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If you’re driving down certain suburban roads in Phoenix, Mesa and Chandler, you may come across a house or two with horses roaming through a homeowner’s fenced-in front yard. As Phoenix and the surrounding area continues to grow, how do city and HOA regulations affect homeowners who are seeking their own type of sustainability?

Urban farming is all the rage these days. With a growing emphasis on knowing where food comes from and eating high-quality, organic ingredients, many homeowners are starting to keep chickens (or even horses) in their backyard as well as installing and maintaining backyard farms. Many owners are under the mistaken belief that if the local city or municipality permits owners to keep chickens, etc. that their homeowner’s association must also permit them. That is not the case. A homeowner’s association has the right to regulate or even prohibit certain animals and/or farming activities in the owners’ backyards.

Here’s our best advice for navigating owners’ requests for chicken, horse, or other backyard farm related activity:

  • Find out about your city’s local laws: Your city is very likely to have laws on the books regarding what kind and how many animals you can keep within their territory. For example, in Phoenix, it’s legal to keep chickens, provided you follow the rules about location (80 feet from your residence unless explicitly excepted) and quantity (20 chickens per half-acre). Roosters, however, are prohibited. You should also look into your town’s nuisance laws, which often extend to any kind of animal that creates a disturbance. Many Cities and Towns also have regulations/codes relating to food production.
  • Look into your HOA’s CC&Rs: Next, even if your City permits chickens or other farm animals, you must still determine whether the HOA’s Covenants & Restrictions and/or rules reference keeping fowl as well as reference backyard farming. Many HOA’s CC&Rs expressly prohibit chickens or other farm animals, your Association may have the authority to grant a variance to the requesting Owner if the HOA determines that the benefits outweigh the risks.
  • Factors to consider before granting or denying an owner’s request: The Board must consider the noise, smell, and appearance as potential hazards. Determine whether the owner has any ways to mitigate those concerns. The Board may also consider the likely complaints and objections from other owners.
  • What if others get on board: Oftentimes, if an owner is seeking to engage in backyard farming activities, they enlist the help of other owners. The Board may consider whether other owners/neighbors are in favor of the backyard farming activity, such support is not, in of itself, the determining factor to the Board’s approval. The Board must consider the health and safety and environmental impact on the entire community.

Get advice on backyard farming regulations in Arizona

Goodman Holmgren Law Group can help you wade through your city’s and HOA’s restrictions in Arizona. If owners are requesting backyard farms and you are concerned about what your HOA is authorized to approve/deny, call the experts. Our practice focuses on HOA law in three major areas: collections, compliance enforcement and general counsel services. Whether you need one-time advice, seasonal guidance or year-round assistance, we can help you deal with or manage your HOA, in compliance with all applicable state and local laws. Reach out to us today to find out more or schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys.