In other posts I have discussed deed restrictions that exist in many subdivisions here in Zephyrhills, and in the rest of Florida and the United States. They do have their pros and cons, as do most things in this world. But the ultimate goal of most of them is to keep the property values in the neighborhoods from falling. Not necessarily a bad thing, in principle.
The most emotional restrictions I have seen are those that involve pets. In many cases these non-human residents are part of our families, and in the case of many elderly citizens they provide much needed companionship. I sell many homes in areas with high percentages of retirees and it does my heart good to see the relationships between these people and their much loved pets.
But right now I am working with a couple who live in a park with pet restrictions. In their section 1 housecat per residence is allowed. However, this couple went to the local shelter and found two kittens. They did not want to break the siblings up, so they took both kittens home. Now, understand that the cats in the park CANNOT roam, so the cats will be inside the home 24/7. Plus cats do not bark, so no chance of them keeping the neighbors awake at night. But the homeowners board is now cracking down and have told the people that one of the cats must go. Needless to say, this is stressing the owners out. I actually had the wife crying on my shoulder. They are trying to buy a home in a different area and are also trying to get the park to be more lenient. If they want to, I suspect that the board can force the residents to comply with the deed restrictions. Sad but true.
So it is important for home buyers to know that deed restrictions often regulate domesticated animals in their subdivisions. It will be a very unhappy home buyer who makes a purchase without first letting their agent know that they have a pet(s) and then reviewing the deed restrictions concerning them for the areas where they are thinking of buying. Here are some main items that the subdivisions generally concentrate on:
- Pets or NO Pets Allowed - Some subdivisions ban all pets from the area. Now does that mean you cannot have an aquarium, a bird, or a hamster? Who knows? I am not going to say "yes" or "'no". My suggestion would be to check with the homeowner association (HOA) president or board before buying, just to make sure.
- Types of Pets Allowed - Where animals are allowed, they are usually limited to "domestic pets". So do not assume that your pot-bellied pig or your pygmy goats will be welcomed. As a rule, a lot of restrictions will forbid farm type animals and will limit you to dogs and cats, etc. In some large communities that cater to a specific hobby, such as an equestrian community with huge lots, horses may be permitted. But again, read the restrictions carefully and call the HOA president to confirm that Old Paint can stay.
- Number of Pets Allowed - In some subdivisions you can have only one dog. In others two are allowed. One I know will let you have 1 dog and 1 cat. Some have no restrictions. We even have one that allows you to move in with two, but when one of them dies, you cannot replace it, and from that point on will just be permitted to keep the one.
- Weight of the Pets - Here the common weight limits are 20 or 25 pounds. We do have one park that will only allow pets under 15 pounds and one that will allow up to 40 pounds. So do be aware of what Fido or Fifi weighs. Many subdivisions will have different limits and some are very strict about them.
- Breeds of Dogs Allowed - Some subdivisions prohibit the presence of breeds they consider to be dangerous like pit bulls, dobermans, etc. However, in many of these, the weight limits alone would keep them out anyway.
- County or City Restrictions - Even if you are not in a subdivision, and hence have no deed restrictions per se, there will still be city and/or county zoning requirements that you must adhere to. For example, to have a horse on a property you may be required to have a lot of at least 1 acre in size. Or having a dog breeding enterprise could be regulated or prohibited. There will likely be others as well. If I were you I would call the county or city offices where the home is located to confirm that you will not be violating any laws or ordinances. Do this before you make your purchase offer!
I believe an exception to these rules would be "service or assistance animals". The most common type of these is the seeing-eye dogs. There are others types as well. If you require such an animal to help you live your life and a subdivision refuses to allow the animal to reside with you, see an attorney or contact your local Housing and Urban Development (HUD) office for assistance. Since I am not a lawyer, I cannot give you advice in this regard. You can also visit the HUD site at: http://www.hud.gov/offices/fheo/disabilities/index.cfm There you will find contact information concerning your rights as they apply to housing issues.
So if you are a pet owner, when you are looking for a new home in an area with deed restrictions, be sure to confirm that your pet will be welcome at your new residence. The last thing you want is to have to decide about either getting rid of one of your best friends or selling the home you just bought. Know those deed restrictions 'inside and out". Be an informed consumer! This will ensure that your home buying experience will very likely be a positive one.
John Elwell - REALTOR
Bill Nye Realty, Inc.
Licensed in Florida