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Pet posers in these more permissive times
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Jimmy-T
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12/03/2018 - 9:39 pm
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There’s  lingering a belief around apartment living that unit blocks don’t allow pets, anywhere, ever.

It goes back to the grim old days of three storey walk-ups when the rules covered everything from when you could hang out your washing to whose turn it was to wash the stairs.

In these enlightened times, companion animals are much more likely to be permitted rather than banned, even in NSW which, until the new strata laws landed in 2016, was very old-school when it came to pets.

Basically the old default by-law there was that pets were not allowed unless the Owners Corporation gave permission.

Now the choice of model by-laws includes one that says pets are permitted just by letting your committee know you have one, and another under which you have to apply for permission which may not be unreasonably refused.

But the owners corporation (body corporate) can concoct their own by-laws which can set standards for, say, the size of a dog or even have a complete ban.

There is an exception to that, though, which applies in all states.  You can’t ban assistance animals like guide dogs.  However, you also can’t just rock up with a pitbull and say “this is Tyson, he helps me sleep at night because he kills burglars.”

In NSW and elsewhere, assistance animals must comply with Section 9 of the Federal Disability Discrimination Act, which says they have to have been approved or trained by an accredited body.

In Victoria and the ACT, pets are allowed by default unless they become a nuisance.  Queensland is very similar to NSW in that there could be a wide range of bylaws with different limitations.

There is one wrinkle in the NSW law, however – the provision that no by-law can be ‘harsh, unconscionable or oppressive.’ Some pet owners are daring their owners corps to challenge their pet ownership,  on the grounds that to do so would be harsh and oppressive.

But really, these are catfights you don’t need to get into if you can avoid them.

So before you buy or rent in a building, check what their by-laws are and if they say “no pets” you know you and Tiddles are not going to be made to feel welcome.

If you are in a building that decides to ban pets and you already have one, that would be harsh and oppressive unless the by-law or rule included a “grandfather” clause that allowed you to keep your pet but not replace it when it died.

More likely, however, you could be in a building that has always banned pets because no one ever thought they could be allowed.

Proposing a new more permissive by-law might be on the cards but you’d have to be wary of anyone who had bought into the pet-free building because they had serious allergies.

Who’s being harsh and oppressive then?

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M S
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13/03/2018 - 6:11 am
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Here’s a recent case in our block:

  • Vacant unit advertised as “pet friendly”.
  • Leasing agent asked to correct ad (pet OK with OC permission, reasonable conditions etc).
  • Leasing agent said it’s all OK – unit owner is OK with pets, so the ad’s OK, and pets are OK.
  • Strata agent informs leasing agent of by-laws.
  • Leasing agent says unit owner is OK with pets, so it’s all OK. What are by-laws? (Really.)

No need to reply – just saying that sometimes tenant residents can get inadvertently caught up in issues because their agent doesn’t care/understand how strata properties work.

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Costa
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13/03/2018 - 5:29 pm
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We’ve had a similar version of the new NSW pet by-law since before the new rules came in and now I reckon we’ve reached peak puppies and pussies in our Sydney block of 38 units. The by-law won approval narrowly. I lived here with pets not allowed for 18 years.

There are now two couples with two small dogs, that’s four; and six other dogs. So a total of 10. The dogs are at home locked up all day, which I think is cruel. (One only, has a dog walking service every couple of days.) There are, as far as I can see, 9 cats too most of which roam.

But the dog thing: they are all young, working couples with trendy breeds of dog (Boston Terriers etc). I suggest they are not for companionship or comfort but status symbols. I don’t get that! They all seem inbred and devoid of sense and personality to me. Early one morning last week one ‘dog daddy’ in his pyjamas chased his terrier escapee down the driveway cursing and I actually hear him yell at the terrier “F—- you Miffy” as he struggled across the gravel in bare feet. Would’ve been funny if it wasn’t about half past six in the morning.

The little dogs yap a lot while they are locked inside all day, alone; again that seems SO cruel. They yap when taken for late evening and early morning (how about 5am yapping?!) toilet excursions, usually on the common garden areas. Even if the poos are picked up it’s unsavoury and doesn’t seem right. About half of these owners also have their dogs off the lead in common areas which breaks the rules.

So in my humble opinion, I think people in apartments shouldn’t be able to have dogs where they both work externally full time and the dog is home alone more often than not. If it can be shown they are for reasonably full time comfort and companionship, well OK. But limit the number of dogs per strata.

Maybe house cats are OK but when they’re alone more than not, that seems cruel too. Roaming cats? Don’t get me started.

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Frank
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14/03/2018 - 12:37 pm
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in this territorial society, I have no problems with other people having pets – but if it barks and disturbs my peace, then Houston we have a problem.

Across our courtyard a young tenant couple have an unapproved dog – which we noticed when it barked for several hours non-stop one day while they were out (typically dog lovers think their dog doesn’t bark – it doesn’t when they are home – then barks for hours when they are not there !) – I put a note under their door warning ‘your dog has been barking for hours today – if this continues, expect EVICTION !’

