As of 25 August 2021, new laws about the keeping of animals in a strata scheme came into place. With more and more people shifting towards pet ownership within strata-titled properties and pets becoming even more important, especially during the COVID-19 lockdown, these new laws recognise this changing behaviour to keep animals in our homes.
According to Kevin Anderson, Minister for Better Regulation, “A lot has changed since the Act commenced in 2015, including a huge shift to apartment living as more and more people in NSW are choosing to buy and rent in higher density areas”.
“On top of that, research tells us that Australia has one of the highest rates of pet ownership in the world, with 61 per cent of households including a pet in their family, and 91 per cent of households owning a pet at some point in their lives.”
When can animals enter a strata scheme?
The only time when an owners corporation can refuse entry to animals within a strata scheme is when the animal unreasonably interferes with another resident’s use and enjoyment of their lot or the common property.
Before an animal can enter the strata scheme, the owners corporation can require that animals are approved first.
For an owners corporation to require approval, they must:
- Only refuse permission for an animal on the basis that the animal causes an unreasonable interference to another occupant, and
- Make their decision about the animal within a reasonable timeframe
An animal can be automatically approved to enter the scheme if the owners corporation doesn’t make its decision under these above rules.
What are the different animal approval processes?
Under the model by-laws, there are two ways of allowing animals into a scheme:
- Residents are allowed to keep an animal as long as the resident provides written notice within 14 days of the animal first staying in the scheme.
- Residents are required to get written approval for the animal from the owners corporation and the owners corporation cannot unreasonably refuse permission. If they do refuse, written reasons for the refusal must be provided.
An owners corporation has the option to use one of the above model by-law methods. Alternatively, they can create their own by-law, including any necessary approval processes to determine how animals are introduced into their scheme.
What type of information is required for approval?
To help with identification and the approval process, the following details of the animal should be provided:
- Name of the animal
- Animal type
- Any photographs
- Vaccination records and microchip number (if relevant)
How to manage animals living within a strata scheme
Within a strata scheme, an owners corporation can include reasonable conditions within their by-laws on how pet owners are required to look after their animal.
There are some conditions for governing animals within the model by-laws. It states that if a resident houses an animal, that resident must:
- Keep the animal within their lot
- Supervise the animal whenever it is on the common property, and
- Take any action necessary to clean all areas of their lot or the common property that are soiled by the animal
An owners corporation can choose whether to follow the model by-laws or they can create their own. If they decide to create their own, there should set reasonable conditions to prevent animals from causing an unreasonable interference in their scheme.
Other types of requirements to set within a new by-law for a strata scheme include:
- Having certain types of animals such as cats or dogs to be vaccinated and microchipped
- Within common areas and in lifts, animals are to be carried or are on a leash
- Animals to enter and exit through a dedicated lift or entrance to avoid coming into contact with other people
- The owner is responsible for cleaning up the animal’s waste in areas where the animal is allowed to lay waste such as in a green area of a scheme
How to remove an animal from the scheme
If there is an animal that is causing unreasonable interference to other owners and residents or the animal is becoming a nuisance or hazard, an owners corporation or another resident can take action to prohibit an animal.
However, before banning the animal entirely, there are various steps an owners corporation and residents can take to address the problem. These include:
Resolving disputes within the scheme
The first thing to do when animals are causing unreasonable interference is to first approach the owner and discuss the issue openly and how it can be resolved. If this doesn’t work, then residents can also make use of the strata scheme’s internal dispute resolution procedure if there is one available.
An owners corporation can issue the owner with a notice to comply with a by-law in the approved form, after passing a resolution to do so if there has been a breach of a by-law.
Seek a nuisance order
Under the Companion Animals Act 1998, any person or an owners corporation can apply to the local council to seek an order against nuisance cats and dogs. When the cat or dog owner is issued with a nuisance order, they must comply with the conditions in that order or face a fine.
It is worth checking your local council’s website first for more information on their process before seeking an order. Further evidence may be required or multiple incidents of the animal’s misbehaviour must be provided before anything can be done.
Prohibit an animal
As a final step, an animal may be removed if causing a nuisance, hazard or unreasonable interference to any other resident within the scheme.
To prohibit an animal from the strata scheme, a resident or owners corporation must first approach NSW Fair Trading for mediation. If the issue is unresolved, they can apply to the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (the Tribunal) for an order to remove the animal.
What is unreasonable interference?
According to the Strata Scheme Management Regulation 2016, an animal that causes unreasonable interference is when:
- it makes a noise that persistently occurs to the degree that the noise unreasonably interferes with the peace, comfort or convenience of another resident
- it repeatedly runs at or chases another resident or animal
- it attacks or menaces another resident or animal
- it repeatedly causes damage to the common property or another lot
- it endangers the health of another resident through infection or infestation
- it causes a persistent offensive odour that penetrates another lot or the common property
For a cat:
- the owner of the cat fails to comply with a nuisance order issued under the Companion Animals Act 1998, section 31
For a dog:
- the owner of the dog fails to comply with a nuisance order issued under the Companion Animals Act 1998, section 32A, or
- the dog is a restricted dog under the Companion Animals Act 1998, section 55(1), or
- the dog is declared to be dangerous or menacing under the Companion Animals Act 1998, section 34.
What about assistance animals?
Assistance animals cannot be prohibited by a by-law within a strata scheme. However, an owners corporation can request evidence of the owner’s assistant animal’s status, such as:
- accreditation from a recognised assistance animal training body, or
- an assistance animal permit issued by Service NSW, or
- a signed statement that the animal has been trained to assist a person with a disability and meet hygiene and behaviour standards for an animal in a public place.
Private medical records cannot be classed as evidence and should not be asked for from an owners corporation.
How do the new pet law changes affect rental tenants?
Rental tenants must have landlord approval for any pets
These new pet law changes do not affect landlords’ rights under a residential tenancy agreement to prohibit the keeping of an animal in their lot.
If a by-law in a scheme allows animals to be kept in the lot, a rental tenant must still follow their rental agreement and gain the landlord’s permission to keep an animal before allowing one in the lot.
Landlords cannot require a pet deposit
Where a rental tenant keeps an animal in their lot, a landlord cannot require a tenant to pay a deposit to keep the animal, nor can they require a higher amount for the rental bond than is permitted by the Residential Tenancies Act 2010.
Get in touch
To learn more about these latest pet law changes and to review your current pets by-law, get in touch with the friendly team at The Strata Collective today.