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Can You Keep Chickens in Your Backyard?

Chinese Rooster

I’m sure you’ve seen the odd chicken or two crossing Honolulu’s roads!

Happy Lunar New Year All!

If you’ve been following me, you may recall I did a blog post on my old website (also found here) celebrating last Lunar New Year’s animal, the monkey. It was a post about “Can You Own a Monkey in Hawaii?” Keeping with that theme this post discusses the laws of the City and County of Honolulu related to this Lunar New Year’s animal, the Rooster. Or more precisely, chickens.

Can You Keep Chickens?

This post is limits discussion to the jurisdiction of the City and County of Honolulu (the island of Oahu).  Additionally, the post focuses on residential areas only. If you are raising chickens for commercial purposes you have compliance issues regarding zoning and permitting, which is a different discussion then today’s post.

Nuisance Law

When keeping chickens, the law is not related to the animal itself, but more has to do with the City government’s ability to regulate nuisances. Old English common law had it that when some type of action by a defendant was either causing a substantial and unreasonable interference with people’s use and enjoyment of the land (private nuisance) or the action had a materially affect the reasonable comfort and convenience of life of the people (public nuisance). Flash forward to today, our city government has the ability to regulate nuisances, in our case for this post, Animal Nuisances. You can find it in Chapter 7, Article 2 of the Revised Ordinances of Honolulu.

So the laws approach to the situation is to make it unlawful to own poultry, which includes chickens, pigeons, turkeys, geese, ducks and peafowl so long as they are an “animal nuisance”.  See Sec. 7-2.3.

Short answer: yes, you can keep chickens if you are in Honolulu.

Slightly longer answer: yes, you can keep chickens in Honolulu, so long as they are not a nuisance. If they are a nuisance, then you cannot keep them.

So What’s an “Animal Nuisance”?

Article 2 also defines “animal nuisance.” There are three (3) definitions, but I’m going to focus on the first two definitions which is:

  • Makes noise continuously and/or incessantly for a period of 10 minutes or intermittently for one-half hour or more to the disturbance of any person at any time of day or night and regardless of whether the animal, farm animal or poultry is physically situated in or upon private property;
  • Barks, whines, howls, crows, cries or makes any other unreasonable noise as described in Section 7-2.4 (c) of this article;

See Sec. 7-2.2.

So it is clear that a chicken making noise continuously for 10 minutes or intermittently over one-half hour (30 minutes) is a nuisance, but what is that second definition about?

Again, we are now defining another concept, which is what constitutes “unreasonable noise”. Sec. 7-2.4(c) says that:

Noise is unreasonable within the meaning of this article if considering the nature and the circumstances surrounding the animal nuisance, including the nature of the location and the time of the day or night, it interferes with reasonable individual or group activities such as, but not limited to, communication, work, rest, recreation or sleep; or the failure to heed the admonition of a police officer or a special officer of the animal control contractor that the noise is unreasonable and should be stopped or reduced.

What does this Mean for an Owner of a Rooster that cock-a-doodle-doos at 11:00 p.m. in an Apartment Building?

If we consider the nature and the circumstances: (a) it is a building where everyone is close by; (b) the rooster’s noise is at night; and (c) that most people are sleeping at that time; and (d) that the neighbors would likely call the police or animal control personnel. Then the likely outcome is those officials would instruct the owner to have the animal stop. If the owner did not stop the problem, then it would be deemed as “unreasonable noise.” See Sec. 7-2.4. This turns into an “animal nuisance” and then the owner would be prohibited from keeping the rooster.

What Could Happen if you Violate the Law?

Generally, a monetary fine. If you keep stacking offenses within a certain time frame you actually be imprisoned. Additionally, you can be ordered to go to a training program or retain a contractor to help you train the animal to stop the nuisance. Further, such training programs or contractors are paid for by you. See Sec. 7-2.10

How Many Chickens can I Have?

Sec. 7-2.5(d) states that for chickens and peafowl: “The number of chickens or peafowl shall not exceed two per household.”

So yes, while you can keep a couple of chickens in Honolulu residential areas, they better be quiet chickens!

