Profile picture for chelseyb

Rats in Common Area - HOA denied excavation

***Edit: I didn't mean to use "excavation" in the title. I meant "elimination"

Hello,

I have an interesting dilemma. My house is adjacent to our neighborhood common area, which is a protected desert area. The HOA has "fiduciary responsibility" to maintain this area. In 2011, pack rats infested the area and caused damage to a vehicle parked in my driveway. The HOA board voted to approve rat removal and the problem was solved. In August 2013 the pack rats infested once again. I notified the HOA board immediately, with pictures of the debris being piled along the side of my home that the rats were bringing in from the common area. I waited two months for a response. In October 2013 I notified the HOA Board that now the rats were causing damage to my A/C unit. Still no decision was made to excavate the rats. Finally, last night on November 18 2013 at our meeting, the HOA board informed me that they are denying my request to remove the rats, saying they sought legal advise and the opinion of the attorney was "removing the rats once didn't work, therefore the HOA is not responsible to remove them again." Now I am forced to live with a rat infestation that I have no control over. As a homeowner, I don't believe I am not even legally permitted to have the rats removed myself since the common area belongs to the HOA. My question is: do I have legal recourse? One would think that the board approving the rat removal in 2011 would make them responsible for removing them in the future as well.
  • November 19 2013 - Avondale
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Answers (11)

Well, that bites!

OK, two things first: only an attorney can advise you of legal recourse.

Second: your CC&Rs have a clause that basically says, "Our actions do not establish a precedent." Just because they didn't take action against the BBQ smoking out the residents last summer doesn't mean that they can't take action against them now; just because they took action doesn't mean they're obliged to do so again.

As a Director of a condo board in Washington State . . . We have rules that people cannot leave anything other than a vehicle in the parking spaces; it seems innocuous to leave a few bags or boxes, but they do attract rodents here. So with that in mind, my interpretation of 3.4 (I am so not an attorney) is that by parking a car in the driveway, that is inducing these critters. I'd say that you couldn't - and shouldn't - be parking in the driveway. 

But more than anything, we can't solve your problem. I urge you to contact an attorney who specializes in condo / HOA issues, and chances are they are dealing with this very same problem in other projects.

All the best,

  • November 19 2013
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Profile picture for SoCal Engr

Our HOA borders onto open spaces, which equates to gophers, ground squirrels, etc. These, in turn, ring the dinner bell for snakes (rat and rattle), coyotes, the occasional bobcat, and (rumor has it) the odd mountain lion.

Simply "killing the native fauna" doesn't work, and I can see where the HOA may be reluctant to take on a budget line item for this purpose.

My solution is to make my yard "fauna un-friendly". No places for them to hide (e.g. dense shrubs, piles-o'-stuff, etc.), combined with pest services...for my property. While you may not be able to affect the fauna on the common areas, you can discourage them from taking up residence on your property.

  • November 19 2013
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Profile picture for wetdawgs
Yes, nature does try to push back when people move into their territory.   

Yes, kissing bugs do live in pack rat nests and pack rats eat them.  Very basic biology, look it up.  Remember, humans are the invaders in the area, the pack rats are the natural residents of the area.    Yes, they can be a bother, hence the reason for constant vigilance on your property and actions to make your lot less attractive than the neighbors' lots and the shared space.

As an environmentalist,  I would be horrified if an HOA tried to exterminate the native pack rat.  If you don't like the native wildlife, you may wish to consider moving.

Let us know what your attorney says.
  • November 19 2013
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You are in a tough spot. I don't know the difference between a pack rat and regular rat but  I wouldn't want either of them around my house.  Mice and rats tend to move into places that provide a food source and a place to nest. Is there any way you can remove those or otherwise disrupt the rats too easy life in your neighborhood so they will move on?
 I think your HOA shold be doign something about the rats especially if they are damaging cars and AC units. Eventually they will get inside and do more damage. 
 Good luck.  
  • November 19 2013
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Profile picture for chelseyb
I don't know where you get your information, wetdawgs, but kissing bugs breed inside the dens of packrats and actually feed on the rats themselves. Kissing bugs are one of the most important reasons, aside from property damage, to control a packrat infestation. I can only do so much to prevent them from coming onto my lot. The problem is not on my lot, it's in the common area that is maintained by the HOA. The HOA deemed it appropriate to remove them in 2011 and they were gone for two years. It would be an unreasonable assumption to assume removing them once would get rid of them forever.
  • November 19 2013
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Profile picture for Robin Rice Realtor
What a shame.  You are seeing the con to "protected areas" that the public is overlooking.  We have prairie dogs here and they are running amuck.  Not protected yet but they are frequenting the parking lots of major food chains.  You have to think they are getting inside too (yuck).
Perhaps meeting with City or County officials on it might help.  I'd go big on protecting my own space with extermination - once will never be enough per your HOA - even spiders come back every 90 days after I exterminate.  Good luck!
  • November 19 2013
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Profile picture for wetdawgs
Please ask your attorney.     A pack rat is a native animal in the desert, not an infectious plant disease or noxious insect.   Pack rats eat kissing bugs.    Controlling one native animal in a such an area is likely to make others go out of balance and annoy you even more.  

Controlling the native animals is not likely something that you can make the HOA do.   Did you read the article?   

You chose to live in the desert, the consequences are that the native animals and insects of the desert will be around your home.  
  • November 19 2013
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Profile picture for chelseyb
I'm also wondering if I can give any weight considering this in our CC&Rs:

3.4 Diseases and Insects No Person shall permit any
thing or condition to exist upon any Lot or other property which shall induce,
breed or harbor infectious plant diseases or noxious insects ..

Pack rats bring kissing bugs around which are very dangerous.
  • November 19 2013
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This sounds like you should contact an attorney.
  • November 19 2013
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Profile picture for mgoodman6
Are other's concerned as well?  I would certainly seek legal advice.  Rats are not pets.
  • November 19 2013
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Profile picture for wetdawgs
Pack rats are an important native desert animal, so killing the natives is not usually considered a good idea. 

We have a (non-native) rat problem in our neighborhood and the rats are centered in a public area.The decision has been that it is each home owner for themselves (after cleaning up the nuisance factor in the public space). We monitor our property frequently, and make it less than hospitable for rats to take up residence.  Yes, it can be a bother but it part of home ownership.     Here's a link to an article about some things you can do. 

If you wish to talk about legal recourse, talk to your attorney.  


  • November 19 2013
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