Can a HOA Charge Dog Owners an Extra Fee?

For today’s blog I’m going to jump right in and answer a question from one of my readers, M.N. from Arizona…

I read your selection on issues with dog poop in HOA’s. I live in an HOA where that is a problem. I have two dogs and my dogs are not leaving poop in the community. I am not on the HOA board. We have tried the neighborhood watch, but it did no good. The HOA board is now to the point that they are going to pass a rule that ALL dog owners pay an extra HOA fee due to them having to hire a dog poop scoop service. Is this legal, and could the HOA make such a rule? What about the cats that wander the community and their poop? What about the swimmers paying extra for the use of the pool?  This could go on and on. I believe a forced fee for dog owners is illegal, as it discriminating against some of the homeowners in the community. Is the HOA able to impose this “dog owner fee” on us when there is no proof of our dogs leaving poop?  I need some help with this please.
Sincere Regards, M.N.

M.N., the short answer to your question is no, they cannot do what they are trying to do.

While I’m not an expert in the exact language of Arizona law, I feel comfortable enough on this issue to say that, despite any language I’m unaware of, it’s extremely unlikely that your association can charge dog owners an extra fee, no matter how messy a problem they have.  Put simply, state laws, as well as documents, give an association the power to assess owners proportionally based on ownership or shares in the association, and that split generally cannot be changed without 100% agreement of the owners.  So, for example, whether or not you use the community pool, you need to pay your portion of maintaining it.  In fact, even if you never leave your house, it still doesn’t absolve you of your duty to pay assessments towards maintenance of the common elements.

I’m assuming, M.N., that your documents either explicitly allow dogs or doesn’t address the issue.  If either is the case, dogs are allowed on the property.  Now, assuming there’s no language in the documents that specifically sets up a fee or security deposit for dog ownership, the association cannot now impose such a fee just because they are having a maintenance problem.  Just like a pool or clubhouse, every owner in the community must bear the cost of maintaining the common elements, whether or not they use the service (in this case, own a dog).

Also, I’m assuming that you are an owner, and not a tenant.  The rules regarding renters are a bit more flexible, and an association could probably require renters with pets to provide a security deposit to the association.

Now, that having been said, an association generally CAN require an owner who has damaged the property to pay for any repair that is required.  So, and this is admittedly a bit convoluted, let’s assume that the association has cameras everywhere, and catches an owner not picking up after their pet.  And let’s assume that the dog poop left on the ground kills an azalea nearby.  The association could probably go after that owner for the cost of damaging the azalea.  But, like I said, that’s a real stretch, and it’s more of a technically permissible option than a realistically implementable one.

So the short answer is, no, your association  cannot charge a “pet fee” to cover the cost of maintaining the property.  The association has a duty to maintain the property either way, and all owners have a duty, together, to pay that cost.

Thanks M.N., and I hope this helps out!

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One Response to Can a HOA Charge Dog Owners an Extra Fee?

  1. troystevenson3 says:

    I am a Condo complex manager and we have constant dog battles between owners and the board. The HOA rules for dogs on site are

    1. Only owners can have dogs on the grounds.
    2. Renters are not aloud to have any dogs. Even is it is just visiting. (say a friends dog) They will be finned if caught in possession with a dog.
    3. Family members that visit a family condo may not bring a dog unless the owners on the condos title is present.

    I find these rules to be very out of line and overly hostel. Why can an owner have a dog but not a renter? Shouldn’t it be the owners desision if his renter can have a pet? Not the board. THey tell me that it’s their insurance company that implied these rules for them but they just don’t make since. I have a lot of owners there that would love to know if the board is just being a holes or if they are not telling them the truth.
    Thanks

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