Can an apartment’s body corporate or your landlord stop you from keeping a pet?

Posted on Aug 14, 2014 by Zasco van Rooyen

Plans are afoot to alter the default strata by-laws, to allow pets subject to “reasonable” approvals and conditions, according to lawyer ZASCO VAN ROOYEN.

This change in the law has been brought about due to the Government acknowledging:

  • the shift of the community to more apartment style living (the most common style of strata accommodation);
  • people renting for longer; and
  • increased reports of people abandoning animals due to a landlord or strata scheme prohibiting pets.

Until the new laws come into effect, amending the rules to allow pets if the property is subject to strata is difficult, irrespective of whether you rent or own your accommodation.


Current legal restrictions on pets in strata accommodation

Presently, NSW default strata by-laws with regards to apartment or strata living, ban pets unless there is written approval. Typically, you would need the support of at least 75% of all owners at a general meeting, for approval to be granted; regardless of whether the landlord consents or if you are the owner of the premises.

If you rent in a strata scheme, a landlord is legally required to provide a tenant with a copy of the by-laws of the strata scheme. Both the tenant and the landlord must abide by the laws.

If a strata accommodation has implemented by-laws that allow pets, the landlord may still restrict pets under the tenancy agreement. A tenant will need to seek permission from the landlord to keep a pet and the landlord may refuse, consent, or provide conditional consent such as to the type of pet, breed and size.

The new reforms reverse the onus so that pets are allowed, subject to “reasonable” approvals.


When will the new laws become effective?

It is predicted the new by-laws could come into effect in 2015. Unfortunately for pet-owners, they will not be retrospective. Therefore if you are presently living in strata accommodation, and subject to the previous by-laws, you will still need 75% approval to keep a pet.

The change is a positive one, but only relates to accommodation which operates under a strata scheme. All other accommodation will be subject to the discretion and approval of the landlord. It is important that tenants read the strata by-laws and/or tenancy agreement to which they are subject.

Given the changes to the default by-laws, it is hoped that landlords will not be restricted by strata by-laws and will therefore provide their consent more readily. If prospective tenants can keep their pets in strata accommodation, this might prompt landlords of all types of accommodation to be more willing to allow pets in their rental property in order to stay competitive in the market.


The trouble with existing default by-laws

The current renting laws appear inconsistent and out-dated considering the current rental housing crisis for both humans and animals, and considering the number of animals in shelters and societal trend in increased pet ownership.

The RSPCA receives many animals as a result of their owner’s inability to secure pet-friendly rental accommodation. With over half of all Australian households boasting one or more ‘fur-babies’, seeking suitable accommodation is difficult, resulting in some cases of the family pet being given away.

This can be particularly stressful for those who feel their ‘fur-babies’ are just as much part of the family. There have been reports of people living in their cars rather than give their cherished pet away due to inability to secure pet-friendly accommodation.

Hopefully these changes can assist in allowing pet owners to find suitable accommodation for all members of their family, including their fur-babies.