Pets in Strata – Yes or No?
The question “should a Strata Scheme allow animals” is one of the more divisive topics among committees and owners. We have seen interesting case law regarding pets in the past few years which created uncertainty in the industry and tribunal. To clear this up, on 25th August 2021, new laws about keeping animals came into effect. The public feedback the government received is outlined in a report and was produced as part of the strata laws statutory review.
In summary, the laws prohibit an Owners Corporation from refusing the keeping of an animal in a strata scheme, unless the animal unreasonably interferes with another resident’s use and enjoyment of their lot or the common property.
Under the new laws, an Owners Corporation:
- Can only refuse to allow an animal into the scheme if it unreasonably interferes with another resident’s use and enjoyment of their lot or the common property,
- Can still require residents to apply for approval to keep an animal on their lot,
- Can still set certain conditions in their by-laws to manage keeping animals in the scheme,
- Cannot set a blanket by-law ban on the keeping of any animals within a scheme and any existing by-laws banning pets are not valid.
The regulations provide a list of circumstances seen as unreasonable interference. The list is however primarily directed at an animal already living within a strata scheme. It will be difficult/tricky to use one of these circumstances to refuse an application before the animal has moved in.
A second tricky component is that an Owners Corporation is taken to have given permission if a decision by the Owners Corporation under a by-law unreasonably denies a pet, or if a decision is not made in a reasonable timeframe (if the pet is not allowed to move in before the decision is made).
What is a reasonable timeframe for making a decision on a pet application? Anyone’s guess at this stage. We look forward to case law developing in the coming years to provide guidance. It has been debated by a prominent Sydney Strata Solicitor that 2 weeks is reasonable for a pet application. Without clear guidance, we suggest an Owners Corporation does not delay in making a decision.
This may be a good reason and opportunity to review your current pet by-laws and the committee’s process for reviewing pet applications. Please have a chat with your Strata Life Strata Manager for guidance.
Case law will appear in the coming months and years to better interpret the laws. We will update this post and incorporate material amendments/case law.
The List: Unreasonable Interference
What is deemed as unreasonable interference? For the purposes of the Act, section 137B(3), the circumstances in which the keeping of an animal unreasonably interferes with another occupant’s use and enjoyment of the occupant’s lot or the common property are:
- (a) the animal makes a noise that persistently occurs to the degree that the noise unreasonably interferes with the peace, comfort or convenience of another occupant, or
- (b) the animal repeatedly runs at or chases another occupant, a visitor of another occupant or an animal kept by another occupant, or
- (c) the animal attacks or otherwise menaces another occupant, a visitor of another occupant or an animal kept by another occupant, or
- (d) the animal repeatedly causes damage to the common property or another lot, or
- (e) the animal endangers the health of another occupant through infection or infestation, or
- (f) the animal causes a persistent offensive odour that penetrates another lot or the common property, or
- (g) for a cat kept on a lot—the owner of the animal fails to comply with an order that is in force under the Companion Animals Act 1998, section 31, or
- (h) for a dog kept on a lot—
- (i) the owner of the animal fails to comply with an order that is in force under the Companion Animals Act 1998, section 32A, or
- (ii) the animal is declared to be a menacing dog or a dangerous dog under the Companion Animals Act 1998, section 34, or
- (iii) the animal is a restricted dog within the meaning of the Companion Animals Act 1998, section 55(1).
About Strata Life – Strata Management Services
At Strata Life we strive to take the pressure of the day to day running of a strata scheme off of the shoulders of the committee members and owners. Whilst the nature of strata itself does mean that the owners/ committee are responsible for the decisions, the pressure is reduced by having a proactive manager provide guidance with a plain sense approach and quickly actioning issues as they arise.
We appreciate Committee members often have full time jobs and busy lives. Add to this that the strata scheme is often your home where Committee members do not want to have to police other residents.
Our aim is to minimise the work and time where we can, take on the role of reminding owners and residents of the by-laws so that everyone can peacefully enjoy community living.
Our team has extensive experience with properties on the Upper North Shore, Hornsby and the Northern Beaches areas, with excellent local contractors and superior local knowledge.
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Whether you’re an existing client or not, our strata managers are here to help with all matters relating to strata schemes and community living. Our office is open Monday – Friday, 9 am – 5 pm to answer your call or, for after-hours assistance, please complete our online enquiry form and we’ll get back to you the following business day.
Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is general information only and not legal advice. The currency, accuracy and completeness of this article (and its contents) should be checked by obtaining independent legal advice before you take any action or otherwise rely upon its contents in any way. Strata Life disclaims any liability for negligence or otherwise in any way connected with this article.