We love our pets, and many of us couldn’t imagine life without them. Particularly at the moment, our pets may be keeping us sane and calm as we’re spending more time at home and less time socialising. Pets are loyal, loving and comforting, and are often treasured members of our families. It’s true that owning a pet adds a lot to our lives and gives us a whole range of benefits to our lifestyle, health and happiness. With Australians having one of the highest rates of pet ownership in the world, it’s inevitable that pets in strata have long been an issue.
Traditionally, pet-owners have found it extremely difficult to find a strata property in which to live. Many bodies corporate simply don’t want pets living in their scheme, as they are often perceived to be problematic, noisy or potentially damaging to the property.
So, for all those pet owners thinking of moving into an apartment, what happens if you are forced to choose between keeping a pet and living in a strata building? Is there any way you can have the best of both worlds?
Pets always have been and always will be a challenging topic in body corporate schemes. Disallowing pets in strata units has been proven to have a major impact on the quality of people’s lives. The good news is that new legislation in Queensland has taken a much friendlier view towards pets in strata schemes. Pet ownership is becoming easier under this new legislation. Bodies corporate are now encouraged to allow pets in their buildings – as long as they meet certain conditions. Even if you are allowed a pet, you will need to make sure your pet does not negatively impact upon other residents.
Your responsibilities when keeping a pet in a strata building
It’s important to ensure you are fully aware of and compliant with the by-laws your scheme has regarding pet ownership. Reasonable conditions may be imposed upon pet owners once approval of a pet has been granted. These may include any or all of the following:
- That the pet is kept within the particular owner’s lot while present on strata land
- That the pet is not permitted to roam on common property, or other lots in the scheme
- That any waste or mess caused by the pet is effectively cleaned and disposed of
- That the animal is only allowed on common property when it is being brought onto or taken off the scheme land, and it will either need to be on a lead or be carried
- That approval for the pet may be withdrawn if the animal disturbs or interferes with any person’s use or enjoyment of another lot or the common property
- That all applicable local council regulations are fully complied with
- That the approval applies only to the particular animal included in a pet owner’s application, and thus no substitute or replacement pets are allowed, without first gaining the written approval of the body corporate
- That the animal is regularly treated for fleas and must be kept in good health
Each scheme will apply its own specific conditions, so make sure you know what they are, so you don’t accidentally breach these by-laws.
For general by-laws which apply to pets, click here.
What if my pet breaches the conditions imposed on the approval?
If you or your pet breach the conditions imposed when approval was granted, the Body Corporate can revoke that approval and take steps to have the pet removed.
How to obtain consent for a pet in strata
Exactly how you obtain consent will depend on the by-laws operating in your individual strata scheme. However, the process usually involves the pet owner applying in writing to their strata manager or body corporate committee. The committee will review the application, and may require information such as:
- The size and weight of your pet
- Photos of your pet
- Details of your pet’s veterinary history
- Details of your pet’s training
Provide all the information required in a timely manner and cooperate as fully as possible with requests by the committee. This will help your application be considered as soon as possible.
What if my application for a pet is refused?
If your application for a pet in strata scheme is refused by the body corporate, speak with your body corporate manager as there may be a valid reason why the committee has declined the request. If all else fails, you can lodge an application to the Commissioner’s office for dispute resolution.
Even if there is a blanket ‘no pets’ rule operating in your body corporate (although nowadays these are mostly deemed too restrictive), the pet owner can raise a motion at a general body corporate meeting to have the rule changed to a ‘pets with approval’ by-law. If this motion is defeated, the pet owner has the recourse of applying to the Commissioner’s Office to have the by-law changed.
What if I keep a pet in my unit without permission?
It may be tempting to just keep your pet inside your own unit without ever applying for permission and hope no-one notices. This is not a good idea however, as keeping a pet without consent can mean you are in breach of the body corporate’s by-laws, and you may be forced to remove the pet from the building upon its’ discovery. And as pets are traditionally hard to miss (and their noise can be hard to control), chances of someone discovering you have a pet are fairly high.
It’s better to follow the correct channels and apply for official approval of your pet, remembering that you have options should the approval not be granted.
The only animals which will always automatically be allowed in strata schemes are duly qualified and registered assistance animals. These can include guide dogs, hearing dogs and legitimate psychiatric assistance animals.
Current legislation in Queensland means that bodies corporate must not unreasonably withhold approval for pets. Still, it’s wise to discuss your potential pet with your body corporate committee before buying it if possible, so that you don’t have to potentially find a new home for your pet. In the case of a pet you already have, make sure you understand the by-laws of your potential new strata scheme, and if your pet is non-negotiable, only choose a strata scheme that will accept your pet. The genuine concerns of other strata residents can usually be balanced with reasonable conditions applied to the pet owner. It IS possible to live harmoniously in a strata scheme with a pet – as long as you make some smart decisions and adhere to the by-laws.
For more information on pets in strata schemes, contact the leaders in body corporate managment in Brisbane here.