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HOAs and Your Pets: Before Buying, Be Sure the Whole Family is Welcome!

An area couple recently had to find a new home for their beloved dog, a friendly, fifty-pound fuzzball. They found out too late that the family member wasn’t welcome because the Homeowners’ Association in their new neighborhood did not allow dogs over forty pounds. Their sadness could have been prevented by doing a bit of research and getting professional assistance.

If you are looking to buy a home, it is a smart decision to hire a Buyer’s Agent to represent you and your best interests. This real estate agent will uncover any Homeowners’ Association Covenants and Restrictions that might affect your pet-owning family. She or he will make sure that your next purchase fits your needs so that Skippy isn’t out on the street.

A Homeowners’ Association is governed by the rules set forth and recorded in the Covenants and Restrictions (C&R). These are on file at the courthouse and any real estate agent knows how to dig around and find them.  Not all C&Rs are written the same. They often address fencing, number of pets, type of pets and what you can do with your pets. If you breed dogs (responsibly, of course!) you don’t want to move to a community that prohibits dog breeding. If you run a rescue or you foster pets, a home in a community that limits your number of companions won’t work. And fencing? Don’t get me started.Not all Covenants and Restrictions are written the same Click To Tweet

A developer who was in the process of writing restrictions for a new development once told me that he was building  luxury homes and didn’t want fencing. I told him to specify that chaining and tethering were also out because this would then be the option of choice for some people.  He said he preferred underground fencing.

That’s fine until one homeowner has a thick-headed pooch that ignores the beep beep of the collar and charges the fence to freedom.  It only takes one time to have an escape artist who then goes visiting through the neighborhood. Or how about coyotes, bears and other predators that an underground fence won’t keep out of your back yard? Those uninvited visitors could put your children and pets in danger.

The best solution for a developer is to put fencing under architectural approval and specify what type of fencing is allowed.  As a potential home buyer, look at the restrictions carefully and make sure that any fence you want to put up conforms to the neighborhood rules.

Pet limits are always difficult. Some developments think restricting the number to two household pets is reasonable. It’s not reasonable when those two pets are of a different species. A much better compromise (if you are head of an HOA and you are reading this) is to limit homes to two or three pets per species. One development had a very caring restriction; they limited homes to three household pets, but any pets over the age of twelve did not count in the total. That developer is concerned for our seniors. Good for them!

Be careful also of restrictions on dog breeds when considering a home purchase. Not every development is happy to welcome bully-breeds into its community.  As dog lovers, we know this is unreasonable, but we also know that sadly, not everyone agrees. Watch also for weight limits. Often communities are OK with dogs under a certain weight and no larger. Don’t find yourself in the same position as the above-mentioned pet parents.

My best advice has always been to ask for and read any Homeowner’s Association Covenants and Restrictions carefully BEFORE you make an offer on a home. If you have a hard time locating them, ask your real estate agent. Sometimes we have to dig a bit, but these are important documents and it’s worth the time spent looking for these restrictions and any recent amendments that may have been recorded. You are buying a home for the whole family, so let’s make sure it works for the whole family!

Susan M. Young is a long standing Asheville area Real Estate Broker and has been active in dog sports with her Golden Retrievers for over 20 years. She can be reached through her website at

photo credit: DaPuglet The Ball Hoarder Monsieur Boo Lefou via photopin (license)


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