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The Great Pet Gamble

Even in these enlightened times when well-behaved pets are welcome in many blocks, would-be unit owners are tripping over regulations that seem to force them to gamble with hundreds of thousands of dollars in the hope that their cat or dog will be allowed in buildings where they hope to buy.

It’s a cat and dog Catch 22, as one reader pointed out.

QUESTION: We are looking to buy an apartment unit to live with our small dog but strata blocks require permission of the Owners Corporation to keep a pet.

We can only apply for permission after we bought the unit (ie. after settlement). The risk is our application may be turned down and we cannot have our pet with us.

Someone suggested we can make an conditional offer (ie. conditional upon permission to keep pet) to the vendor upon making written offer but this is highly unlikely to be accepted by the vendor.

Even worse, if we were to go to auction to bid for a unit, we definitely have to bear the risk. Is there anyway we can eliminate or manage this risk better?

Anxious b2b

ANSWER: The problem, such as it is, lies in the way strata law is written. Basic strata by-laws state that you have to have permission of the Owners Corporation to keep a pet but that the OC (or Executive Committee) can’t unreasonably withhold permission.

Reasonable refusal would be if the dog was too big, too noisy or was aggressive or destructive. It might even be that pets wouldn’t be allowed because every owner in the building had bought in there on the understanding that the building would be pet-free.

So get in touch with the Strata Manager or the Chair of the EC in prospective buildings to find out what their policy on pets is and whether or not your dog is likely to be refused under it.

If the building doesn’t have a pet policy, they would then have to justify not allowing your dog to stay rather than you having to justify why it should be allowed. And if they won’t even tell you whether or not your dog is likely to be allowed, it’s probably not somewhere you want to live anyway.

You can email us here on flatchat@jimmythomson.com and read previous columns – and some responses – in the archive on the right.

IN PRINCIPLE PERMISSION

I am treasurer of a Owners Corporation of a strata plan with 12 townhouses. We recently had the situation where people were looking ay buying one of the townhouses but wanted to know if they could bring a medium-sized dog. We have previously allowed cats and small dogs.

What the Executive Commitee did was ask the prospective owner to write and ask for ‘in principle’ permission to keep the dog. We then met as a Committee and gave “in principle” approval for the keeping of the dog, with the usual conditions we have applied to keeping of dogs, e.g. leashing on common property etc

To turn this ‘in principle agreement’ into ‘formal’ permission, if the applicants were successful with the purchase of the property, they had to apply again as owners, within a reasonable timeframe, (I think we gave them a timeframe of a few weeks) and we would just agree as per the ‘in principle’ agreement. If they didn’t formally apply as ‘owner’ the ‘in principle’ permission lapsed.

This way it gave the possible owners some certainty, and wasn’t just relying on the sayso of the strata manager or Chairperson. It also gave the Executive Committee a chance to agree rather than be confronted with a new owner with a dog.

This worked well for us, but I do realise that it wouldn’t work well in all case, particularly with auctions.

Thought you might be interested in another possible option.

Regards, Fiona

SELLER CAN SEEK PERMISSION

I have been reading your article which with regard to prospective owners seeking permission from the owners corporation prier to them becoming an owner themselves. This as you correctly point out is a problem . However, there is no reason the present owner can’t himself apply to the owners corporation for permission . This would mean your prospective buyer would have the peace of mind knowing that they have approved an animal – although not theirs – but there would be no reason why the same approval would not be granted to them once they became an owner. Obviously the present owner would need to seek approval for the same size dog or cat .
This is not 100% guarantee but it would be as close as you could get with the present legislation.

Richard Tooker.
New South Wales Strata Management Pty Ltd

Good point, Richard. Although I know some ECs only give permission for specific animals. The vendor could, however, ask the EC to specify on what grounds animals would be accepted or refused, which would amount to the same thing. – JimmyT

TOUGH NEW BY-LAW REPLACES NEED FOR PERMISSION

I am on the EC of a city building which decided that it was unfortunate that the OC had to give permission for animals. The OC in general keeps its nose out of
whatever occupants do in their units. Nothing is the business of the OC unless others are disturbed, so we decided to have a new by-law, permitting pets provided no trouble was caused. We had some difficulty convincing the solicitor who helped us with it that we wanted the requirement for permission removed. The
by-law passed the AGM a few weeks ago and is in the process of being registered.

The by-law follows, lest it be of interest.

Regards, JC

SPECIAL BY-LAW: KEEPING OF ANIMALS

Definitions & Interpretation:

In this by-law “Nuisance animal”, “dangerous dog” and “restricted breed” have the meanings given in the Companion Animals Act 1998. The terms of this by-law are subject to section 49 (4) of the Strata Schemes Management Act 1996 (that provides for guide or hearing dogs)

i. An owner or occupier of a lot shall not keep, nor cause nor permit the keeping of an animal within a lot except in accordance with the terms of this by-law.

ii. An occupier of a lot, who is not the owner of the lot, must provide evidence of the consent of the owner of the lot to the keeping of an animal on the lot.

iii. No animal may be kept otherwise than in compliance with the Companion Animals Act 1998 and any other applicable Statute.

iv. No animal may be kept that is a “nuisance animal”
and no dog may be kept that is a “dangerous dog” or a “restricted breed”.

v. An owner or occupier of a lot shall not allow the entry to the building of, any nuisance animal, dangerous dog, restricted breed, or animal that could or is likely, to cause danger, or constitute a hazard or nuisance to any occupier lawfully present in the strata parcel.

vi. No dog or cat shall be kept unless the dog or cat is micro-chipped and registered and has received all recommended vaccinations.

vii. If an owner or occupier of a lot keeps an animal then the owner or occupier must:

(a) keep the animal within the lot, and
(b) carry the animal when it is necessary for the animal to cross common property, and

(c) repair any damage of the common property caused by the animal, and
(d) take such action as may be necessary to clean all areas of the lot or the common property that are soiled by the animal, and

(e) ensure that when he ceases to occupy the lot that the animal is removed from the strata parcel.

viii. An owner or occupier of a lot who keeps an animal must ensure that the animal does not create any noise or other nuisance on the parcel likely to interfere with the peaceful enjoyment of the owner or occupier of another lot, or of any person lawfully using common property, or interfere unreasonably with the use or enjoyment of the common property by the occupier of any other lot (whether that person is an owner or not) or by any other person entitled to the use and enjoyment of the common property.

ix. An owner or occupier of a lot who keeps an animal on his lot must indemnify the Owners Corporation and the owners and occupiers of other lots against any liability or expense that would not have been incurred if the animal had not been kept.

x. If an owner or occupier of a lot who keeps an animal fails to comply with the terms of this by-law then the Executive Committee may resolve to require the removal of the animal from the parcel and direct the owner or occupier to do so.

xi. An owner or occupier of a lot who receives a direction from the Owners Corporation under paragraph 11 of this by-law shall comply with that direction.

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