HOA members use fake documents to skirt pet rules; Must HOA directors be residents of the community?

Q: We live in a condominium near Lake Norman. We have a 30-pound weight restriction on pets, as well as a prohibition on certain breeds that are deemed aggressive. Several residents have moved in and presented us with “Service Dog Certificates” so that their 50- or 60-pound dogs can live here by virtue of the federal housing guidelines. It’s quite obvious that these certificates were obtained online and that these dogs are not trained service dogs. Is there a process for us to verify these certificates? It’s getting to be quite a problem.

A: Anyone can go online and purchase these “service animal” certificates, complete with a screen-printed harness that the dog wears, as well as a card for the owner. These items are worthless and have no legal significance. All they mean is that the dog’s owner was foolish enough to shell out as much as $150 for these items, thinking it would allow him or her to have the dog in places it otherwise would not be allowed.

In reality, whether a dog or other animal is a “service animal” is determined by whether the owner has a disability as defined by the Fair Housing Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act. For a more comprehensive discussion of these issues, see our previous column on service animals and disabilities, which can be found at carolinacommonelements.com. Click on the March, 2015 archives.

Do directors have to live in the community?

Q: Does a person who owns a rental home in a community, but does not reside in the community, have the right to sit on the board of directors of the homeowners’ association in that community?

A: To rephrase your question, what are the qualifications for directors of your HOA? To answer this question, check your HOA’s bylaws (which are different from the Declaration of Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions). Most likely, in the third or fourth section of the bylaws you will find provisions that set forth the number, terms, and qualifications of directors; when and how the directors meet; the extent of their duty and authority; and how they can be removed and replaced. Unless your bylaws require that directors be residents of the community, a non-resident owner qualifies to serve on the board.

This column was originally published in the Charlotte Observer on August 31, 2015. © All rights reserved.

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