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Strata Pets in NSW

Your guide to the Strata Pets NSW laws

One of the most controversial topics of conversation is keeping pets in strata, the strata pets NSW laws, and how it can be sensitively handled. Almost every strata owner has a view on this topic and it is almost always a strong view, either ‘pro pets’ or ‘anti pets’. The set of strata pets NSW laws can be complex, particularly with the emotion that often gets involved, so we thought it would be helpful to provide the following guidance for Strata Committees regarding keeping pets in strata.

The appropriate steps to assess a course of action concerning pets in strata is:

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

  1. 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.
  2. 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 to remain compliant with the strata pets NSW set of laws. 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

  1. 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.
  2. The notice must be given not later than 14 days after the animal commences to be kept on the lot.
  3. 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, and
    • supervise the animal when it is on the common property, and
    • take 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

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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, and
    • supervise the animal when it is on the common property, and
    • take any action that is necessary to clean all areas of the lot or the common property that are soiled by the animal.
  4. 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 when it comes to the strata pets NSW laws, and owners need to understand this.

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?

When it comes to strata pets NSW laws that owners need to comply with, most by-laws require the occupant to apply to keep an animal(s)

Normally, the minimum requirements imposed by the strata pets NSW laws in keeping pets, and enforced by strata managers, is:

  • The animal must be microchipped and desexed
  • The animal must be kept within the lot
  • The animal cannot enter onto common property or another lot
  • If 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 policy regarding the maximum number of pets?

Some councils have requirements for keeping of animals that should be adhered to. Any council requirements should be investigated with your local council to see if there is an applicable policy for your area.

5. If the pets have been brought in already without approval, how is the animal(s) 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). If the pest are misbehaving, it may be more effective to write to the owner to address behaviour prior to granting approval to keep the pet.

Summary

To summarise, most stratas or councils don’t have a clearly defined and enforceable maximum number of pets by-law that an occupant can keep. That being said, all pets in strata must behave or the occupant may unfortunately have to remove their animal(s).

When it comes to strata pets NSW law, it is wise for all strata schemes to review and adopt a 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.