Owners seeking to keep pets in their strata units have traditionally faced a range of restrictive by-laws which prohibit pets within the scheme. New strata laws which came into force in the middle of 2016 are shaking up the issue of pet ownership, designed to make it easier for residents to own pets.
During the consultation phase, it was noted that many pet owners were being forced to choose between keeping their pet and living in a strata building. With more than a quarter of NSW residents living and working in multi-unit developments, this was having a major impact on the quality of people’s lives.
According to NSW Fair Trading, the strata reforms remove any reference to a pet ban from the scheme’s model by-laws.
Fair trading has taken a much friendlier view to pets in this new legislation and are now encouraging people and strata plans to allow pets in their buildings. They’ve done this by providing new model bylaws which make for a far more relaxed attitude to allowing pets in strata buildings.
If you do have a pet in a strata building, it’s always important that you approach your strata committee first to make sure that they have a pet-friendly policy, otherwise you run the risk of having your pet being removed from the building. Although the by-laws have been relaxed around pets, it is still a specific by-law that relates to your strata plan, so it’s very important that you seek permission before bringing a pet into any strata building. Note: This does not relate to guide dogs or other support animals who must be allowed in a strata should you provide the appropriate documentation.
Schemes will also be ‘actively encouraged’ to review their by-laws and seriously consider lifting the existing ban of pet ownership.
Strata complexes will still be able to set their own rules regarding pet ownership, under the new rules. If the model by-law is adopted, however, the scheme cannot ‘unreasonably refuse’ a request to keep a small pet.Each request and case will be dealt with on its own merits, and schemes will be able to create a list of conditions designed to manage pets within the complex. These could include cats being kept indoors, and all dog droppings in communal areas being picked up and disposed of hygienically.
Under the new reforms, by-laws will not be able to stop an owner keeping a guide dog or assistance animal, as long as legal documentation is provided to prove its necessity.
Along with guide dogs for the sight-impaired, the category includes dogs or other animals which offer assistance and support to those suffering conditions like psychiatric disability.
Permission only extends to well-behaved animals. If the animal creates a nuisance or hazard, owners can be taken to the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal for an order which removes it from the lot.
A single by-law is likely to replace current options, requiring owners to gain approval from their body corporate or owners corporation in order to keep a pet.
The corporation cannot unreasonably refuse such a request, and owners have the option to go to the NSW Tribunal if they think approval has been withheld unreasonably.
There is flexibility for schemes to allow some small pets without the need for approval from body corporate management, including fish, birds and cats. This will be great news for many residents who love living in strata units as much as they love their pets.
It remains to be seen how well the scheme will run in practice, however; potential exists for numerous disputes about what constitutes a ‘reasonable pet’ and what is regarded as an ‘unreasonable refusal’.
It’s important to ensure that you are aware of the rules for your building around keeping a pet. This can include things like picking up al excrement, keeping the animal supervised when on common property, ensuring they don’t bark or make too much noise all the way to not allowing them to walk on common property.
Each building will have it’s own special conditions so you should refer to your By-Laws to make sure you know what they are.
Depending on your schemes By-Laws this can vary but the most common way to apply is in writing to your Strata Manager. They will pass on the application to the Strata Committee to review. An application can often require things like photos, details of the veterinary history and training, as well their size and weight.
If you feel that your application has been refused unreasonably you can apply to the NCAT for mediation with the Owners Corporation. You will need to complete an application form and submit it stating why you feel the application was unreasonably refused.
Keeping a pet in a strata building without consent can render you in breach of the schemes By-Laws meaning you may be forced to remove the pet rom the building.