HOA Pet Restrictions: Limits on Dogs But Not On Children?!
By Ryan Westerman
Homeowners’ Associations (or “HOA’s” as they are commonly referred to) are the governing bodies that make, change, and enforce the rules of the community for which it was incorporated to run. HOA’s govern real property complexes, like a condominium building or a senior citizen development.
Property owners within the complex are members of the HOA and are encouraged to attend and participate in the meetings where communal issues are discussed and often colorfully debated. Members vote in elections for the purpose of elevating other members to the HOA’s board which influences the decisions made on behalf of the community. Some issues are reserved to a board member vote. Some issues are held to a general vote by all members of the community. As with any vote, there are winners and losers. Sometimes the loss can be heartbreaking.
An HOA for a recent buyer represented by the Hunnell Law Group voted to change their pet restrictions with a result that I found to be patently unfair but also having the possibility to tear a family apart.
It’s a safe conclusion that most people with pets view them as members of the family. #Furbaby has over 17,500,000 million posts on Instagram as of this writing. Our pets are our children. We feed them, take them to the doctor when they’re sick, and in return there is a mutual love like no other. You can imagine my shock when I read the following change to the HOA pet rules:
“Any units having more than one (1) pet as of May 2012, will be considered “grandfathered”.
“Grandfathered” unit owners shall not be allowed to add or increase the number of pets above the current number of pets in the unit as of the approval date of this publication.
“Grandfathered” unit owners shall not be allowed to replace pets in the event the current number of pets decrease as a result of death of a pet unless it is the last pet in the unit.
These new rules were enacted in 2021. Thus, any current member that took in a second pet after May 2012 (almost NINE YEARS AGO!) could have to give them up. There is no fairness to this rule any way you cut it. First, the rule should be enforceable as of the day of it’s passing. Members should be on notice of such dramatic life changes so they can decide not to take on a second pet, rather than be forced to give them up. Taking away someone’s pet is inhuman in my humble opinion no matter how long you have them. As with any relationship, the bond only grows stronger with time.
I personally have difficulty finding this rule to be enforceable. However, unless the affected party can negotiate with the HOA or afford a lawsuit, chances are Fluffy will have to go. Or Spike. A true Sofie’s choice.
#realestate #attorney #HOA #woof #meow
By Ryan Westerman
Recently, the Hunnell Law Group has received an influx of cases seeking to sue their home inspector for making one or more major mistakes or omissions during the home inspection phase, costing the property owner several thousands of dollars in necessary repairs post-closing. In a few instances, the mistakes were glaring. I was shocked a licensed inspector could miss items that are so open and obvious.
My first words of advice to these parties are review the Home Inspection Agreement. This is the document that outlines the terms and conditions of the home inspection which both parties sign. More often than not, there is a low ceiling on what can be recovered. It is not uncommon to limit the damages to just the return of the inspection fee, typically between $400.00 - $600.00.
Recently, I saw a liability limit that appeared more reasonable on its face. There was a catch of course. Isn’t there always?
"[LIABILITY] will not be more than the lesser of actual damages or ten times (10x) the inspection fee. Client waives any claim for consequential, exemplary, special, or incidental damages or for the loss of the use of the property."
It doesn’t take much imagination to create the scenario where the actual damages are significantly more than 10x’s the inspection fee. If the inspection overlooked an enormous structural issue that will cost $20,000.00+ to repair, and the inspection cost $500.00, then the aggrieved party is getting $5,000.00, without the ability to sue for other damages.
The Home Inspection Advisory Committee (N.J.A.C. 13:40-15) does hold inspectors to a certain level of professional performance. N.J.A.C. 13:40-15.20 (“SUSPENSION, REVOCATION, OR REFUSAL TO RENEW LICENSE”) outlines instances where the Committee “may deny, refuse to renew, or temporarily suspend or revoke a license, or issue a civil penalty[.]” An inspector that has engaged in “repeated acts of negligence, malpractice or incompetence” qualifies for punishment from the committee up to and including losing their license.
So, while you may not be made whole financially, you can report the inspector to the committee, in the hopes of preventing another individual from a financial windfall or purchasing a house without a sound structural foundation.
Refinancing? You May Be Subject To The New “Adverse Market Fee”. The Reason For The Fee May Shock YouRead Now
A recent change in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac backed refinances subtly underscores an impending crisis that is not garnering much attention from the national media. Most refinanced loans closed on or after December 1st and subsequently sold to Fannie and Freddie will be subject to a 0.5% “adverse market fee”. Whether those costs are passed onto the consumer, absorbed by the lender, or some combination therein is at the discretion of the lender. However, the reason for the fee signals a national housing crisis set to materialize in the not-to-distant future.
Amongst the backdrop of headlines of Presidential pardons and surging COVID-19 statistics is the very real fact millions of Americans are facing an imminent threat of homelessness. Currently, there are federal restrictions prohibiting landlords from evicting tenants that are unable to pay rent due to COVID-19. Those protections started with the passage of the CARES Act. Federal protections were extended by an order from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and were set to expire on December 31, 2020. The enactment of the recent $900 billion pandemic relief bill will extend federal protections until the end of January 2021. While many states and localities have their own restrictions on evictions and foreclosures, the recent relief bill is the only federal protection extending into the new year.
These moratoriums are not permanent. Tens of millions of people may lose their homes when these temporary safeguards are eventually removed. And eventually, the safeguards will be removed.
How is this related to the adverse market fee? The Federal Housing Finance Authority (“FHFA”) anticipates at least $6 billion in losses incurred to protect the American public from forbearance defaults and other moratorium-related losses enacted due to COVID-19. This loss is generally viewed as a conservative estimate. The implementation of the adverse market fee is to help make up for this multi-billion-dollar loss. FHFA decided to implement the adverse market fee on refinances of most loans over $125,000.00, stating in relevant part:
[The adverse market fee] will exempt refinance loans with loan balances below $125,000, nearly half of which are comprised of lower income borrowers at or below 80% of area median income. Affordable refinance products, Home Ready and Home Possible, are also exempt
FHFA declined to implement the fee on home purchase loans to prevent any negative impact on the housing market, during a time when the economy is already facing serious challenges. This hasn’t stopped real estate and lending groups from decrying the fee, with some groups estimating it will increase costs $1,400.00 on average: "This announcement is bad for our nation's homeowners and the nascent economic recovery. We strongly urge FHFA, which had to approve this policy, to withdraw this ill-timed, misguided directive."
We are in unchartered waters when it comes to life post-COVID-19, and if this is one way to help prevent homelessness and another housing collapse, isn’t that a net-positive for homeowners? Or perhaps, is this yet another way the government is passing on the burden of a bail out to middleclass America? After all, we’re all living in a time when the stock market is regularly hitting record highs, while food insecurity statistics continue to rise.
by- Ryan Westerman, Esq.
Stephanie Hunnell, Esq. , Ryan Westerman, Esq. and Caitlin Holland, Esq.