No animals except pets?

by Kym
(Landaff NH Grafton )

In a piece of property we are looking at in an agricultural town, this deed restriction was placed on this and several other properties on the street by a man who subdivided and sold his property back in the 1970's and owner financed them. The deed states no animals except for pets.

We would like to raise rabbits, chickens and a couple of goats. (Several other homes allow for this in the same street.) Can these animals be legally considered pets?

This would be in a pastoral town of New Hampshire.

Editors Reply: What is considered a pet would depend on judicial interpretation, provided the deed restriction does not further define or list examples of pets. Deed restriction violations depend on the opinions of an HOA, if one exists, or just the opinions of your neighbors, in the more likely scenario of no HOA in a pastoral town.

The question for you is how you will feel if you acquire some chickens or goats and then find yourself the target of a lawsuit filed by an impacted neighbor. Are you willing to quickly get rid of these animals, or alternatively to defend yourself against a lawsuit?

In our role as experienced code enforcement managers but not licensed attorneys, we would be likely to say that a couple of rabbits and three or four chickens might be considered as pets, even though the person who wrote the deed restriction might have been thinking only of dogs, cats, and gerbils. All of us who write for this website would not consider a goat as a pet. A decade ago we would not have thought of chickens as pets either. We write all of this just to show you how subjective this is, and that no one except a court can answer your question about what is legally considered a pet--unless the deed restriction contains some additional language you didn't describe.

Your other option might be to see if the deed restriction can be changed to allow the particular animals you would like to have. This could be feasible if the person who imposed the restriction is still alive and you are able to contact them. Heirs to a deceased property owner who applied a deed restriction also can agree to change it, depending on the nuances of your state law. If you tried this, we strongly recommend having an attorney investigate and draft the language.

We hope this gives you some things to consider as you decide whether to buy this particular parcel of land.

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