Real Estate: What can you do about rogue canines? Not much…

Tim Jones answers questions related to rogue canines who are doing their business in a resident’s garden and a senior’s question about leaving his home to his son.
A dog. Photo: Pexels

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Q: We own a home in Fairfield with a sidewalk running between us and the street. In our neighborhood everybody seems to do a lot of walking and tons of those people have dogs. We have nothing against dogs (we have two poodles of our own) but the problem is the damage everybody else’s dogs are doing to our front landscape. I’m not talking about the occasional poop we find on the grass. Yes, that’s gross and rude of the dog’s owner but it doesn’t happen very often.

What I’m talking about is that everyone seems to let their dogs pee on our flowers (I’m an avid gardener) and the front edge of the grass. In both of those cases the urine yellows and kills the plants. We try to water down those areas every day, but it’s futile and, especially during the summer, we constantly have yellow, dying plants. Is there anything we can do?

A: Well, for starts, dog waste is a little out of my area of expertise. My wife and I haven’t owned a dog for many years. But your question actually raises an interesting legal question.

So here’s an answer that’s probably longer than you were hoping for.

I was pretty sure that permitting Fido to relieve himself of solid waste on your lawn was illegal.

Looking up the Fairfield City Ordinance on such matters it says:

“It is unlawful for any owner, keeper or caretaker of any dog or horse to permit such animal to discharge his or her solid excreta on any public or private property (other than the property of such owner, keeper or care-taker) within the city, if such owner, keeper or caretaker does not immediately thereafter remove and clean up such animal excreta from the property. (Ord. No. 98-10, §2)”

Note that it says, “solid excreta,” which I presume to mean urine isn’t covered.

So we have to look to some other legal theory to see if an owner who lets their dog pee on your flowers is in violation of the law.

And here we are; California Penal Code 602:

“Except as provided in subdivisions (u), (v), and (x), and Section 602.8, every person who willfully commits a trespass by any of the following acts is guilty of a misdemeanor: . . . (c) Maliciously injuring or severing from the freehold of another anything attached to it, or its produce.”

Since a trespass doesn’t just occur when the trespasser themselves enter a property illegally but can also occur when they allow someone or something they control to enter the property, allowing your dog to pee onto someone’s property without permission is a crime. Especially when it damages something “attached” to the land.

If my old criminal law professor were to read this, he’d be so proud!

But of course, this isn’t law school. This is the real world and believe me, the two have little to do with each other.

In the real world nobody would consider a dog peeing on the edge of your lawn to be a crime. I suspect the police have better things to do than take the time to haul the offender off to doggy jail.

So the practical answer to your question is; nope, there’s likely nothing you can do about it.

Other than redesigning your flower bed to put some distance between the sidewalk and your lilies I’m afraid I can’t offer you much of a solution.

Q: I’m a senior citizen and a widower. I’ve owned my home for almost 40 years, and now I want to give it to my son. The deal we made is that he will pay me $160,000 in cash, which we figure is about half the value of the place. My question is this: Do we have to have an escrow? And do we have to pay for title insurance and have all of those inspections? My son knows this house as well as I do so it’s not like a real sale.

A: In every residential sale the biggest player is usually the lender. Since the bank is putting up the money, they want to do everything possible to assure themselves that their money is going into a decent property for the simple reason that if they are forced to foreclose they want to be able to sell the property quickly with a sales price that’s high enough they can get their money back.

The title insurance policy is always required by a lender and insures the lender’s money. The escrow company ensures that all of the required documents are signed, existing mortgages paid off, and other conditions met prior to the recording the deed.

If your son has the money in the bank and doesn’t need financing, you can pretty much handle the sale as simply as you want to.

Tim Jones is a real estate attorney in Fairfield. E-mail him at

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