RICHARD VIERRA (B), RMP
Principal Broker & Director of Property Management
Hawaii Reserves, Inc.
National Association of Residential Property Managers
Regional Vice President / Past President, Oahu Chapter
Q. We live in a quiet neighborhood. A new family moved in next door and brought with them four chickens, two roosters and a dog. The roosters wake me up early every morning and the dog barks late into the night. What can I do? Can I break my lease since I can’t get enough sleep?
A. These are certainly interesting questions which, in order to answer, assume two things: 1. This incident has occurred in a residential community in Honolulu, and 2. The noise from the crowing roosters and barking dogs continues on a regular basis for extended periods of time at a level that is beyond what a reasonable person would expect in a “quiet neighborhood” as described in the question. These are important because, surprisingly, there are City & County Ordinances that address issues like this and they detail limitations, types, quantities and time frames for each of the concerns that are mentioned, and also spell out the penalties for their violation.
But before answering your questions, it is important to identify the governing laws that are applicable. The Revised Ordinances of the City & County of Honolulu (ROH) Chapter 7, Section 7 address “Animals & Fowls” and how they are defined, treated and controlled in the greater Honolulu area. As it applies to this question, ROH 7-2.5(d) limits the number of fowl to 2 per household. ROH 7-2.5(c), on the other hand, allows for up to 10 dogs per household. So while the one dog is permissible, the new family is exceeding the legal limit of fowl ownership by 4 –ROH 7-2-2(a). Additionally, ROH 7-2-2(a) and (b) define “animal nuisance” as such noise as barking, whining, howling, or crying continuously for more than 10 minutes straight or intermittently for 30 or more minutes, at any time of the day or night.
Consequently, how does all of this pertain to the questions being asked? Specifically to what can be done; ROH 7-2.7 allows an individual to contact the Humane Society or Police Department to file a complaint. Typically, either enforcement agency may issue a complaint letter to the animal owner, or at their discretion may immediately contact the individual directly. ROH 7-2.10 describes the penalties for animal owners found guilty of violating the ROH, and those penalties range from $50 to $1,000 and up to 30 days in jail. So to answer the question about what can be done, the answer is contact the Humane Society or the Honolulu Police Department.
The second question is a little more difficult to answer as technically the new family came to the neighborhood after tenancy and the landlord does/did not have knowledge of, or control over the new family’s animals. That said, the tenant does have a right to quiet enjoyment of his rental unit, but it would seem unlikely in this instance, given the remedies available to the tenant, that the tenant could break the lease because of an unknown condition post-signing of the lease. Perhaps at best, the tenant could call the landlord and ask for his assistance in contacting the Humane Society and Police Department to file a complaint in addition to the tenant filing a similar complaint. In all things, it is best to communicate and share ideas as in almost all cases, it is beneficial for the tenant and landlord to seek common ground – and in this case, that common ground would be to file a complaint against the “zoo-keeper” next door.