May 29, 2015 by Rachael Harrington and Shani Zakay, Esq.
Q: My association has a pet restriction that permits owners to only have
one common household pet. My neighbor has a pet snake. While it has not
hurt me in any way or made excessive noises, it absolutely terrifies me.
Is he allowed to have the snake for a pet?
A: The California Civil Code § 4715 requires associations to permit
homeowners to have at least one pet. The association may, however, have
reasonable rules and regulations regarding the pet. Section 4715(b) defines
pet as "any domesticated bird, cat, dog, aquatic animal kept within
an aquarium, or other animal as agreed to between the association and
the homeowner." Thus, an association must permit at least one bird,
cat, dog, or aquatic animal.
The definition supplied for the term pet under section 4715 does not use
or define the term "common household pet." This term is vague
and open to interpretation. While it clearly encompasses birds, cats,
dogs, and fish, it is not clear what reptiles or other types of animals
are included in the definition of "common household pet." A
common household pet could include rodents such as hamsters and rabbits.
If the snake is not an illegal species of snake and is easily purchased
though a breeder or pet store, unfortunately for you, it is arguably a
common household pet.
For this reason, it is important for associations to tailor their pet restrictions
to be more specific as to the types of animals permitted within a unit
subject to Civil Code § 4715. When amending CC&Rs or rules and
regulations regarding pets, association should seek the advice of their