'; its hard to argue the practical applications of having chickens when you dont raise them for practical purposes like our rights to live and survive and have a resource; by calling them 'pets' your calling them 'un nessicary' farm animals whose continued exsistence is not going to affect your continued resources of sustanence. i think you better substitute the word 'resource'for the word 'pet'. it can give a better argument. you can also argue they are gettin elderly and wont be around much longer to at least try and stall for time. without knowing your exact laws and codes its difficult to offer any other ideas to you you on your situation. i hope something ive said here helps in some way. poultry keepers need to stick together when the forces of modern society make our lives difficult.
     
  9. the unicorn

    the unicorn Out Of The Brooder

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    hens are not pets. they are a food resource. we have the rights to be self-sufficient productive independent american citizens and live and sustain ourselves. but we do not nessicarily have the inherent rights to have 'pets' especially if those 'pets' are farm animals. dogs cats parakeets goldfish turtles snakes those are pets. pigs cows chickens sheep and goats are food resources.not 'pets' as defined in lots of areas nationwide. i suggest you change your wording in your defense to resource rather than pets; pets are far harder to defend than a resource;
     
  10. jeeblah

    jeeblah New Egg

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    Feb 5, 2015
    Hi Jandeligans, what was the update on your chicken issue after march 4, 2014? Mine is still being discuss by the board of directors. They labeled it (the CCRs violation). I don't understand why they call it a violation when there were four board of directors knew about my chickens in my property and consenting it since 2011 and never sent me a violation notice. Now they are fining me $100 by monthly and law suits if i don't remove them. The board of director's lawyer who happens to have chickens suggested to them that the should just let me keep my chickens for five years or until they died and not replace them. they denied his suggestion saying that after google search that chickens can live up to 18 years. Our city Coupeville Washington has a chicken ordinance in 2010 permitting chicken/hens within the town to encourage a healthy lifestyles and to supports efforts to grow produce and keep chicken/hens. They have never enforce the covenant for so long until my husband and a board member had an altercation in July 2014. Now that board member is reciting the covenant and listing all my violations that are almost 15 years old.
     

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