How do I Handle Chicken Noises Bothering Me?

If you have an animal noise complaint for Oahu, then contact the Honolulu Police Department or the Hawaiian Humane Society. The Hawaiian Humane Society recently has started responding to chicken noise complaints: http://www.kitv.com/story/34311091/hawaiian-humane-society-now-responding-to-chicken-noise-complaints

If you want to find more about Honolulu’s Animal Nuisance law, click here.

Thanks again for stopping by and I hope this is a fortuitous and good year for you!

-RKH

DISCLAIMER: This post discusses general legal issues, but does not constitute legal advice in any respect.  No reader should act or refrain from acting based on information contained in this post without seeking the advice of  an attorney in their relevant jurisdiction.  Hew & Bordenave, LLLP expressly disclaims all liability in respect to any actions taken or not taken based on the contents of this post.

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Old Posts: From Ryan K. Hew, Attorney at Law, LLLC

Formalities

From: “Let me provide the formalities.”

Hew and Bordenave

To: “Let us provides the formalities.”

From Old Solo to New Partnership

Hey everyone, thanks for visiting our Blawg. I am just letting you know that all the posts prior to January 1, 2017 are from my solo practice. They are from Ryan K. Hew, Attorney at Law, LLLC. In particular, the old: hawaiiesquire.com. I brought the posts to our new site because a lot of the legal information is helpful for business owners and truth be told I loved doing Draw the Law, Boilerplate Blurb, and all the other content. So please continue enjoying them, but I do hope you like the new content from Trejur and me. Mahalo!

-Ryan K. Hew

Did you Preorder an iPhone 6? Did you Review your Wireless Agreement? (Don’t worry, I know the answer.)

iphone6

So were you one of the lucky ones this morning?  Were you able to pre-order yourself an iPhone 6 or an iPhone 6+?  I was successful in getting an iPhone 6, a gold one with 128 GB if you are interested.  However, I was also able to get a copy of my Wireless Customer Agreement with AT&T, which I find interesting.  Usually, when I make large purchases online, I like to copy and paste the agreements in an MS Word document so that I can analyze them and truth be told consider utilizing their language in my agreements.  Attorneys are always looking for drafting language, copying and pasting speeds up the process for clients, but also for the attorney; it allows us to see how other agreements try to encompass a transaction and reduce it to writing (at least for a business attorney).  Further, when we are developing a new transaction for a client, it helps to see what is out there already in the marketplace. Do we have something novel or is someone else already doing it that way?

Anyway, this post is not about analyzing attorneys, but rather I thought it would be interesting to see how a giant wireless company drafts its agreement and what you are agreeing to, as I find for smaller businesses they are always curious what the “big boys” do for their agreements. Also as I stated, transactional attorneys will use drafting language from another company’s agreement if their client is doing the same or similar, then modify to the client’s needs (not to mention in B2C agreement, if the customer already understands a competitor’s agreement it makes it easier for them to understand if the language is the same).  My last rationale is that in our TL;DR social media culture, I thought I would highlight some provisions I thought were interesting if you were just curious as a fellow user of wireless services.

So here is the pdf version of the Wireless Customer Agreement that popped up on my screen that AT&T made me agree to get my iPhone 6 on preorder so that you can follow along.

I. 2nd Paragraph = Please Read – Are we Tracking You? And You are Agreeing to Arbitration.

Right off the bat, in the second paragraph, in big, bold letters, AT&T’s agreement states:

PLEASE READ THIS AGREEMENT CAREFULLY TO ENSURE THAT YOU UNDERSTAND EACH PROVISION, INCLUDING OUR USE OF YOUR LOCATION INFORMATION (SEE SECTION 3.6). THIS AGREEMENT REQUIRES THE USE OF ARBITRATION ON AN INDIVIDUAL BASIS TO RESOLVE DISPUTES, RATHER THAN JURY TRIALS OR CLASS ACTIONS, AND ALSO LIMITS THE REMEDIES AVAILABLE TO YOU IN THE EVENT OF A DISPUTE.

