A “Moo” From Your Neighbor’s

As with so many of the articles I write, the inspiration comes from actual events I come across. Recently I received a call from a real estate agent because I am the President of my community association. The agent is selling a home in my neighborhood and wanted to know what restrictions were in place regarding the types and numbers of animals one can keep on their property.

I listened in disbelief when the agent told of a horrible smell coming from the neighbor’s property. When they peeked over the fence, they were shocked to see sheep! Sheep in a residential neighborhood? This was a new one for me! I had to investigate the ordinances, and what I learned I want to share with you. Keep in mind that the following is for Oahu, the City & County of Honolulu. But if these are the rules for the island with the “city dwellers”, I can’t imagine what they allow on Kauai, Hawaii Island, and Maui County.

Chapter 7 of the Revised Ordinances of Honolulu (ROH) covers everything “Animal & Fowl”. To boil down all the rules as simply as possible, the concept is that if you aren’t bothering your neighbors, the government doesn’t really regulate what animals you can keep at your home.

There are exceptions…

You can only have 2 chickens or peafowl. There is no differentiation between a rooster and a chicken, so your neighbor can have 2 roosters if they choose. If they own those roosters, but on the weekends those roosters turn into fighting cocks, your neighbor better not have any competitions at their home or possess any gaffs. That’s very verboten. Peafowl by the way, are peacocks. God help you if your neighbor decides to have 2 peacocks to buddy around with! They are loud!

You can only have 10 dogs. Puppies under 4 months don’t count, plus who would be upset about a puppy? But I am still shocked that one can have 10 adult dogs in a residential setting.

If you want to raise bees, your beehives must be a minimum of 25 feet away from your property lines, unless they are behind a 6-foot solid fence or hedge.

If you’re “lucky” enough to have livestock for neighbors, the only restriction is if a pen is built to keep said livestock, that pen must be 300 feet from your property line and meet building codes. This is a great example of poorly written rules. What if your neighbor doesn’t keep the sheep in a pen? Then there’s no restriction. Those animals can sleep right up against your property line.

Is this the wild west?

You do have rights. But again, your rights are stipulated by a poorly written document. Your neighbor’s right to pets does stop when they meet your “quiet enjoyment” of your home. No matter the type of animals your neighbors have, if they start making noise, you have a right to complain. If those animals make noise continuously for 10 minutes or intermittently for 30 minutes or more (no matter the time of day), your neighbor can be fined $250.

Obviously if you are attacked or stung outside their property and you didn’t provoke the incident, other rules come into play. For the purposes of today’s article, we will not dive deeper in what happens if you are attacked.

Circling back to what prompted this article, sheep at the neighbor’s house, there’s nothing in the rules that covers offensive odors – at least nothing I could find.

There’s an important lesson to be learned here about real estate. If you are shopping to buy a home, you should visit that property at other times, other than Sunday Open House times. You should stop by in the evening to see how many cars are parked on the street. You should also listen to how noisy or quiet it is in the evening when you want your quite time. Make another visit and walk the entire perimeter of the property and take some good whiffs. Here’s another novel idea – try the morning and afternoon commute to see if it is better or worse than you expected.

Don’t judge a home by what you see at 2:00 pm on a Sunday. Don’t rely solely on those disclosure forms as well. Heck, why not make friends early and stop by and meet the neighbors? The worst thing that could happen is you asking for a pony ride…

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