Sunday, September 20, 2020

Can I have medium or large dog in Strata?

Can I have medium or large dog in Strata - Strataville

Can I have medium or large dog in Strata?

Yes, you can have a dog in a strata apartment, if you tick all the boxes, but what about a medium or large dog in Strata?

Traditionally strata residents faced a range of restrictive by-laws which prohibited pets within strata schemes which included a blanket ban or only allowing small pets. In 2016, ‘pet-friendly’ strata reforms made it easier to own a pet and the new legislation now encourages strata residents and strata plans to allow pets in their buildings.

The new legislation provided new model by-laws which make for a far more relaxed attitude to allowing pets in strata buildings. However, the ‘pet-friendly’ amendments to the Strata Act didn’t automatically permit pets in strata schemes. It was however a big step forward.

Dog ownership in Australia

In 2019, around 40% of Australian households included at least one dog, making them the most popular type of pets. The change in strata law recognised that attitudes to pets in apartments has changed over time in Australia and that, as more people live in apartments, more people expect to be able to keep pets in apartments.

By-Laws for Pets in Strata

“Before the commencement of the Strata Schemes Management Act 2015, there were three model by-laws regarding pets. These model by-laws offered a choice to ban pets, to allow pets with permission, or to allow small pets without permission. One of these by-laws could be registered when the strata scheme was established, however the default by-law was to ban pets,” a NSW Fair Trade spokesperson said.

NSW Fair Trading said under the new strata laws, there is no model by-law banning pets, while the new default by-law is that pets are permitted and the owners corporation must be notified.

“The two new model by-laws either allow pets to be kept if the owner’s corporation is notified, or allow pets to be kept with written approval, which must not be unreasonably refused,” the spokesperson said.

“This aims to make it much easier for strata residents to own pets. As with all by-laws, it is up to the owner’s corporation to choose which by-laws will apply in their scheme,” the NSW Fair Trading spokesperson said.

The ‘small pet’ model by-law has been removed but the Act remains silent on ‘medium’ or ‘large’ animals.

Medium or large dog in Strata – Do I really have to carry a dog across common property?

This question was asked by David in Potts Point:

I’m in the process of looking at a property to buy (Strata) and in dealing with all the Strata Managers, a number have replied and given me permission to have pets in our proposed place! However, one of the conditions is that I must carry my dog across any common areas?? My 30kg Staffy is going to give me a hernia!!!🤣🤣🤣 This appears to be a common clause in what I’ve been asked to sign! Obviously, carrying a dog that size is impractical. What now?

To answer your question, we’ll look at the historical nature of ‘carrying animals across common property’.

The repealed Strata Schemes Management Regulation 2010 (Schedule 2 17 c) stated:

If an owner or occupier of a lot keeps a cat, small dog or small caged bird on the lot then the owner or occupier must: carry the animal when it is on the common property.

This model by-law was repealed on 29 November 2016. The new model by-laws removed a prohibition on pets and also the requirement to carry animals across common property.

In light of the strata reforms, all strata schemes were required, by law, to review their by-laws by 30 November 2017.

An owners corporation can choose to adopt the new ‘keeping of animals’ model by-law or they can create their own by-law. This means that in NSW by-laws can vary widely.

It’s important to note that the new model by-laws do not apply to a strata scheme unless they are adopted by the owners corporation for the strata scheme or lodged with the strata plan.

Before getting too serious about buying your new strata property, you will need to carefully review the by-laws in relation to pets. You can request a copy from the strata manager or you will receive a copy as part of your strata inspection report.

  1. Did the strata scheme review or change the by-law since 30 November 2016?
  2. Does the strata scheme permit the keeping of dogs?
  3. If so, on what terms and conditions?

 
For example, does the by-law limit the size or weight of the dog? Some strata schemes still regulate dogs by reference to weight (e.g. under 10kgs)

As per your message, you are performing the correct research but you have run across a number of strata schemes that are utilising the old model by-laws, which they are entitled to do. You’re half-way there but I appreciate your dilemma.

While most Australians are inherently reasonable and do not presume to regulate their neighbours’ private lives, one glaring exception can be strata living and strata pet ownership in particular.

As a former strata chairperson, I took the view that it wasn’t the strata committee’s role to judge or determine a pets suitability based on its size or weight. (In my view, a by-law requiring that pets be carried across common property was just ridiculous). A strata committee’s power must be wielded reasonably and only when objectively necessary.

Our committee were quite reasonable with pet requests. It could even be argued that Great Danes, despite being a very large breed, are considered to be very good apartment dogs. They are low-energy dogs with a gentle and affectionate temperament unlike some of the rotten apples you deal with in strata.

Strata communities must adapt to contemporary community standards. We have already seen the NSW Civil Administration Tribunal (NCAT) rule that a no-pets by-law was “harsh, unconscionable and oppressive” – and therefore invalid under strata law.

Unfortunately, there is no hard and fast rule regarding having a medium or large dog in Strata or the legality of having to carry an animal across common property.

Maybe it is time to test whether carrying your 30kg Staffy over common property is ‘harsh, unconscionable and oppressive and in breach of section 139 (1) of the Act.

Further reading:

Model By-Laws for Pets in Strata
Best Apartment Dogs
Having a Pet increases your lifespan

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