Australia has one of the highest rates of pet ownership in the world. We’ve got over 29 million furry companions as a nation, with about 61% of all households owning pets.
Until recently, strata by-laws made it possible to impose a blanket ban on the keeping of pets in residences without any need for justification. However, changes to the NSW Strata Scheme Management Act 2015 that came into effect in August 2021 now mean that such bans no longer has any force or effect.
Can I have a pet in strata now?
In essence, the introduction of the Strata Schemes Management Amendment (Sustainability Infrastructure) Act 2021 (the Amendment) means that keeping a pet in strata can no longer be unreasonably prohibited by strata by-laws. In short – yes, you can have a pet in strata, although conditions may still apply.
Traditionally, owners and residents have faced a range of restrictive by-laws that prohibit pet ownership within a strata scheme. In the last couple of years, a number of cases have been taken before the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT), which have led it to consider whether or not blanket bans on pets are justifiable.
As part of a strata schemes statutory review, public feedback regarding the issue of pets in strata schemes was collected in early 2021. This feedback informed the Amendment as well as the Strata Schemes Management Amendment (Pets) Regulation 2021, which aims to outline the circumstances required for pet ownership to be refused.
For a pet to be prohibited from a strata scheme, it must now be unreasonably interfering “with another occupant’s use and enjoyment of the occupant’s lot or the common property”, the regulation states. This can include such factors as:
- The pet makes loud and persistent noise that disrupts the peace and comfort of another occupant;
- The pet displays intimidating or menacing behaviour towards another occupant or visitor;
- The pet causes repeated damage to common property or another lot;
- The pet potentially endangers the well being of another occupant through the introduction of an infection or infestation; and
- The pet emits foul or unpleasant odours that have a noticeable and negative effect on another occupant.
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What’s next for strata pet by-laws?
Since the Amendment’s implementation means that blanket bans on pets will effectively be powerless, the owners corporation should see to it that such bans are repealed from a strata’s by-laws.
If an owners corporation with an invalid strata pet by-law wants to continue regulating the presence of pets, there are measures that it can put in place to do so. A new or updated by-law that requires residents to apply for permission from the owners corporation to keep pets can be created and passed by the owners corporation. This should be added to the agenda of the next general meeting and taken care of then.
A pet’s presence can also still be prohibited on the grounds of that pet being a hazard, nuisance or causing unreasonable and excessive interference. In addition, strata by-laws and conditions can also be put in place that govern issues including whether or not pets need to be supervised on common property, and if they should have a specific entrance and exit path in the building.
As Fair Trading NSW outlines on its website, there are certain restrictions on the kind of strata by-law that can be made. These by-laws cannot be “harsh, unconscionable or oppressive”, and the presence of an assistance animal in a residence cannot be prohibited or restricted.
If you think that a new strata by-law is unfair or inconsistent with the updated guidance regarding pets, it’s best to try and solve these strata disputes in-house, with the assistance of strata management, before engaging external mediation. If this doesn’t work, you can apply for mediation through Fair Trading NSW or submit an application to NCAT.
However, if your strata’s owners corporation is looking to make a new by-law regulating pets but isn’t sure where to start, get in touch with Jameson’s for experienced and effective body corporate management.
How about renters? Do they still face barriers to pet ownership?
As a result of the Amendment, any blanket bans on pet ownership in strata schemes are now not applicable to both owners and any potential renters. This means that renters do not, by default, have to obtain permission to have a pet.
Of course, the owners corporation can still pass by-laws that require permission to be sought for any new pets brought into a strata scheme residence. In addition, landlords are still able to refuse pets through the terms laid out in a tenancy agreement, so it is important for renters to be sure that they have their landlord’s permission for any pets.
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