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Subject: Ambiguity and Vagueness in CC&Rs - North Carolina
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JasonE1
(North Carolina)

Posts:7


03/30/2021 8:45 AM  
Location, outside city limits, Orange County North Carolina

We recently bought a new property, and our first with a property owner's association. It is a 10 acre lot, and all other lots are also on the larger side. It is all about privacy and personal freedoms in the community, houses are not even visible from the road or other properties.

The CC&Rs are very limited, not saying much and not being overly specific. I'm curious about how things not mentioned, or very vague are handled legally in POAs. Not that I intend to try to loophole my way through anything, just curious.

For instance the animal restrictions, no other section covers animals at all:


3.7 Animals: No more than four commonly organised adult household pets including but no limited to dogs and cats may be kept on a lot. Household pets shall be (1) kept within the boundaries of the lot, (2) kept under supervision so as not to cause any nuisance to other Owners and (3) not be kept for commercial purposes other than occasion showing, breeding and sale of offspring.

Does this read as if it only places limits on typical household pets? Such as to deter puppy mills and the ilk, or is it saying only house hold pets are allowed. Could a member have laying hens, or goats, or a horse under such a clause?
ElizaC
(Texas)

Posts:6


03/30/2021 9:57 AM  
I read this to say only household pets, which would exclude hens, goats, and horses that remain outside. I also interpret that you can breed animals, so long as the offspring are sold. That becomes a little tricky though because there could possibly be more than four animals at a time. If there is no other mention of animals, I would assume farm animals are not allowed, but you could petition membership to see if there's an interest in changing the CC&Rs.
JasonE1
(North Carolina)

Posts:7


03/30/2021 12:00 PM  
Thank you. I'm not interested in more than 2 dogs and 2 cats, or anything to stir feathers. I'm just curious about about the ambiguity in general. I haven't lived in an HOA before, so I'm just trying to figure how people actually interpret the vagueness of these rules. Not even specific to the HOA we just bought into.

Most legal contracts I've dealt with have either highly specific language, or have general catch all language, these CC&Rs have neither, is that normal? After money is built back up from the move, I'm tempted to try and sit down with a real estate attorney, these CC&Rs seem really poorly written and confusing.

If something is not specifically mentioned, does it fall into banned by default or allowed by default. Your take would seem to say since it mentions household pets, but does not mention non household animals, then livestock would be banned.

The CC&Rs go into detail about outside structures, and landscaping but do not mention pools at all. Would that imply pools are not allowed (they appear to be, as 1/2 the lots seem to have judging from satellite photos).
JohnC46
(South Carolina)

Posts:10944


03/30/2021 1:17 PM  
Jason


I am of the school that unless something is banned, it is probably allowed. I think your docs are fairly clear on types of animals allowed (and not allowed) though I have seen some arguments on a pig being a household pet. Your docs do not say pools are banned, thus I would assume they are allowed.

I assume your association has some sort of architectural controls maybe a committee, etc. but the final say yea or nay is the BOD. My suggestion is ask for permission before your do anything. You can always fight it if they say no but it will be harder to fight if you do something without asking permission.

Accept the fact that when one joins an association they do give up some of their rights for the greater good of all. Welcome Comrade...........LOL
JasonE1
(North Carolina)

Posts:7


03/30/2021 1:43 PM  
Posted By JohnC46 on 03/30/2021 1:17 PM
Jason


I am of the school that unless something is banned, it is probably allowed. I think your docs are fairly clear on types of animals allowed (and not allowed) though I have seen some arguments on a pig being a household pet. Your docs do not say pools are banned, thus I would assume they are allowed.

I assume your association has some sort of architectural controls maybe a committee, etc. but the final say yea or nay is the BOD. My suggestion is ask for permission before your do anything. You can always fight it if they say no but it will be harder to fight if you do something without asking permission.

Accept the fact that when one joins an association they do give up some of their rights for the greater good of all. Welcome Comrade...........LOL




John,

O I'm not looking to get anymore animals than the 2 dogs and 2 cats we have, been there and done that with livestock, not happening again, kids get bored, and then its YOUR cow. That isn't happening again lol.

