Pets and Body Corporates
It is a common question posed by tenants when a property that is part of a complex is being advertised for lease: “Will pets be allowed?” Many owners are open to certain pets (cats, dogs, birds), however, the prospective tenant must also seek approval from the body corporate. If approval is denied this can cause the owner lost rent as they need to wait for a “pet-free” tenant to apply.
So what are the rules surrounding this controversial issue and what are owners’ rights?
Can I have a pet?
In the Rhode Island CTS 20573 decision in 2012 it was held that a Body Corporate by-law that stated:
“Subject to the Body Corporate & Community Management Act 1997 an Occupier of a Lot must not:
– Bring or keep an animal on the Lot or the Common Property; or
– Permit an Invitee to bring or keep an animal on the Lot or Common Property …”
was declared invalid. The by-law was declared invalid because it was found to be oppressive and unreasonable. What this means in practice for owners is that a by-law that states “no pets allowed” will, if challenged, be found to be invalid. Accordingly, in most circumstances tenants can have pets in a strata titled building as long as the owner approves at first instance.
But wait, read the fine print
Unfortunately, it is not quite that simple. If your Body Corporate does have a blanket prohibition on pets, you will need to actively challenge that by-law through the court system, so expect a fight on your hands and some costs. The good news is you stand a reasonable chance of winning. However, even if the decision is that the complex must allow pets, the body corporate can and will, put conditions on pet approvals. Not to mention that a legal challenge could make you unpopular with some owners in your building.
Conditional pet approvals
Body Corporate by-laws typically require a pet application to be submitted for consideration by the Committee. If approval is granted, they are within their rights to limit the number and size of pets that you may keep. The most common conditions for keeping pets are:
- Limit on the number of pets tenants may have;
- Limit on the size of pet tenants may have (usually a small dog or cat);
- Requirements for pets to be neutered;
- Requirements for pets to be registered;
- Restriction on noise; and / or
- Limits on common property interactions and your pets (meaning the tenant may have the pet in the lot but not on the common property).
Pets and Body Corporates – approvals
The process of obtaining a body corporate approval is reasonably straightforward:
- Write to the Committee on behalf of the tenant asking for permission to keep a pet
- The tenants may have to complete a more detailed pet application form and may even have to pay a fee
- There could be a 1-2 week waiting period before a response is obtained from the body corporate.
If you have approved a pet, we will coordinate the pet application process on the tenant’s behalf and seek to have an answer provided by the Body Corporate in a timely manner. If there are any issues with the Body Corporate we will discuss these with you.
Pets and common by-law breaches
Once tenants are given approval they will need to abide by any conditions of that approval and ensure the pet does not breach any of the by-laws. The most common by-law breaches are:
- Noise, barking dogs particularly;
- Damage to common property such as digging holes in the gardens;
- Defecating on common property; or
- Creating a nuisance.
Non-compliance with the conditions of the approval can result in the approval being withdrawn.
Permission denied – next steps
If the pet application is denied, you do have the option to move the tenant and the pet into the property anyway. However, this will cause friction with the Body Corporate Committee and kick start the adjudication process. We would recommend that seek legal advice at this stage. All Body Corporate disputes in Queensland must be heard via the Office of the Commissioner Body Corporate. The Commissioner’s office has dealt with 95 pet disputes in the last financial year. If you are not satisfied with the adjudicators decision, you may then appeal the matter to the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT).
If you want to maximise the number of tenants potentially interested in your unit or townhouse in a highly competitive market it may be worthwhile challenging an ‘anti-pet’ Body Corporate. This challenge will create a precedent and allow you to market your property as ‘pet friendly’.
For more information about how we manage properties with pets, talk to Abhi or Nicola or email [email protected].
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