A. Privacy Issue

So what’s all of that mean? Well, if we go down to Section 3.6, we soon discover that this all about how they handle information that they receive from your “Device” (your phone). One of the relevant parts states the following:

We use that information, as well as other usage and performance information also obtained from our network and your Device, to provide you with wireless voice and data services, and to maintain and improve our network and the quality of your wireless experience. We may also use location information to create aggregate data from which your personally identifiable information has been removed or obscured. Such aggregate data may be used for a variety of purposes such as scientific and marketing research and services such as vehicle traffic volume monitoring. It is your responsibility to notify users on your account that we may collect and use location information from Devices.

Interestingly, the language here tracks with many privacy policies that other companies use and they’ve incorporated it into the agreement.  Additionally, AT&T recommends you see its privacy policy on its website by stating:

Please review the terms and conditions and the associated privacy policy for each Location- Based Service to learn how the location information will be used and protected. For more information on Location-Based Services, please visit att.com/privacy. 

I’ve discussed the differences between a contract and a policy in a Slideshare presentation before if you are curious.  In this case, some of the policies are firmly settled into and a part of the agreement; this is always a decision to ponder when drafting of whether or not to incorporate policies into an agreement, thereby making them a part of the contract.

B. Arbitration

So here is one fun part (well, at least to me), throughout this agreement AT&T strives to make it clear through all capitalization or bolding of letters that you agree to binding arbitration. “What’s ‘arbitration,’ Precious?!?” (Pardon, the dorky humor.)

Well, AT&T tells you what it is exactly in Section 2.1 of the agreement.  Arbitration is NOT court; it is a form of “alternative dispute resolution.”  It is less formal than a court proceeding and tends to be faster in reaching a resolution in a dispute than going to court. With that being said, generally speaking, many feel that arbitration tends to be favorable to the business and anti-consumer.  I’m not here to judge whether or not that is true, but what is clear is that AT&T has its consumer’s waive the ability to go to court (other than small claims) and has also barred class arbitration and class actions.  “Class” actions or arbitrations are where a large number of people who have suffered that same injury from the same person (a business entity is a legal person) band together to pursue a claim.  This type of provision is also seen as anti-consumer by consumer advocates.  For my part and this post, I’m just going to address the question: can they do that?

Yes, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) has made clear in recent rulings the applicability of the Federal Arbitration Act to these types of agreements. So if you have a dispute with AT&T beyond small claims court limitations, you are going to have to arbitrate: there is not another option.

It is worth noting here AT&T had a case before SCOTUS on this matter in AT&T Mobility v. Concepcion, 563 U.S. 321 (2011).  Basically, SCOTUS ruled that the FAA preempted state laws (in this case California’s law) that prohibit contracts from disallowing class-wide arbitration, thus allowing businesses to include arbitration agreements eliminating a consumer’s ability to bring a class action suit. So it should come as no surprise with a SCOTUS victory, they are going to include this in their agreements.

II. Section 6.0: Data – Why all the CAPITALIZATION and Bolding?!

So another area that caught my eye, and probably purposefully so by the drafter of this document is Section 6.0.  Why did it catch my eye?  When scrolling down the text one cannot, but help notice the large amounts of bolding and capitalization in Section 6.0.  And of course they are going to do that, it has to deal with one of the biggest contentious areas that people have with their wireless carriers, the data usage plan.

A. 6.1: Overage Charges; No Rollover; and Terminate with or without Cause

So this isn’t exactly news, as many of you already understand this, but I thought I would pull out the line in the agreement that states it for you:

On Data Services with a monthly megabyte (MB) or gigabyte (GB) data allowance, once you exceed your monthly data allowance you will be automatically charged for overage as specified in the applicable rate plan. All data allowances, including overages, must be used in the billing period in which the allowance is provided. Unused data allowances will not roll over to subsequent billing periods.

You will be charged for overages if you are on a rate plan where that is possible, so those of you grandfathered in will probably cling to your rate plans that have no overage charges till you become a grandfather.  Also, no rolling over unused data into another billing period.