It was quiet for about a week – and now it starts again – they go out – dog barks for hours – so now I’m looking up standard NSW strata bylaws:-

“16 Keeping of Animals
(1) Subject to section 49 (4), 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.”

They don’t have written approval (I’m on the committee) – so the next step, a simple note – ‘keep your dog quiet – or either it, or all or you, will be evicted – without further notice’

interestingly – the same tenants recently pushed our limits by overstaying our visitor parking (not for residents daily parking) and continued until we advised the next offence would cost them $100 a day fee. Amazingly he hasn’t parked there since !

Clear consequences change behaviour instantly.

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Cosmo
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14/03/2018 - 5:45 pm
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Hi Frank, I identify with your issue regarding pets.  The basic issue seems to be once an OC has given approval, the process of proving a pet is a nuisance can be difficult.  Often by the time you have gathered sufficient evidence a pet can have caused considerable damage. 

I want to raise one issue with pets and that resulted in one owner in our strata being denied a pet.  I was not sure how to address the refusal so raise it here for feedback.  

We live in a strata complex close to a reserve.  The OC has approved a dog with the normal strict conditions eg leash, owner pays for damage.  

One set of owners applied to keep a cat.  Both occupiers worked full time.  The owners said the cat they would get was very domesticated and would rarely go outside their lot (which had a courtyard). 

A vote of the OC denied them on the basis that cats are known predators of small wildlife of which there is plenty around our strata. I have to confess to having seen many media articles saying this. Also having lived in other neighborhoods where cats have roamed free (despite the denials of their owners) I have to confess to having some empathy for those who voted to deny the owners.

I am not sure if our OC’s vote would hold up before a tribunal.  What do others think? 

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VicRes
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15/03/2018 - 9:28 pm
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So Frank, unless you’re the landlord how on earth can you even threaten eviction?

 They don’t have written approval (I’m on the committee) – so the next step, a simple note – ‘keep your dog quiet – or either it, or all or you, will be evicted – without further notice’

 And even if you are the landlord you have to follow a process.

I do hope you realise that even though you’re on the committee you also have to follow a process to deal with a noisy dog. Also, you may be giving conditional approval for them to keep the dog.

I.e. keep it quiet or it goes seems to me that if it stays quiet then they can keep the dog.

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Jimmy-T
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16/03/2018 - 12:35 am
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VicRes said
So Frank, unless you’re the landlord how on earth can you even threaten eviction?

Anybody can threaten anything, often with little chance of following through – so I take your point.  However, the weakness in that threat is “without further notice”.

The process for evicting tenants who breach by-laws does indeed fall back on the landlords but it does exist.  You breach the tenants which means they are in breach of their lease, then you breach the landlords for not doing anything about it.  Eventually the simple solution is to get rid of the tenants.

But there are lots of stages in that where the tenants would have to be warned of the consequences.

Funnily enough, landlords will often take the side of the tenants against a strata committee that seems to be heavy-handed.  It’s only later that they find out if that was such a smart idea or not.

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Lady Penelope
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16/03/2018 - 12:36 am
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Cosmo – The cat debate and whether cats kill wild life is not something that NCAT will get involved in. 

The issue is whether it is reasonable for the OC to prohibit something based on some subjectively unproven future event. 

In my opinion it is not reasonable for the OC to ban a cat based on your reasoning, regardless of how individuals within the OC personally feel about cats.

Your OC is entitled to place conditions on the approval to keep a cat. If the conditions are breached then the approval can be withdrawn by the OC.

Conditions may be that the cat is to remain indoors within the apartment at all times when the occupants are absent from the apartment, and may only be permitted within the confines of the outdoor courtyard under the strict supervision of an adult occupant.

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Cosmo
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16/03/2018 - 7:48 am
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Thanks Lady Penelope,  a very well explained and logical answer!  

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Costa
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17/03/2018 - 8:11 am
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We live in a Sydney North Shore block of 38 early 70s apartments. These days there are two young couples each with two little dogs plus 5 young couples each with a little dog. That’s 9 happy little dogs. Plus an unknown number of cats, possibly 9, at least 5, most of which roam.

The dogs yap inside often but almost invariably yap outside when their owners take them for their late evening and early morning walks (sometimes at 5am!) to wee and poo, usually in the common property garden areas. Even if they diligently clean up the poo, and they don’t, it’s pretty disgusting.

I don’t get this; young, working couples with trendy, status symbol style puppies who have to stay at home, locked in all day most days while their ‘masters’ go away to work. It seems cruel and self-indulgent to me. (Far as I know, only one dog has an outing with a dog walking service, every couple of days.)

We had the old by-law, ‘no pets without permission but permission couldn’t reasonably be refused’ but a few years ago an ‘enlightened’ committee engineered a change to something similar to the newly gazetted by-law “you can have pets but they have to be registered, documented, OKd or whatever”.

I think the new situation with pets here ‘sucks’. We chose apartment living and this apartment 20 years ago with the understanding there would be no, or few sensible and approved, pets. But now we suffer.

I don’t reckon any of these 9 dogs here are for companionship or comfort. They are all inbred status symbols and it’s cruel on many levels.

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