A Texas court recently ruled that Wilbur, a pot-bellied pet pig, can stay in his home in a Houston subdivision. The homeowners association established rules that forbid pets that were not common and traditional. When a husband, Alex Sardo, gave his wife a pot-bellied pig for Christmas gift, the HOA said that the pet violated the community rules and gave the family 30 days to get rid of it. The family filed suit to keep the pig and won.
The judge said that this case has brought significant attention to HOA restrictions and residents’ property rights. There are numerous blogs and articles about Wilbur, and he’s a hit in social media.
So, yes, he’s increased the attention level of HOA rulings for pets as well as general guidelines. Let’s look at why.
The judge said that “Homeowner’s associations are there, on one hand, to maintain a neighborhood in a particular way, but they also have responsibilities not to infringe too much on homeowner’s use of their land the way they see fit.”
This case highlights the need for HOA guidelines and rules to follow legal definitions and be explicit. Household pets were defined in the HOA rules as “domestic animals commonly and traditionally kept as household pets and shall not include any wild, semi-wild, or semi-domesticated animal.” Two expert witnesses testified that this specific pig breed is and has been bred only as a pet for many years. Thus, the pig fits within the rules.
People have a variety of responses to this ruling. Some feel that it’s a step forward to stop micro-management by HOAs. Others fear that it could diminish HOA authority. This blog isn’t about sides or right or wrong. It’s about the message that HOAs need to take away from this ruling. What can your Board do to reduce the likelihood of this happening in your community?
HOA board members are expected to draft rules that reflect the community’s desires. It’s essential that the rules be compared to court rulings and other legal definitions. Ask your HOA attorney if there are loopholes or unforeseen issues in enforcing the rules. Make sure that rules and amendments are understood by all the community members when you call for a vote.
If you take a little extra time upfront to ensure clarity and legality, you can save a tremendous amount of time and conflict in the future. Wise Property Solutions has experience in working with Homeowners Associations. Call on us if your HOA Board members need direction or support.
Wise Property Solutions serves condominium and homeowners associations by addressing their financial, association and facilities management needs. The only certified and licensed community association management firm serving the Mountain South (Virginia, North & South Carolina, Tennessee) with offices in the Tri-Cities and Knoxville.