Star of stage musicals like the Boy From Oz, and former Dancing with the Stars judge Todd McKenney has weighed into a Sydney pensioner’s battle to keep his greyhound after his strata scheme changed its by-laws to ban pets.
According to a story in the Daily Telegraph this week (July 7), 83-year-old Colin Marshall bought a unit in Rose Bay after checking that it had pet-friendly by-laws.
But two months after he moved in, the owners corporation changed its “pets possible” by-law to exclude everything except assistance animals, which have to be specially trained and registered.
Now he’s been told he needs to apply for permission for his greyhounds, knowing that under the terms of the new by-law, it will be refused and he or his best mate Bu will have to move out.
Now Todd, who is national Ambassador for the Greyhound Adoption Program dog rescue charity has offered to help in any way he can.
The battle to allow Colin to keep his pets is being led by Richard Buttrose – son of ABC supremo Ita – and Eastern Suburbs real estate identity Danny Doff.
“Colin was looking to downsize and need an apartment close by that allowed pets,” Danny told Flat Chat. “I helped him to find his current apartment and we made sure they allowed pets, albeit with the permission of the strata committee.”
Generally speaking, in cases like this, if the by-laws say permission is required, it can’t be unreasonably refused. So Danny emailed the committee and the strata manager a couple of times to make sure Colin’s greyhound would be allowed, but received no answer.
So then, he told Flat Chat, he downloaded a standard pet application form and sent it to the committee, getting a notice of receipt in return.
With no further communication from the committee, Danny and Colin assumed everything was okay, proceded with the purchase and Colin and his pet greyhund Bu moved in.
Two months later, the building passed a new by-law, which basically forbids the keeping of pets.
‘They went from a by-law that was basically two lines to one that fills a whole page and effectively bans pets except registered assistance animals,” Danny says. ‘Now Colin has been told that he is in breach of the by-laws and has to apply under the new rules under which animals can’t be allowed.’
Colin has been advised that, since the committee can’t allow Bu to stay under the new rules, he shouldn’t apply as that would be conceding that the new by-laws, rather than the previous ones, applied to him.
Todd waltzes in
Enter Todd McKenney, who is outraged that a pensioner and his pooch should be treated this way.
‘Greyhounds are perfect apartment animals,’ he says. ‘They are quiet and gentle, very affectionate and have a calming effect on their owners, especially older people.’
Todd has activated his thousands of supporters – the Todd Squad – to get busy on social media and has offered to do whatever he can to help Colin and Bu.
It seems like this is a clear case when the strata committee is barking up the wrong tree.
FLAT CHAT COMMENT
Although strata schemes can pass by-laws that ban pets, they can’t act retrospectively.
Normally, in a building that had previously allowed pets but which chose to change that, any existing pets would be allowed to stay under “grandfathering” provisions, which would allow them to stay but not be replaced.
Trying to retrospectively impose a pet ban on owners who, based on the previous wording of the scheme’s by-laws, genuinely believed that they could have companion animals and the actions (or lack thereof) of the committee and/or strata manager, is almost the definition of “harsh, unconscionable or oppressive”, which the Strata Schemes Management Act defines as grounds for having a by-law rescinded.
It sounds like this scheme had a loosely written by-law that would have allowed pets, even though the majority of owners may not have wanted them.
That they decided to change it after rescue greyhound was brought into the building seems grossly unfair.
If they didn’t like their by-law, they should have changed it years ago, especially since every strata scheme in NSW was advised to check their by-laws when the new laws came in, in 2016.
Saying “we have never had pets in this building” is not a reason for refusing an application – it’s just a statement of fact.
Someone dropped the ball in this case, but there’s no way that Colin and Bu should have to suffer because of someone else’s snafu.