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Keeping Pets in Strata Units

Question: I would like to know about keeping pets in strata units. How many pets can be kept in a two bedroom apartment with a courtyard in suburban Sydney?

 

Answer: Some buildings have a very prescriptive ban on animals in their strata, whilst others allow pets without hesitation.
I write this email with cuts on my left hand after having to change the flea collar on our 6 year old cat this morning!
The topic of pets in strata is quite a complex and emotive topic for many owners. Some buildings have a very prescriptive ban on animals in their strata, whilst others allow pets without hesitation.
To be totally honest, I haven’t come across an apartment with 3 cats and a dog before in my 15 years in strata. To help you make an informed decision about what steps your Strata Committee should take, please consider the following:
1. Read the by-laws, what do they say about keeping animals in your strata.
For pre-1 September 1997 built strata schemes, the by-laws normally say:
16 Keeping of animals
Subject to section 157 of the Strata Schemes Management Act 2015, an owner or occupier of a lot must not, without the approval in writing of the owners corporation, keep any animal on the lot or the common property.

The owners corporation must not unreasonably withhold its approval of the keeping of an animal on a lot or the common property.

For strata schemes registered after 1 September 1997 however before 30 November 2016, there are three potential options that will apply to your strata. One option is a total ban however the other two options are prohibition without consent, and consent cannot be unreasonably withheld from applicants. For strata schemes after 30 November 2016, the registered animals by-law is normally option A or sometimes option B:
5 Keeping of animals
Note. Select option A or B. If no option is selected, option A will apply.
Option A

An owner or occupier of a lot may keep an animal on the lot, if the owner or occupier gives the owners corporation written notice that it is being kept on the lot.The notice must be given not later than 14 days after the animal commences to be kept on the lot.

If an owner or occupier of a lot keeps an animal on the lot, the owner or occupier must:

keep the animal within the lot, andsupervise the animal when it is on the common property, andtake any action that is necessary to clean all areas of the lot or the common property that are soiled by the animal.
OR Option B

An owner or occupier of a lot may keep an animal on the lot or the common property with the written approval of the owners corporation.The owners corporation must not unreasonably withhold its approval of the keeping of an animal on a lot or the common property and must give an owner or occupier written reasons for any refusal to grant approval.

If an owner or occupier of a lot keeps an animal on the lot, the owner or occupier must:

keep the animal within the lot, andsupervise the animal when it is on the common property, andtake any action that is necessary to clean all areas of the lot or the common property that are soiled by the animal.
An owner or occupier of a lot who keeps an assistance animal on the lot must, if required to do so by the owners corporation, provide evidence to the owners corporation demonstrating that the animal is an assistance animal as referred to in section 9 of the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 of the Commonwealth.
Some buildings (usually larger buildings over 100 apartments) have custom by-laws that provide specific requirements (eg an occupant cannot keep more than one dog and one cat and the dog can’t weigh more than 15kgs) however custom by-laws are the exception.
I would suggest that you first ask your strata manager to clarify which animal by-law is applicable to your strata scheme.
2. Did the Occupant apply for the animals?
Most by-laws require the occupant to apply to keep an animal (or in this case animals).
Normally, the minimum requirements imposed by the strata manager to keep an animal is:
The animal must be microchipped and desexedThe animal must be kept within the lotThe animal cannot enter onto common property or another lotIf the animal is to be moved across common property, the animal must be carried by the owner (or transferred if a larger dog)They shall not disturb the peaceful enjoyment of the occupant of a lot or anyone lawfully using common property
3. Is the application for an ‘assistance’ animal?
Section 139(5) of the Strata Schemes Management Act 2015 states:
(5) By-law cannot prevent keeping of assistance animal A by-law has no force or effect to the extent to which it purports to prohibit or restrict the keeping on a lot of an assistance animal (as referred to in section 9 of the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 of the Commonwealth) used by an owner or occupier of the lot as an assistance animal or the use of an assistance animal for that purpose by a person on a lot or common property.
4. Does Council have a law or a policy regarding the maximum number of pets?
4. Does Council have a law or policy regarding the maximum number of pets?
Some councils have requirements for keeping of animals that should be adhered to. One specific example is Kogarah Council as shown here: The Keeping of Birds and Animals. Any council requirements should be investigated with your local council to see if there is an applicable policy for your area.
5. How are the 4 animals behaving?
A Normal prerequisite to keep animals within strata apartments is that the animals do not impact upon the peaceful enjoyment of the other residents (smells, noise, encroachment, fur & excrement).
Summary
To summarise, most strata’s or councils don’t have a clearly defined and enforceable maximum number of pets by-law that an occupant can keep. That being said, the four pets must behave or the occupant may unfortunately have to remove their animal(s).
Many strata committees would view keeping four pets within one strata lot as unreasonable, and the ‘reasonableness‘ of that decision would most likely need to be tested at the NCAT if the occupant or pets are misbehaving.
I think now is the perfect time for your strata to review your pet management policy and incorporate this policy into the by-laws. I would recommend obtaining and registering a clear, fair and enforceable pets by-law, drafted by a leading strata lawyer.
If the occupant hasn’t applied for the pets, I would most definitely ask them to apply to keep the animals and also insists that the occupant agrees to the requirements of point 2 above. I would probably take this step after registering the by-law (so that the requirements of the new by-law are included into any approval).