Australia boasts the highest incidence of pet ownership in the world. Pets may be found in over two thirds of Australian homes. And with one in five Australians living in a strata scheme of one form or another, the issue of pets and strata plans is not one that is going away any time soon.
Now, what rights you, as an owner or a tenant, have vis-à-vis your pet depends entirely on the strata plan in effect at your place of residence.
Strata managers have a few options when it comes to deciding what By-laws will govern a strata plan. They can either draw up their own or rely on the pre-existing Schedule 1 By-laws (for schemes registered prior to 1 July 1997) or the Model By-laws (for schemes registered on or after 1 July 1997.) It should be noted here that the Owners Corporation has the authority to amend the Schedule 1 and Model By-laws.
As far as pet ownership goes, in general the approval of the Owners Corporation cannot be unreasonably withheld. As for the particular By-laws, Schedule 1 is clear: A resident or tenant needs the prior written consent of the Owners Corporation. The Model By-laws are slightly more complicated and give strata managers three options for dealing with the issue of pet ownership. Approval for pet occupancy may be granted in a manner consistent with the provisions of the Schedule 1 By-laws; approval may be granted providing certain conditions are met, such as the resident’s undertaking to carry the pet across common areas, or the resident’s request may be denied.
If you intend to rent in a strata plan, you will typically require two separate approvals. The onus is on the renter to obtain approval from the leasing agent and the Owners Corporation prior to occupancy.
In the event that the Owners Corporation denies a reasonable request, residents have a few avenues in which to pursue resolution. The first port of call should be an informal discussion with a representative of the Owners Corporation. Failing that, a resident may seek to take the matter to mediation, adjudication or the Consumer, Trader and Tenancy Tribunal.
One thing that residents should bear in mind is that a strata manager is, in general, not in a position to affect outcomes in these areas. Although strata management does involve deciding the By-laws that will apply to a particular strata plan, the authority to amend those By-laws is vested in the Owners Corporation.
For more information regarding Pets and Strata Management please refer to this document produced by the Law Society of New South Wales.