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Nahrstedt v. Lakeside Village Condominium Assn.

Supreme Court of California

September 2, 1994, Decided

No. S029132.


 [*367]  [**1277]  [***65]    KENNARD, J. 

A homeowner [****2]  in a 530-unit condominium complex sued to prevent the homeowners association from enforcing a restriction against keeping cats, dogs, and other animals in the condominium development. The owner asserted that the restriction, which was contained in the project's declaration 1 recorded by the condominium project's  [**1278]   [***66]  developer, was "unreasonable" as applied to her because she kept her three cats indoors and because her cats were "noiseless" and "created no nuisance." Agreeing with the premise underlying the owner's complaint, the Court of Appeal concluded that the homeowners association could enforce the restriction only  [*368]  upon proof that plaintiff's cats would be likely to interfere with the right of other homeowners "to the peaceful and quiet enjoyment of their property."

 [****3]  Those of us who have cats or dogs can attest to their wonderful companionship and affection. Not surprisingly, studies have confirmed this effect. (See, e.g., Waltham Symposium 20, Pets, Benefits and Practice (BVA Publications 1990); Melson, The Benefits of Animals to Our Lives (Fall 1990) People, Animals, Environment, at pp. 15-17.) But the issue before us is not whether in the abstract pets can have a beneficial effect on humans. Rather, the narrow issue here is whether a pet restriction that is contained in the recorded declaration of a condominium complex is enforceable against the challenge of a homeowner. As we shall explain, the Legislature, in Civil Code section 1354, has required that courts enforce the covenants, conditions and restrictions contained in the recorded declaration of a common interest development "unless unreasonable." 2 

 [****4]  Because a stable and predictable living environment is crucial to the success of condominiums and other common interest residential developments, and because recorded use restrictions are a primary means of ensuring this stability and predictability, the Legislature in section 1354 has afforded such restrictions a presumption of validity and has required of challengers that they demonstrate the restriction's "unreasonableness" by the deferential standard applicable to equitable servitudes. Under this standard established by the Legislature, enforcement of a restriction does not depend upon the conduct of a particular condominium owner. Rather, the restriction must be uniformly enforced in the condominium development to which it was intended to apply unless the plaintiff owner can show that the burdens it imposes on affected properties so substantially outweigh the benefits of the restriction that it should not be enforced against any owner. Here, the Court of Appeal did not apply this standard in deciding that plaintiff had stated a claim for declaratory relief. Accordingly, we reverse the judgment of the Court of Appeal and remand for further proceedings consistent with the views [****5]  expressed in this opinion.

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8 Cal. 4th 361 *; 878 P.2d 1275 **; 33 Cal. Rptr. 2d 63 ***; 1994 Cal. LEXIS 4555 ****; 94 Daily Journal DAR 12534; 94 Cal. Daily Op. Service 6859

NATORE A. NAHRSTEDT, Plaintiff and Appellant, v. LAKESIDE VILLAGE CONDOMINIUM ASSOCIATION, INC., et al., Defendants and Respondents.

Prior History:  [****1]  Superior Court of Los Angeles County, No. WEC144478, Lawrence C. Waddington, Judge.

Disposition: Plaintiff's allegations, even if true, are insufficient to show that the pet restriction's harmful effects substantially outweigh its benefits to the condominium development as a whole, that it bears no rational relationship to the purpose or function of the development, or that it violates public policy. We reverse the judgment of the Court of Appeal, and remand for further proceedings consistent with the views expressed in this opinion.


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