Then we have this sentence at the end of Section 6.1:

AT&T RESERVES THE RIGHT TO TERMINATE YOUR DATA SERVICES WITH OR WITHOUT CAUSE, INCLUDING WITHOUT LIMITATION, UPON EXPIRATION OR TERMINATION OF YOUR WIRELESS CUSTOMER AGREEMENT.

Basically, AT&T may terminate your data services, and they do not need a reason to once your wireless customer agreement ends whether it expires or terminates. 

B. Section 6.2: Don’t Do this Stuff as It’s Not the Point of the Wireless Data Service (i.e. Prohibited Uses)

Ok, I am not quoting Section 6.2 (as the relevant part I want to discuss is long), and you are probably getting tired reading this post as it is long, but for those of you have stuck it through all this, much appreciated.

Anyway, for this wall of bolded text, basically, it is AT&T’s intent to prohibit certain behaviors as those uses are probably illegal, harms AT&T’s infrastructure, damages AT&T’s ability to profit, or exposes them to some other liability.  It’s pretty detailed and lists a lot of examples. Also, they save themselves on making sure you understand that the list of examples are not the only ones of Prohibited Use by stating that their listing is “without limitation.”  Of course, if AT&T “believes” you are using their Service in one of these prohibited manners, it may terminate the agreement.

III. Section 10.0: Doing Business in Multiple Jurisdictions.

So I am going to round out this post at the end of AT&T’s Wireless Customer Agreement (seems to be a good place as any to stop), as I tend to do this blog for business owners (small and large), and Section 10 to me highlights what businesses face when they operate in multiple jurisdictions.

Most businesses start off in one state, and then as they become more successful they grow, and that growth is sometimes beyond the state they started in.  Depending on the situation, sometimes you can avail yourself of your home state’s laws and other times when you do business in another state you are bound to follow their laws.  For large businesses, like AT&T they have a myriad of laws that they must follow at the federal level, but individually as to all the states that they have customers in.  Sometimes those state laws force a company to stipulate to things in their agreements, in particular when it is with consumers, due to some states passing consumer protection laws.  Here, in AT&T’s Section 10.0 we see that California, Connecticut, and Puerto Rico (which is not a state, but I’ve been using “state” here for my own convenience) have special provisions.

Therefore, this brings me to a point for all you businesses that have operations in multiple states. While for the sake of ease, and that variations in your operations and systems cost time and money, it is sometimes inescapable due to a state’s laws that your agreements will be regulated.  So you should consider, especially when it comes to your consumer agreements, knowing what the consumer protection laws are if you intend to a comprehensive catchall agreement as AT&T has done here.

Anyway, I think this makes up for my lack of posts for several months.  I will strive to be less wall-of-text on you readers next time and spruce up the next post with pictures, possibly my doodles for a Draw that Law when I get back to it.  As always, mahalo for reading.

-RKH 

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“Nonprofit” does Not Mean “501(c)(3)”

Non-Profit Organization

As it is the giving time, I took some time to give a donation through the Friends of Hawaii Charities, Inc. page. As I was going through the process, this triggered my busy-filled brain that I was going to do a series of one-sheets and posts about nonprofits, tax-exemption status, and the meaning of 501(c)(3) . . . Which as you can see I have not done.

So I figured let’s just do a short post on one aspect:  namely, terminology and use of phrases of “nonprofit,” “non-profit corporation,” and “501(c)(3)”.

Be Specific: The Importance of the Right Word

Sometimes the “officialness” of a word tends to confuse rather than help. However, for attorneys, especially transactional ones, like myself, we often correct clients that conflate a “corporation” with an “LLC.”  They are NOT the same entity.  Further, this translates into a shareholder owns stocks/shares in a corporation whereas a member owns membership/ownership interest in their LLC.  While this can get confusing to the average businessperson, we attorneys use it to understand what type of situation we are facing for the purposes of ownership, rights, obligations, taxes, etc.

So this brings me to the point of this post.  I hear many times people use the word “nonprofit” to mean the same thing as “501(c)(3)” and vice versa.  While a 501(c)(3) is a nonprofit, not all nonprofits are 501(c)(3) organizations.  (If you remember nothing else of this post, just remember that sentence!)

