Still problems in these pet-friendlier times


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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