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restrictive covenants

Discussion in 'Local Chicken Laws & Ordinances (and how to change' started by pufferfish, Jan 21, 2010.

  1. pufferfish

    pufferfish Out Of The Brooder

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    Sep 2, 2009
    This is my story. I am living in Austin Texas and our city is a chicken-friendly city. Before I got my chickens, I've check city ordiance and make sure it's ok to have them in my backyard. After a year later, I got a letter from my utility company(north Austin MUD#1) and claimed they are following "restrictive Covenants" in our neighborhood (It's called Milwood) and forced me remove my 5 hens and 2 ducks. I followed all rules by keeping them clean and lock them in coop and duck cage after dark. They stay in an 20x20 enclosed area in the middle of my yard. Anyway, their lawyer sent me a letter and slapped me with $5000 fee and $200 fine per day because according to "restrictive Covenants" in our neighboorhood, chicken and ducks are considering "livestock". I can't even write to city council because they can't do anything about it. A friendly local chicken lover suggested me to talk to Barbara(Salemchicken.com). Barbara is very helpful and gave me lots help. Therefore, I went to the meeting last night and present my plea to the board members. Before I went to the meeting, I did ask for a copy of CC&R and look into rules regarding to chicken. According to our CC&R "Livestock and poultry. No animals, livestock or poultry of any kind shall be raised, bred or kept on any lot, except any owner may keep no more than two dogs, two cats, or two other household pets, provided they are not kept, bred or maintained for any commercial purpose." In order to change that, all I need is 51% of neighbors' votes but the expiration of our CC&R is 2017, therefore, nothing I can do until 2017.
    During the meeting, they only allowed me three minutes to address my issue, eventhough there were only 3 people wants to addressed their issues to the board. So I used all the tactics that Barbara suggested in her e-mail but they simply just won't listen (such as "I knew people have more than 2 dogs or snake as pet, why can't I have two hens as my pet?") They said "in order to keep the high property value in this neighborhood, I will not permit you to have any chicken" And when I mentioned about going door to door ask for 51% petitions, they said I will have to hire an attonery to verify the authentic of petitions. I even pleaed them to allow me to have two hens to keep as house pet, they still said no (very coldly).
    When I left the room, my teenager daughter was crying. She said that she hated the way they looked at me and treated us badly during the meeting. She said this is the first time she felt like people are treating us differently because our race (we are asians). I know this has nothing to do with the chicken, but I just want to tell you how bad the situtation was. Barbara also suggested me to find allies in my neighborhood by posting my story in this website. I felt so sad and useless. Does anyone who live in Austin Texas have any other suggestions?
     
  2. GardeNerd

    GardeNerd Chillin' With My Peeps

    Oh that is awful. I am sorry to hear about all the trouble.
     
  3. Engteacher

    Engteacher Poultry, Poetry, and Prose

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    Sep 1, 2009
    Hastings, MN
    I am so sorry about your situation. Covenants can be nasty things. We dug ours out last summer to check whether or not chickens were prohibited only to find deeper into the document that the covenant was void after 15 years unless reissued by the home owners association. Since there IS not association, we're free and clear. What a relief!

    I hope your story has a happy ending. Maybe the person who told you that you need a lawyer to verify signatures is bluffing. It might be worth your time to build alliances and change things in your community. Your daughter and you both will regain your sense of pride and power.

    Best of luck and warm wishes are heading your way!
     
  4. pufferfish

    pufferfish Out Of The Brooder

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    Sep 2, 2009
    I studied our CC&R several times and tried to find way to change it. Ours automatically renew every 10 years. The worse thing is, I don't even know where I can go to get allies because Austin is a very liberal and chicken friendly city. I researched on-line and couldn't find any government official who I can write to address this issue. Most of my neighbor is afraid that their household pets will be taken away (because we can only allow 2 household pets). so sad...
     
