Pets in Strata – Why You Need Better By-Laws Not Blanket Bans

By September 1, 2021Pets

The issue of pets in strata buildings and the controls that have and are being imposed on them has become a hot topic in the last few years with major cases, strata law changes, reform proposals and changing societal views.

This has only increased since the beginning of Covid-19 where we have had the tumultuous mix of sky-rocketing levels of pet ownership (AKA pandemic puppies) combined with the fact that more people are in their homes all days due to lockdowns and the like.

Over the years there has been a concerted trend of adjudicators generally ruling in favour of having less onerous restrictions on keeping pets in strata properties. In Queensland, the banning of all pets, as well as banning dogs of a certain size or weight by bodies corporate has been ruled invalid.

A recent change in NSW strata law has radically altered that state’s default position on pets in strata schemes.

From August 24, any by-laws in NSW strata properties that unreasonably prohibit owners from keeping pets will be invalid and unreasonable delays in reaching a decision on whether or not to accept pets will be taken as approval.

Contrary to how some in the media present it, the new NSW laws allowing for more apartment owners to keep pets does not mean every apartment resident can suddenly keep whatever animal they like in their lot.

Apartment communities will still be able to regulate and place restrictions on keeping pets, but these restrictions cannot be “unreasonable.” As is the case for Queensland strata communities.

Currently in QLD

“In 2008, as a consequence of an appeal of an adjudicator’s decision, the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT) formerly Queensland Consumer and Commercial Tribunal (CCT) considered whether or not a by-law that applied an absolute ban on pet ownership exceeded a body corporate’s authority. The QCAT decided that imposing an absolute ban on the keeping of animals was unreasonable. As a consequence subsection 7 was inserted to section 180 of the Body Corporate and Community Management Act 1997 (Act) in 2009. Section 180 of the Act, provides for limitations on by-laws” – Michelle Scott, Commissioner for Body Corporate and Community Management

In short, in Queensland, the banning of all pets, as well as banning dogs of a certain size or weight by bodies corporate has been ruled invalid.

A body corporate committee is required to consider the circumstances of each case and be reasonable in the decision it takes.

The primary issue for a body corporate considering a pet application is the likelihood of an adverse impact on common property or any person.

Decisions about suitability of animals for unit/apartment living should not be based on the animal’s size or weight, but on their activity levels, personality and training. Common examples are Greyhounds as while they are quite a large dog known for their running ability, they are well satisfied with one quick walk a day and will generally silently laze around the rest of the time, making them perfect apartment pets.

It’s also important to assess any pet owner’s demonstrated capacity to provide for the animals’ needs and not impinge on the well-being of others in the complex.

Assistance Animal Exemptions

If an occupier has a disability under the Guide, Hearing & Assistance Dogs Act 2009 and they rely on their animal, there is no requirement to ask permission to have the animal on the premise, these animals are not considered pets.

In accordance with various federal and state legislation, strata by-laws cannot exclude or restrict guide, hearing and assistance dogs. Occupiers with assistant animals should still communicate to the body corporate that they are keeping this animal in their lot.

You can find out more about assistance animals in a body corporate here. 

Better By-Laws over Blanket Bans

So yes, apartment communities in Queensland are able to regulate and place restrictions on keeping pets, but these restrictions cannot be “unreasonable.”

While there are many grey areas on what constitutes “reasonable”, one example would be that it’s “unreasonable” to ban pets altogether or place arbitrary weight/size limits for them.

It would be “reasonable” however, to place restrictions on keeping a dangerous animal as this would  have “unreasonably negatively affects” on other residents.

Like anything in strata, you’re better off with better by-laws over blanket bans.

There are thousands of Adjudicators’ decisions in relation to pet approvals. It’s  easy to find decisions in relation to by-laws that impose weight limits.

If you look through a sample of those decisions some relatively clear principles emerge:

  1. A by-law which bans domestic pets, or any type of them, is almost certainly void.
  2. A by-law which bans domestic pets over an arbitrary weight limit is almost certainly void.
  3. A by-law which permits pets up to a certain weight limit without approval, but which imposes a requirement for approval over an arbitrary weight limit, is also likely void.

Pet applications

An application is necessary to the body corporate to advise that a lot owner/tenant wishes to keep a pet on the premises.

If you wish to apply to have a pet at the property your request will need to be submitted to the body corporate committee. If applying as a tenant, you will also need to provide evidence of the lot owner’s approval to keep a pet.

To enable the body corporate or property owner to make a reasonable decision, you can demonstrate that you are a responsible carer by providing the below…

  • A pet resume (outlining up-to-date immunisations, flea and worming treatments, microchip details, de-sexing certificate, and obedience training certificates)
  • Pet references from your vet, dog trainer, or managers where you have lived with your pet
  • Introducing your pet to the committee to show good behaviour and training may also help
  • Offering to sign a pet agreement which outlines reasonable expectations for the care and management of your pet is a way to demonstrate that you take your responsibilities seriously

Click here for a Stratacare pet application form.

Where there are genuine concerns, the imposition of reasonable conditions on keeping the pet may be more reasonable than outright refusal.

Conditions for Keeping Pets

Many Lot owners will have legitimate concerns about the impact that pets may have on them and their lifestyle.

Most of those concerns can be addressed by imposing conditions on keeping pets. If you don’t agree with all of the conditions imposed by the body corporate you should discuss your concerns with them in the first instance.

Some examples of the conditions that can be set when giving approval of a pet are:

  • That the animal is kept within the Lot while present on the scheme land.
  • That the animal is not permitted to roam on common property, or into other lots in the scheme.
  • That the animal traverses common property only when it is being brought onto or taken off the scheme land, and that when doing so, the animal is suitably restrained.
  • That any waste or mess caused by the animal is effectively cleaned and disposed of.
  • That any applicable local council regulations are complied with.
  • That approval may be revoked if the animal causes any noise or disturbance to interfere with any person’s use or enjoyment of another lot or common property.
  • That approval is given for the animal included in the application, and that no replacement or substituted animals are allowed, without written approval of the Body Corporate.

If the body corporate refuses to approve the pet, there are avenues that Lot Owners can take to have the decision possibly overturned. See what the Body Corporate advises first. There may be no issues at all, and approval may go smoothly.

Removing Pets that Breach Conditions

Once approval has been given, should there been any breach of the conditions imposed on the approval, the Body Corporate can then revoke the approval and take steps to seek the removal of the animal in question.

Just because an animal is approved does not mean that it can misbehave.

Owners need to take responsibility for their pets and ensure they do not cause nuisance to other owners and occupiers.

Tips for Pets Applications in Strata

  • Prepare a pet resume outlining training and references from past landlords and neighbours.
    • Offer to have carpets professionally cleaned once a year.
    • Be honest – don’t try and hide pets if the pets are not allowed.
    • Seek professional help for behavioural problems such as barking or digging.

For further information or if you have a problem with pets in your community, please call our office on (07) 3435 5300 for a more detailed discussion.

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