Owners of penthouse pets fight back
(Editor’s note: for an update on the law in this area, please see our November 2021 article Landmark judgement over right to keep pets in apartments.)
Owners of pets, or people who want to own pets in their apartments, are fighting back in growing numbers against restrictive strata laws which forbid them having a much loved furry friend in their home.
In NSW and Queensland, residents living in a block of apartments governed by strata title need body corporate permission to keep pets in their home. Laws governing pets vary from one strata development to another; some by-laws don’t allow pets at all, some impose size limits on dogs or insist cats have to be locked inside at all times, others just impose reasonable rules on cleaning up after your pet.
Every strata development sets its own rules regarding pets. The model by-law commonly used in NSW says residents must have permission from the owners corporation (also known as the body corporate) to keep a cat or dog, and that the owners corporation mustn’t unreasonably refuse permission. But some owners corporations do impose blanket bans.
There is no doubt pets are very important for our wellbeing. Medical research shows having a pet is beneficial for both physical and mental health. Whether they are dogs, cats, birds, fish or lizards, they become very much part of our family, keep us active, give us something to care for beyond ourselves and make us more sociable.
More than half of Australian households have a pet of some sort. An increasing number of people keep pets in apartments, and an increasing number of Australians – now one in ten – live in strata titles.
That’s why an apartment up for sale might be advertised as “pet friendly”. It adds about 10 per cent to the value. Regardless of what the agent or landlord might say, if you have a pet or want one it’s important to check the by-laws to make sure pets are allowed.
Remember – by-laws aren’t necessarily set by a majority of all owners – but a majority of those who turn up – so long as there is a quorum. This is usually 25 per cent of owners, so just 17 per cent can set the rules.
In one case a group of dog haters organised the numbers to ban dogs in a seaside apartment block. One family found they couldn’t keep their beloved pooch and fought back. With legal advice they got it overturned on the point of law that the ban was unreasonable.
Strata disputes go to mediation, adjudication and you can appeal to the Consumer, Trader and Tenancy Tribunal. It’s wise to go with legal advice on how to best present your case.