Some of the most common issues HOA boards deal with are pet-related. Loud, barking dogs are often a problem that comes up in many HOA communities. Handling this issue can become quite complicated since the owner often sees the dog as a family member, loved by the kids and the rest of the household.
This problem is not as simple as removing unwanted fencing or landscaping. It is also understandable that a barking dog can keep a neighbor awake and create a very frustrating experience. Wanting peace and quiet is a reasonable expectation. However, this recipe for hostility can pit one neighbor’s best friend vs. another neighbor’s ability to sleep.
There are rules and procedures the board can follow. But helping to find a resolution before the problem escalates to the level of fines or more punitive actions is a better outcome for all involved. Below are suggested steps to take when dealing with this sensitive issue.
Enforcing the HOA Rules
The board should first check the governing documents to be sure of the rules related to noise and nuisance. Often there is not a specific provision about pets but general guidelines on disturbance and noise. This can make enforcement more complex, so the board may consider amending their rules to include and address pet-related noise specifically.
Some examples of pet-related language that HOAs have used include, “nuisance noise from a dog is defined as barking, yelping or whining for more than 5 minutes in any 1 hour.” Or, “excessive barking is barking that is persistent and occurs for an extended period or on a repeated basis. When determining if barking is a violation, consideration will be given to the time of day, duration, and frequency of barking.”
And even if there are rules about noise, whether specifically about pets or not, they can be subjective. What is excessive or a nuisance to one person might not bother someone else.
Whether you are drafting new rules or they’re already included in your governing documents, once a complaint has formally been raised, the board must address it. Usually, the board will want evidence that the homeowner is violating the rules. The complaint may have some details, but collecting any more substantial evidence such as video or audio helps support the filing resident’s case with the board. It also prevents any accusation that the board is being arbitrary.
Sharing Information With Owners
The next step is to share the information with all homeowners. The homeowners need to be informed or reminded what the rules are about pet noise. The board can send them out in writing and highlight the portions involving pets and other disturbances caused by animals.
Once everyone has been reminded what the rules specify, the board will have to move on to enforcement if that rule is broken. This usually starts with a letter letting the homeowner know precisely what complaint has been reported and what rule they are violating. This should also include any details about how they are breaking it. If no action is taken, fines can be imposed as allowed in the governing documents.
Help Homeowners Solve the Problem
Nuisance noise from a pet can be a very challenging problem for the board to handle. Most pet owners consider their dog a part of the family, so trying as much as possible to help them solve the problem will prevent a very sensitive and tricky conflict. If the dog’s barking continues to be a problem after the rules have been sent around to all community members, the board can try to help the resident. One suggestion is giving the homeowners bark-abatement ideas, such as:
- Training – The dog owner should seek professional help to find out why their dog barks excessively. Proper training can address most behavioral problems. Once the issue is resolved, both the dog and the owner will benefit from the dog’s obedience training. It can also help feed the dog’s need for mental stimulation, leading to a much happier dog and neighbor.
- Companionship and Mental Challenges – Many dogs start with destructive behavior because they are anxious or bored. Making sure the dog is adequately exercised and kept busy can help ease these problems. There are games for dogs, training classes, dog daycare, and dog walkers that can help entertain the pet. Any of these can allow more socialization and exercise. Lack of adequate movement can feed anxiety, so anything that tires out the dog is essentially a good idea.
- Reduce Triggers – Another strategy to reduce barking is to remove the triggers. Close drapes to help muffle street noise or leave a radio on to mask it. Disconnect telephones and doorbells before leaving your home if they upset your dog or make it bark.
- Be More Mindful – Keeping a dog indoors when it is barking can also eliminate the annoyance to the neighbors.
Addressing the problem of a barking dog can be challenging because it is a sensitive issue. While the rules are there to set the standard, board members should remain calm, show patience, and have compassion towards all residents.