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Can I Keep My Pet in My Strata Unit, Townhouse or Villa?

An article written by Sydney Strata Lawyer, Michael Pobi of Pobi Lawyers

We have all heard that it is the Australian Dream to own your own home. For some, this means being able to buy into a unit, townhouse or villa complex.

In Australia it has also become the “dream” of many owners and tenants to own and keep their family pet in their household.

However, the keeping of pets in a unit, townhouse or villa may raise a number of contentious issues including, but not limited to, noise, smell, cleanliness, maintenance and repair of common property, supervision and control of the pet.

The first step in determining whether or not you may keep a pet in your unit, townhouse or villa or whether or not you need the consent of the owners corporation depends on the terms of the by-laws which apply to your owners corporation. Please note that you do not need the owners corporation’s approval to keep a guide dog or hearing dog in your unit, townhouse or villa.

Here are some useful tips to guide you through the process:

1. First, you should obtain and review an up-to-date copy of your owners corporation’s by-laws relating to the keeping of pets/animals otherwise you may end up wasting your time and money.

2. An owners corporation may register its own by-laws which may prohibit the keeping of pets or allow the keeping of a class of pets on conditions and subject to the owners corporation’s consent or allow the keeping of pets without restriction (i.e. customised by- laws).

3. For owners corporations registered prior to 1 July 1997 and that have not registered a by- law dealing with pets, by-law 16 in Schedule 1 to the Strata Schemes Management Act 1996 applies. By-law 16 permits owners and occupiers to keep an animal (pet) provided that they obtain the owners corporation’s prior written approval.

4. For owners corporations registered on or after 1 July 1997, the owners corporation may adopt the model 17 by-law in Schedule 2 of the Strata Schemes Management Regulation 2010 which contains the 3 options listed as Options A, B and C.

5. If you require the owners corporation’s written consent, consent may be sought by writing a letter to the secretary of the owners corporation via the owners corporation’s strata managing agent. When drafting such a letter to the owners corporation and depending on your particular circumstances, the following information may assist the owners corporation determine your application:

(a) describe your pet in detail e.g. its breed, sex, size, age and appearance;

(b) give details of whether your pet will reside in your lot or in your backyard (or both);

(c) give proof of registration, microchipping, desexing and all necessary vaccinations;

(d) if you have kept your pet in another complex or residence it may be useful to get a reference from your former neighbours or if you were renting, your former landlord(s ) that mentions your pets behaviour;
(e) search the owners corporation’s records and see if there are other residents in the complex who have kept pets in the complex and, if such records exist;
(f) if there are any other residents in the complex with pets, talk to them about seeking their approval to your application to keep your pet.

6. If you believe the owners corporation has unreasonably refused your application to keep your pet, you should ask the owners corporation’s strata managing agent to provide you with a copy of the minutes of the owners corporation’s general meeting or the executive committee meeting at which your application was refused in an effort to extract the reasons, if any exist, for the refusal. You should also try to obtain as much documentary evidence as possible in relation to the owners corporation’s refusal. The key issue is whether or not the owners corporation’s refusal to consent to your keeping of a pet is unreasonable.

7. Get specialist strata legal advice.

8. Subject to 7 above, lodge a mediation application against the owners corporation to try and resolve your dispute. If mediation declined or unsuccessful, proceed to 9 below.

9. Subject to 7 and 8 above, lodge Adjudication Application against the owners corporation.
If you believe that your owners corporation has unreasonably refused the keeping of your pet, we can help.

16 December 2014

Please note that the information contained in this article is not legal advice and should not be relied upon. You should obtain legal advice before you take any action or otherwise rely upon the contents of this article.