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landlord/tenant Q&A

LAURENE H. YOUNG, (B) MPM, RMP, REALTOR
Young Hawaii Homes, Inc.
2011 President, Oahu Chapter
National Association of Residential Property Managers

Q. My good long-time tenant just moved out. They complained about the new owners next door to the Community Association. The neighbor’s dogs were vicious and barked every time she and her family went near the yard. They never cleaned up the dog waste. The Association did nothing and I discovered all this at their checkout appointment. What can I do so my new tenant doesn’t have to deal with the same things?

A. Animal nuisance laws can provide relief for those who deal with any animal that makes noise continuously for 10 minutes or intermittently one half an hour, if that noise disturbs them at any time of day or night.

But, it is not deemed to be a nuisance if at the time of the disturbance, a person was trespassing or threatening to trespass on the private property where the animal is situated, or for any other legitimate cause, such as if the animal is being teased or provoked.

Barking is perfectly normal for dogs and some dogs bark louder than others. It can catch you by surprise and be very scary. However, if the dog is barking at someone because they are walking by and the dog is just protecting their “home”, there is probably nothing the Association can do. Hopefully the yard is adequately fenced in or the dog is securely leashed. I would notify any future tenants to try to steer clear of this unit, especially if they are afraid of dogs.

Sometimes, owners are unaware that their dogs are causing this type of disturbance when they are not home. Call or write a letter to the Association asking them to contact the owner. A polite letter to the owner might work, but could also cause more problems, depending on the type of person you are dealing with. Perhaps the Association has already tried to resolve the issue and is having trouble with this owner. At this point, they may be seeking legal advice.

The City & County defines a dangerous dog as one which, without provocation, attacks a person or animal. It does not matter what breed the dog is. Provocation means that the attack was precipitated by (1) the dog protecting or defending its owner or member of the household from an attack, (2) the person attacked was committing a crime while on the property of the owner of the dog, (3) the person attacked was teasing, tormenting, abusing or assaulting the dog at the time or had done so at any time in the past, (4) the dog was attacked or menaced by an animal on the property, (5) the dog was responding to pain or injury inflicted by the attacked person or animal, (6) the dog was protecting itself, its kennel or its offspring from the attacked person or animal, (7) the person or animal attacked was disturbing the dog’s natural functions, such as sleeping or eating, while on the property of the dog’s owner, or (8) the dog was responding to a command to attack the person or animal.

If the dog creates a nuisance by barking constantly, you could make a complaint with the Hawaiian Humane Society. They also deal with dangerous dogs and dog bite complaints. If possible, take a video of the barking to show that the dog is barking without provocation for the time frames described above. The Humane Society will do an investigation and may levy fines or other penalties, if warranted. These penalties might include monetary fines or training programs paid for by the owner of the dog.

As for the dog waste, there should be something in the house rules dealing with that. Generally, owners have a duty to promptly remove the animal waste on any public or common areas. If they are not removing the waste on their own property and it is causing a nuisance because of the smell, then you could notify the Association and they would write a letter to the owner of any violations.

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