My question only comes in because of how vague the rules are. To me, these read solely as a limit on household pets, such as to prevent a puppy mill. I'm more worried about one of the neighbors getting the idea of bringing in a chicken farm (Which stink bad), to me it really doesn't read like it bans livestock at all, it actually makes no mention of livestock anywhere.
JohnT38
(South Carolina)

Posts:569


03/30/2021 1:53 PM  
"Animals: No more than four commonly organised adult household pets including but no limited to dogs and cats may be kept on a lot. "

To me this clearly rules a chicken farm. One the limitation of four animals rules out a chicken farm. Secondly, chickens are not a common house hold pet.
JohnC46
(South Carolina)

Posts:10944


03/30/2021 2:07 PM  
Posted By JohnT38 on 03/30/2021 1:53 PM
"Animals: No more than four commonly organised adult household pets including but no limited to dogs and cats may be kept on a lot. "

To me this clearly rules a chicken farm. One the limitation of four animals rules out a chicken farm. Secondly, chickens are not a common house hold pet.



I agree. No chickens is covered.
BenA2
(Texas)

Posts:872


03/30/2021 8:40 PM  
I think "including but not limited to dogs and cats" makes clear that other animals that are household pets are allowed. It is ambiguous about what a household pet is. I'm not sure what "commonly organised" means. Is that a mistake?

How ambiguous covenants are interpreted is probably determined by court precedents in North Carolina.
CindyH6
(Florida)

Posts:70


03/30/2021 10:18 PM  
Posted By JohnC46 on 03/30/2021 2:07 PM
Posted By JohnT38 on 03/30/2021 1:53 PM
"Animals: No more than four commonly organised adult household pets including but no limited to dogs and cats may be kept on a lot. "

To me this clearly rules a chicken farm. One the limitation of four animals rules out a chicken farm. Secondly, chickens are not a common house hold pet.



I agree. No chickens is covered.





No chickens what about a duck in the pond??
CindyH6
(Florida)

Posts:70


03/30/2021 10:23 PM  
Posted By JasonE1 on 03/30/2021 8:45 AM
Location, outside city limits, Orange County North Carolina

We recently bought a new property, and our first with a property owner's association. It is a 10 acre lot, and all other lots are also on the larger side. It is all about privacy and personal freedoms in the community, houses are not even visible from the road or other properties.

The CC&Rs are very limited, not saying much and not being overly specific. I'm curious about how things not mentioned, or very vague are handled legally in POAs. Not that I intend to try to loophole my way through anything, just curious.

For instance the animal restrictions, no other section covers animals at all:


3.7 Animals: No more than four commonly organised adult household pets including but no limited to dogs and cats may be kept on a lot. Household pets shall be (1) kept within the boundaries of the lot, (2) kept under supervision so as not to cause any nuisance to other Owners and (3) not be kept for commercial purposes other than occasion showing, breeding and sale of offspring.

Does this read as if it only places limits on typical household pets? Such as to deter puppy mills and the ilk, or is it saying only house hold pets are allowed. Could a member have laying hens, or goats, or a horse under such a clause?





How much do you pay for the HOA dues and do you have a property management company and what benefits do you receive in exchange for having an HOA on 10 acre lots with invisible houses from the road and other houses??

Did you check to make sure you are 911 service platted? All that privacy sounds lovely until someone gets bit by a snake or has a serious injury
JasonE1
(North Carolina)

Posts:7


03/31/2021 8:47 AM  
Posted By CindyH6 on 03/30/2021 10:23 PM



How much do you pay for the HOA dues and do you have a property management company and what benefits do you receive in exchange for having an HOA on 10 acre lots with invisible houses from the road and other houses??

Did you check to make sure you are 911 service platted? All that privacy sounds lovely until someone gets bit by a snake or has a serious injury




Cindy, $300 a year, road upkeep. Benefit of hopefully avoiding reckless gun fire, and chicken farm.

I've spent my entire 50 years living in the country, and have twice been bitten by water moccasins. Your concerns about emergencies are dramatically overblown. Most rural areas in the NC have medical care within reasonable distance, with the research triangle having some of the best medical nation wide.
JasonE1
(North Carolina)

Posts:7


03/31/2021 8:49 AM  
I have a phone call with a real estate attorney today.
JasonE1
(North Carolina)

Posts:7


03/31/2021 3:08 PM  
I just finished a conference call with a real estate attorney experienced with HOAs in North Carolina. If any of your HOAs use similar language and you think it prohibits live stock, you may want to try to rewrite that section.

As written, the animal section in our covenants are only limit the number of household pets. It does not have any limits on livestock, at all. If a neighbor brought in 100,000 chickens, it would be in compliance. Vagueness in covenants fall in favor of the property owner.
JohnM63
(North Carolina)

Posts:17


04/01/2021 7:28 PM  
Often there is general savings clause language that states that property owners shall not do anything that unreasonably harms the ownership and enjoyment of the other owners. That kind of language restricts what most would view as a nuisance. Nut I agree, that you start with full ownership with unfettered freedom until something in the CC&R takes that away. Otherwise, it would up to the courts to interpret.
CindyH6
(Florida)

Posts:70


04/01/2021 11:43 PM  
Posted By JasonE1 on 03/31/2021 8:47 AM
Posted By CindyH6 on 03/30/2021 10:23 PM



How much do you pay for the HOA dues and do you have a property management company and what benefits do you receive in exchange for having an HOA on 10 acre lots with invisible houses from the road and other houses??