  5. Slinkytoys

    Slinkytoys Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Jun 22, 2009
    Black Forest
    Surely this isn't a racist problem. You are breaking the rules and were caught. Simple. It doesn't matter that others are doing it as well. If you want to, report the others' offences----but that doesn't change the fact that you are at fault. I sympathize with your situation, it's easy to fall in love with feather butts. Best case scenario is to rehome the birds and move to an area that permits you to have them. I don't mean to sound harsh (I hate covenants and HOA rules) but it seems in this instance they are in the right.
    Slinky
     
  6. pufferfish

    pufferfish Out Of The Brooder

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    Sep 2, 2009
    Oh well, I knew it's my fault and did gave away all my hens and ducks...the reason why I still live here is because my younger daughter is a freshman in high school. Since I just finished my mortgage for this house, I'll move as soon as she graduates. Next time I'll find somewhere don't have HOA (but that's what my last real estate agent told me about this neighborhood)
     
  7. Countrywife

    Countrywife Corrupted by a Redneck

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    Aug 20, 2009
    Carolina
    The law requires that a HOA be disclosed at the time of sale. Go back to the documents they gave you when you bought the house, there should be disclosures in there. Unfortunately, there is little the goverment can do about changing HOA rules, since you agree to them when you purchase the property. Sorry this happened to you. If I were you, I would worry more about reducing that fee they are charging you.
     
  8. Sonoran Silkies

    Sonoran Silkies Flock Mistress

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    Tempe, Arizona
    Quote:Actually, this is not entirely correct. State and local laws are superior to HOA covenants. Also, provisions that are not enforced can become invalid; likewise, the HOA cannot legally be selective in enforcement (enforcing a provision against one neighbor, but not another) or the provision can be ruled invalid. So, if they allow one neighbor to have pets that the document specifically disallow, but do not allow you, you have a valid case to have that provision ruled unenforceable (invalid) by a court of law. That would require you to sue, however. Sometimes, though, the threat of a suit can nudge someone towards compromise.

    How large (number or members/properties) is your HOA?

    So, first, look at your document and see if it contains provisions for changes to the document. Our old document did not, except for a one year opportunity at the end of 30 years, otherwise it would renew without changes for an additional 20 years. When we rewrote it about 10 years ago we made it a living document. It does not expire, but contains provisions that allow changes to made.

    Now look at Texas Law governing HOAs. In the last few years many states have tightened up what HOAs are and are not allowed to do--based upon abusive practices by a few HOAs. For example, in Arizona HOAs used to be able to fine all residents for parking any vehicle in their driveways or on the streets. Some public service employees (electric company, police, firefighter, phone company, etc.) were required by the nature of their employment to drive their vehicles home, but the vehicles were too large to park in a typical garage. State law now specifically says that public service employees cannot be prevented or fined for parking in their driveway or on the street as needed. Used to be some HOAs did not allow people to erect flagpoles and fly a flag; used to be that some HOAs fined people for putting "Children at Play" warning signs on the street in front of their yard; used to be that an HOA could foreclose on a home based upon fines alone; there are a lot more, but all of these have been severely curtailed by state law. While I rather doubt that Texas law will address backyard chickens and HOAs, it almost certainly WILL address your right to speak at board and other association meetings and to petition for changes. I would be very surprised if there is any place in either your documents or state law that requires that an attorney verify your petition, but do check.

    As was already stated, you should have been given the CC&Rs prior to the sale of your home. Who is on the board? How long are their terms, and how long have the individual members been in office? When are the next elections? What is the overall feeling in your community towards backyard chickens? How long were the other homeowners present allowed to address the board? If in excess of 3 minutes each, then your rights have already been violated.
     
  9. pufferfish

    pufferfish Out Of The Brooder

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    we purchased this house back in 1987 and I don't remember much details. I only remember the reason why we purchased it because our real estate agent re-ensured us there is no HOA in this neighborhood. However, I did look checked on the term of our board members. They are elected by whom I don't know (maybe by Austin MUD Utility company), and the term is two years. They all live here in this neighborhood and had other full-time job so I guess they don't really get pay much. Austin MUD#1 utility collect their fee thru our water/sewerage fee. They hired a private management company to enforce deem restrictions. Since everything is done behind closed door, there aren't much we can do about it. I know what they did is unfair, but what can I say? I don't even know where to file a complain.
     
  10. AtHomeDaddy

    AtHomeDaddy Out Of The Brooder

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    Aug 24, 2008
    Austin, TX
    There is an Austin specific Poultry email list that might help you out, http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/austexpoultry/ . Maybe someone on that list has specific info about Milwood.

    I live just a couple of miles from you, at 183 and Oak Knoll, but I am in a neighborhood that never tried to form an HOA. And when I hear stories like yours, I am glad about that! The City of Austin poultry rules are strict enough, it is a shame that your neighborhood thinks otherwise.
     

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