Adams Stirling PLC


The case of Nahrstedt v. Lakeside Village arose when Natore Nahrstedt bought a condominium and moved in with her three cats, even though the CC&Rs prohibited pets. When the association fined her, Ms. Nahrstedt filed suit claiming the restriction was unreasonable because her cats lived indoors and did not bother her neighbors.

Court's Decision. Ms. Nahrstedt lost in the trial court and appealed. A divided Court of Appeal reversed, and the association appealed. The California Supreme Court reversed and found for the association. It reasoned that:

Use restrictions are an inherent part of any common interest development and are crucial to the stable, planned environment of any shared ownership arrangement. . . . The restrictions on the use of property in any common interest development may limit activities conducted in the common areas as well as in the confines of the home itself.

. . . anyone who buys a unit in a common interest development with knowledge of its owners association's discretionary power accepts "the risk that the power may be used in a way that benefits the commonality but harms the individual." . . . When landowners express the intention to limit land use, "that intention should be carried out."

[The court held that restrictions] will be enforced unless it violates public policy; it bears no rational relationship to the protection, preservation, operation or purpose of the affected land; or it otherwise imposes burdens on the affected land that are so disproportionate to the restriction's beneficial effects that the restriction should not be enforced.

[The court further reasoned that] to allow one person to escape obligations under a written instrument upsets the expectations of all the other parties governed by that instrument (here, the owners of the other 529 units) that the instrument will be uniformly and predictably enforced.

Postscript. Seven years after Ms. Nahrstedt lost her case and moved out of Lakeside Village, the California legislature passed a bill with the goal of phasing out pet restrictions throughout the state. (Civ. Code § 4715.) In an unrelated piece of legislation, the Davis-Stirling Act was amended in 2006 requiring all associations to adopt election rules. Arguably, this voided all pet prohibitions throughout California.

ASSISTANCE: Associations needing legal assistance can contact us. To stay current with issues affecting community associations, subscribe to the Davis-Stirling Newsletter.

Adams Stirling PLC