Did you check to make sure you are 911 service platted? All that privacy sounds lovely until someone gets bit by a snake or has a serious injury




Cindy, $300 a year, road upkeep. Benefit of hopefully avoiding reckless gun fire, and chicken farm.

I've spent my entire 50 years living in the country, and have twice been bitten by water moccasins. Your concerns about emergencies are dramatically overblown. Most rural areas in the NC have medical care within reasonable distance, with the research triangle having some of the best medical nation wide.




Hi Jason,

That is a very reasonable price
You definitely don’t want to be in chicken & roosters territory because they are messy and rooster crowing at 4 am is very disruptive to one’s sleep. Although you might get some coyotes howling.

That is cool that you have experienced the bite of water moccasin. so glad you are 911 plated.

We had a house that was in a newish conspicuous community off a major road and a family member had a serious accident and we had an incredibly difficult time getting 911 to come out there.

Enjoy your serenity.


MichaelS56
(Minnesota)

Posts:179


04/02/2021 6:27 AM  
Jason, attend a Board meeting and state your question(s) to the Board. As a new owner you should attend a board meeting just to get familiar with the Board. Our Welcome committee encourages new owners to attend at least one Board meeting.
KellyM3
(North Carolina)

Posts:1695


04/02/2021 7:47 AM  
Orange County (NC) county ordinances prevent any public nuisance created by animals or animal ownership on private property. Puppy Mills, especially in a politically liberal county like Orange, would be addressed. Your county ordinances also appear to separate the term "pets" from "domesticated livestock." Yes, a cow can be a pet but a cow/horse/goats are livestock by definition.

Also, people wishing to breed commercially (puppy mill fear) must obtain county permits and subject to government inspection.

https://library.municode.com/nc/orange_county/codes/code_of_ordinances?nodeId=PTIGEOR_CH4AN_ARTIIANCO_DIV1GE_S4-45PUNU


That said, owning 10 acres in Orange County is terrific but rural Orange County also features many tiny farms and is "rural" by spirit. Your CC&Rs, in my opinion, are tapping into that spirit by setting clear limits on animal ownership to "pets" and not "livestock" while allowing for the legal handling of puppies and kittens, which wouldn't be allowed to stay because it's "adult household pets" that ultimately can be a permanent fixture on your lot.

For those of you outside NC, you expect a household pet to be:

Dogs, cats, pot-bellied pigs and fish. In Orange County, on a ten-acre lot, you might could squeeze in a pygmy goat or two.

Above, nothing can be a nuisance. Nothing can violate existing animal control ordinance of Orange County.

I think you're in good shape.
JasonE1
(North Carolina)

Posts:7


04/02/2021 7:57 AM  
Posted By KellyM3 on 04/02/2021 7:47 AM
Orange County (NC) county ordinances prevent any public nuisance created by animals or animal ownership on private property. Puppy Mills, especially in a politically liberal county like Orange, would be addressed. Your county ordinances also appear to separate the term "pets" from "domesticated livestock." Yes, a cow can be a pet but a cow/horse/goats are livestock by definition.

Also, people wishing to breed commercially (puppy mill fear) must obtain county permits and subject to government inspection.

https://library.municode.com/nc/orange_county/codes/code_of_ordinances?nodeId=PTIGEOR_CH4AN_ARTIIANCO_DIV1GE_S4-45PUNU


That said, owning 10 acres in Orange County is terrific but rural Orange County also features many tiny farms and is "rural" by spirit. Your CC&Rs, in my opinion, are tapping into that spirit by setting clear limits on animal ownership to "pets" and not "livestock" while allowing for the legal handling of puppies and kittens, which wouldn't be allowed to stay because it's "adult household pets" that ultimately can be a permanent fixture on your lot.

For those of you outside NC, you expect a household pet to be:

Dogs, cats, pot-bellied pigs and fish. In Orange County, on a ten-acre lot, you might could squeeze in a pygmy goat or two.

Above, nothing can be a nuisance. Nothing can violate existing animal control ordinance of Orange County.

I think you're in good shape.




I've already confirmed from an Orange County real estate attorney that the covenants and county laws don't stop live stock. I'm not concerned, I was just curious how the vagueness falls, it apparently falls in favor of the land owner, not the HOA.
NpS
(Pennsylvania)

Posts:4170


04/02/2021 8:53 AM  
Posted By JasonE1 on 04/02/2021 7:57 AM
I was just curious how the vagueness falls, it apparently falls in favor of the land owner, not the HOA.



Here are two extremes in positions that can be taken:

A. If there is vagueness in a document, the HOA Board has the authority to interpret and/or clarify the meaning. Source: HOA law.

B. Where one party has control over the drafting of a document, any vagueness should be interpreted in favor of the non-drafting party. Source: General contract law.

As you can see, it's not uncommon for generalized rules to be in conflict. Which is why facts and circumstances are critically important. In one situation, A would apply. In another, B. That's why people go to court - To get a determination of which rules will be applied under a particular set of facts.

In your case, who knows? Which particular set of facts need to be addressed? Many HOAs have rules on their books that have never been applied, either because the Declarant created those docs or a prior Board changed things that current Board members aren't familiar with. Maybe you would think that HOA docs should all be brought up to date. But reality is that some HOAs take years to update their docs and others never have the resources to do so.

My only advice - Be careful about generalizations. Real (more so than hypothetical) facts and circumstances always matter.

Sikubali jukumu. Read all posts at your own risk.
NpS
(Pennsylvania)

Posts:4170


04/02/2021 9:07 AM  
One more thing - In the world of HOAs, the relevant facts and circumstances almost always include a review of who communicated what and when.

If you started a chicken farm, an argument could be made that you should have asked before you went ahead and took action, especially if there were no other chicken farmers in your development.

Sikubali jukumu. Read all posts at your own risk.
SheliaH
(Indiana)

Posts:3921


04/03/2021 7:21 PM  
The first thing to remember is that HOA bylaws and CCRs usually don't cover everything in HOA land - they can't because times change and the documents should be flexible enough to evolve with the community without being too overbearing. Besides, no one would read them - most people don't bother to read what's already there, which is where a lot of confusion starts.

The next thing to remember is that the documents are usually written by the developer, who typically use some sort of boilerplate template to satisfy legal requirements. They don't always get down and dirty in the details because they'll be gone by the time the homeowners take over, so what do they care? Unfortunately, homeowners aren't told this - they're told this community is in a HOA, here are the documents. No one reads anything and the developers don't do much of anything to prepare homeowners for what HOA living may or may not mean in the future.

In this case, it sounds like you MIGHT be able to have some sort of animal other than the usual dog and cat, but not necessarily a zoo or puppy mill. Section 3.7(2) and (3) read: "kept under supervision so as not to cause any nuisance to other Owners and (3) not be kept for commercial purposes other than occasion showing, breeding and sale of offspring." That sounds to me like someone in a 4-H club (are those still around?) who raises a pet goat for a competition. So, if the maximum number of critters you can own is 4, that could mean Fido, Fluffy, Sally the milk goat and Billy D. Goat.

You may also have county rules coming into play - you may have 10 acres, but that may not mean you can have a herd of goats. You may want to read the county rules first regarding livestock and compare them to your documents. The HOA may have said a maximum of 4 so the neighborhood wouldn't be overrun with sheep, chickens, really loud roosters and maybe a python (because some people roll that way.)

If you still aren't sure what can and can't be done, you could ask some of your neighbors, especially the ones who serve on the board of directors. Good luck!
KellyM3
(North Carolina)

Posts:1695


04/04/2021 7:49 AM  
Jason,

If you're new to HOAs, then it appears you have a "master association" type of HOA.

Its primary purpose is maintaining the entrances, any signs, pave the roads and provide an organized group to address unruly behavior. It will be inherently slow-footed and its CC&Rs will definitely be vague in favor of property owners.

Above all, it can address nuisances and commercial farming activity, no matter how small in scale. This would include any animals, though the vague animal rules you do have define the properties as being allowed up to four domestic household animals. The omission of "livestock" is rather interesting because a ten-acre, rural lot could certainly - and safely - allow for a few hens and goats.

That's nice land over there.
JohnC46
(South Carolina)

Posts:10944


04/04/2021 8:59 AM  
As Shelia touched on, Covenants/Bylaws cannot cover every possible scenario. Some docs were written even before now common things like satellite dishes, electric cars, etc.

If one wants to do something they feel is not addressed in the docs, then they should protect themselves and ask for permission. I am not saying they cannot fight a decision they do not like but at least get an answer before proceeding.

A lot of people post here asking "what ifs". Though other poster may give opinions, what matters is what your BOD thinks/says and what you can live with.
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