Vague Covenant, but no HOA...

Discussion in 'Local Chicken Laws & Ordinances (and how to change' started by FalcoOat, Jun 23, 2011.

  1. FalcoOat

    FalcoOat Out Of The Brooder

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    May 11, 2011
    Fargo, ND
    I, like so many have a question about restrictive covenants. I was thrilled when I found out our city of Fargo, ND allowed chickens. I had no idea that the neighborhood we lived in have covenants, as apparently it is not customary to receive a copy when you close on your house. (Shouldn't that be required?) We have no HOA, but it sounds like neighbors and the developer have the right to sue if they choose.

    We recently received a visit from the developer b/c he received a couple calls about our structure. Apparently we are in violation of a building covenant that requires our buildings match the style of the house. Even he admitted that he liked what we had done, but I guess that is beside the point. At this point we have decided to repaint and hope that resolves the issue. However, when we were talking about this it came up that we were getting chickens (incidentally, shipping THAT very day!) He mentioned that he wasn't even aware that this was a coop, and that chickens would not be allowed in this neighborhood. The covenant regarding pets reads as such: "No horses shall be kept or stabled on the Premises. No animals of any kind other than customary household pets (including birds) shall be kept or allowed on any part of the Premises. No kennel or other facility for raising or boarding dogs or other animals for commercial purposes shall be maintained on any portion of the Premises." I have read a lot on this on this forum about various wordings of covenants, but am still unsure how successful people have been in winning against 'vague' language like this. I am not entirely sure this will become an issue, but I have a feeling it will. Like so many, I am devastated b/c my whole family has been looking forward to getting chickens, and it looks like we are in jeopardy of giving them up even before they arrive!

    We do in fact view these as family pets, but I fear that will not really matter. I am a little hopeful in that our covenant states nothing about livestock or poultry specifically, but wow 'customary' household pet... not sure if chickens fit into that definition either. Any help on this issue would be greatly appreciated. I just want to make sure we do the right thing. I am not the kind of person who likes to cause trouble, but I also don't liked to be bullied, and with all the barking dogs and such in the neighborhood, I just assumed people would be a little more open minded. <sigh>
     
  2. natrgatr

    natrgatr Chillin' With My Peeps

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    You have restrictive covenants but no HOA? If there is no governing body to enforce the rules, who will do it? I would take my chances. Besides being vague, you weren't informed of the existence of the covenants when you bought your house. If it is not "customary" to receive a copy of the rules when you buy a house, then a good lawyer might be able to free you from them (depends on the state/local laws), especially if you bought from the developer.
     
  3. moetrout

    moetrout Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Did you sign anything that says you agree or will abide by this covenant? I do believe with HOAs you sign them and that is what binds you to those stupid rules. If you did not sign the covenant I don't see how they can enforce it. It is not like it is a county or city code.
     
  4. FalcoOat

    FalcoOat Out Of The Brooder

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    May 11, 2011
    Fargo, ND
    Honestly I have been through all our closing papers and can find nothing about the covenants, but I wouldn't be surprised if it was hidden in there somewhere. Definitely worth looking into. If in fact it turns out we did sign something to this effect, do you think there is any case in the fact that these are birds, and they do include birds as customary household pets, even though I am sure chickens aren't viewed that way by most (yet!) :eek:)
     
  5. LeelooD

    LeelooD Out Of The Brooder

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    Jun 23, 2011
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    That's our situation, too! We have an HOA, but you don't have to sign the covenants and they aren't really binding. When something comes up like one neighbor complains about another's giant RV parked out front, the HOA says there's really nothing they can do. So basically, it's a bunch of busybodies who try to guilt you into doing things their way! We went ahead and got our two hens and put them on the side of the yard next to the neighbor who was in jail most of last year. If he figures out they are there, we don't think he will be ratting us out to anyone! [​IMG]
     
  6. Sonoran Silkies

    Sonoran Silkies Flock Mistress

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    First, don't take someone's word that there are covenants on the property--check to see if any were ever recorded, and if so, the exact wording.

    Second, it says that birds are allowed, chickens are becoming ever more popular as pets, so there is your permission to have them. Just make sure they are legal in your city/town, and be prepared to fight to prove that they are pets. (Oh, and don't get meat birds or plan on using any as such--one doesn't eat one's pets.)
     
  7. FalcoOat

    FalcoOat Out Of The Brooder

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    May 11, 2011
    Fargo, ND
    After looking over our closing documents again, it looks like we didn't officially sign anything directly regarding any covenants, so that might help, although I am never over confident when it comes to 'legal documents.' I am really hoping we have a case on the fact that chickens are birds alone, but I guess I would feel better if I knew that other people had been successful in this regard.

    Oh and for the record we definitely do NOT plan on eating them!
     
  8. JasonLF

    JasonLF New Egg

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    Apr 26, 2011
    Quote:It may have restrictions on what you can do on the land in the deed itself. Though I believe here in Maine this has to be disclosed beforehand.
     
  9. Mac in Wisco

    Mac in Wisco Antagonist

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    Quote:Exactly. Restrictive covenants are normally filed with the county registrar against the the deed, the same as utility easements and such. While some states may require disclosure, it's generally up to the purchaser to research the deed, although such matters are usually identified in the process of obtaining title insurance, when a title search is done. It doesn't matter if you've signed anything or not, you bought a property with deed restrictions.

    It doesn't take a HOA to enforce it. The developer, the neighbors, or anybody with a close interest can try to enforce the covenants through the civil court system. In cases of such vague wording, the courts generally find that the restrictions are unenforceable though.
     
  10. Mac in Wisco

    Mac in Wisco Antagonist

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    Quote:The developer can tell you no and hope that you comply, but only a court can enforce it.

    There's no use in asking or arguing with the developer, he's already made up his mind. Interpret it as you will until the courts tell you otherwise.
     

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