What is a Nonprofit?

Many people think that “nonprofit” means that the organization does not make money. While, in a sense true, that does not paint the whole picture.  Like many lay people’s interpretation of the mechanics of law that is oversimplified.  The designation of being a nonprofit does NOT mean that the organization does not intend to make a profit.  What it means is that the organization has no owners (like shareholders or members of for-profit corporations or LLCs) and that the revenues earned by the organization do not inure to any particular owner.  In fact, there are some large revenue-generating nonprofit organizations out there, and one has had some headlines recently is the National Football League (NFL).

Yes, the NFL is a nonprofit; specifically, under the US Tax Code, it is a 501(c)(6).  I will get to the 501(c) thing in a minute.  I’d like to finish this thought on “nonprofit” before segueing to the 501(c).  Because business entity formation happens at the state-level (here in Hawaii you go through the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs, and in other states through the secretary of state), nonprofits first step toward 501(c)(3) status is to become a nonprofit corporation.

At that point, after your Articles of Incorporation are filed, you have a non-profit corporation in your state, BUT you are NOT a 501(c) tax-exempt nonprofit organization.

What are 501(c)s? and Specifically What is a 501(c)(3)?

After you have a non-profit corporation most organizations try to determine whether or not to seek further 501(c) status due to their purpose.  Notice that I mentioned that the NFL is a 501(c)(6), which is a Business League,  but in total there are about 29 different types of 501(c)s of varying use.  The most well-known is what everyone thinks of as a nonprofit, which is an organization organized for charitable (or similar purposes) and has 501(c)(3) status.

If the nonprofit corporation has a charitable purpose, its board of directors will seek 501(c)(3) status form the IRS. This tax-exempt status confers a benefit to people who donate money to the organization.  If you look at the website that I made a donation to this is the language they use:

Your donation is made to Friends of Hawaii Charities and is tax-deductible because Friends of Hawaii Charities is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt charitable organization.

For charitable organizations, that is the key feature of a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status, allowing the donors to get a tax deduction.  To receive this special status the nonprofit corporation has to meet certain criteria, and even after it gets its 501(c)(3) status the organization needs to abide by standards set out in the tax code.  For example, 501(c)(3) organizations cannot support political candidates and conduct extensive lobbying whereas the 501(c)(4), civic leagues, aka “Super PACS,” are not barred from these activities (yet).

Last Word: Know the Terms

I hope this clears the confusion when you use the words “nonprofit” and “501(c)(3)”. Nonprofit is just a general catchall and consider the fact that the term can just as easily apply to a casual association as well as a formal organization (i.e. one that has filed Articles of Incorporation to become a nonprofit corporation).  Then, you take your non-profit corporation and apply for 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status.  If that does not help, as always seek an attorney or professional and they may explain it better than me.

P.S. If you are feeling giving, be sure to check out the Friends of Hawaii, Inc. site and give to a Hawaii nonprofit through Friends of Hawaii, Inc., which is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization!

Pacific New Media Class: Social Media and the Law – March 6, 2013

Please join me at my class with Pacific New Media on Social Media and the Law next week Wednesday, March 6, from 7 – 9pm if you are interested in learning about the applicability of various laws with social media usage. I will be talking about whether you can be fired for using social media, legislative updates, and other various issues that have cropped up when the law tries to get a handle with the likes of Facebook, Twitter, and other communicative platforms.

Click on this link for more details.

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Law Talk: Trademarks and Internet Branding

Trademark issues are always abound whenever you try to start a company nowadays, is your domain name taken? Is your logo too similar to another? Do I have to pay licensing fees? An issue you don’t have questions about is knowing that legal disputes are costly and expensive as well as having to re-tool your brand.  It may cost more than you wanted upfront, but there are steps you can take to try and safeguard your brand before you implement a marketing strategy.
Join me and Tara Coomans of Akamai Marketing and Social Media Club of Hawaii’s President for this special talk on what is a trademark and what this means for your branding.

Here is the informational flyer:

In addition, if you want to share the information, please use my calendar function by clicking here.