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Strata laws impacting pet owners: a state by state summary

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If you ever experience problems with keeping pets in strata, you need to know where to go for information about the laws that affect you.

As a strata resident, you are subject to the rules or by-laws (sometimes also known as articles or memorandums) of your strata scheme.  Likewise, your strata scheme is subject to the strata laws of your state or territory government – laws which vary widely from state to state.

So as a pet owner, you are impacted by both your strata community’s by-laws and your state legislation.

You should never keep a pet in strata accommodation without being sure the by-laws permit pets and you have any necessary approvals. 

Strata By-Laws

When you need information, your first step should be to get a copy of your strata by-laws from the owners corporation. Should a dispute arise you may need to contact your relevant state government department for further help or information.

Some state governments provide model by-laws (sometimes also known as model rules and default rules) to be used by strata schemes.  The model by-laws usually include a clause or by-law around pet ownership. In most Australian states, owners corporations can use these model by-laws, amend them or develop their own by-laws. 

Please note that in accordance with various federal and state legislation strata by-laws cannot exclude or restrict guide, hearing and assistance dogs. 

If you are renting in a strata development and experience difficulties you may need to contact the relevant residential tenancy department as well as – or instead of – the government department that covers strata legislation. 
The section that follows provides contact details plus a brief summary of each state and territory’s pet-related strata laws.

This information is provided as a guide only, it is not a substitute for legal advice. The recipient must at all times comply with local and strata title regulations and any other law.

Government strata administrators


New South Wales 

NSW strata communities are governed by the Strata Schemes Management Act 1996.  The Act includes a model by-law regarding the keeping of animals as follows:

Schedule 1 – By-laws

"16  Keeping of animals

(1)    Subject to section 49 (4), an owner or occupier of a lot must not, without the approval in writing of the owners corporation, keep any animal on the lot or the common property.

(2)    The owners corporation must not unreasonably withhold its approval of the keeping of an animal on a lot or the common property."


This model by-law means that a resident must have permission in writing from their owners corporation to keep an animal, and the owners corporation can’t unreasonably refuse permission. An owners corporation can choose to adopt this model by-law or they can create their own by-law. This means that in NSW by-laws can vary widely – from accepting pets without the need for approval through to not permitting pets at all. If your by-law allows for pets with the approval of the owners corporation, then you should make a written request to the owners corporation and include any information to support your request, such as a description of the pet and a description of how the pet will be responsibly managed.

NSW strata by-laws are subject to section 49(4) of the Strata Titles Act which states that by-laws cannot prohibit or prevent the keeping or use of a guide or hearing dog on a lot or common property.

Contact: NSW Office of Fair Trading - Tel 13 32 20
www.fairtrading.nsw.gov.au - see under ‘Tenants and Home Owners’/Strata Schemes/Frequently Asked Questions/I Want to get a Dog, do I need the Owners Corporation’s Permission?

PROPOSED NSW LEGISLATION CHANGES

NSW strata legislation is currently under review with new strata laws expected to be introduced in late 2013/early 2014. The NSW Fair Trading Minister has confirmed that changes to state legislation will include default by-laws altered so that pets will be allowed, subject to 'reasonable' approvals and conditions set by Executive Committees. The new legislation won't be retrospective, so if an existing strata scheme has a by-law that bans pets the legislative change won’t affect it; equally, if an existing strata scheme wishes to allow pets it will still need to vote such a by-law in. If a new strata scheme wishes to ban pets (with the exception of guide or hearing dogs) it will still be able to by introducing such a by-law. A 75 percent vote of owners is required to introduce or change a by-law. 

Victoria

Victorian strata schemes are governed by the Owners Corporation Act 2006.  The Owners Corporations Regulations 2007 include a model rule regarding the keeping of animals as follows:

"3.1 Use of the common property

Sch.2

(4) If the owners corporation has resolved that an animal is a danger or is causing a nuisance to the common property, it must give reasonable notice of this resolution to the owner or occupier who is keeping the animal.

(5) An owner or occupier of a lot who is keeping an animal that is the subject of a notice under subrule (4) must remove that animal.

(6) Subrules (4) and (5) do not apply to an animal that assists a person with an impairment or disability."


This model rule means that pets are allowed unless it has been resolved not to allow the animal because it is a nuisance or poses a danger.  Owners corporations can also make their own pet-related rules by special resolution.  The rules must be registered with Land Victoria.  Pet owners should check with their owners corporation to see what rules apply to their strata development.

Contact: Consumer Affairs Victoria - Tel 1300 55 8181
www.consumer.vic.gov.au – see under Owners Corporations

Queensland

Queensland strata communities are covered by The Body Corporate and Community Management Act 1997. The Act provides a by-law regarding the keeping of animals as follows:

Schedule 4 By-laws

"11 Keeping of animals
(1) The occupier of a lot must not, without the body corporate’s written approval—
(a) bring or keep an animal on the lot or the common property; or
(b) permit an invitee to bring or keep an animal on the lot or the common property.

(2) The occupier must obtain the body corporate’s written approval before bringing, or permitting an invitee to bring, an animal onto the lot or the common property."


This standard by-law means that a resident must have written approval from the body corporate before they bring an animal onto the property.  Body corporates can use standard by-laws or create their own.  They should not, however, have a blanket “no pets” by- law as it is deemed to be too restrictive.  Owner’s corporations are entitled to impose conditions on the keeping of pets, however, many of those conditions may not stand up if they are unreasonable or restrictive. Recent legal cases indicate that conditions restricting the number of animals or placing a restriction on the weight of animals are unreasonable. This means that the type, breed and nature of the animal are all relevant factors in determining whether a pet should be approved.

Contact: Office for the Commissioner of Body Corporate and Community Management - Tel 1800 060 119 (call back service)
www.justice.qld.gov.au/bccm

South Australia

South Australian Bodies Corporate are subject to two Acts.  Corporations created before 1996 are subject to the Strata Titles Act 1988.   Corporations created after 1996 are subject to the Community Titles Act 1996. 

The Strata Titles Act 1988 prescribes a default ruling regarding the keeping of animals. The Community Titles Act 1996 requires that by-laws specific to each group are created and these by-laws may or may not include rulings in relation to the keeping of animals. 

The clause relating to the keeping of animals in the Strata Titles Act 1988 is as follows:

Schedule 3—Articles of strata corporation

"4. Subject to the Strata Titles Act 1988, a person bound by these articles must not, without the strata corporation's consent, keep any animal in, or in the vicinity of, a unit."


This default ruling applies to Strata Corporations and means that a resident must have the approval of the Corporation to keep an animal. According to the Strata Titles Act 1988, Corporations may adopt Schedule 3 of the Act as the Articles of their Corporation or, subject to the appropriate approval processes, may make changes to these Articles to suit their Corporation. 

Community Corporations can use the by- laws lodged at inception of the Corporation , or they can modify them or make their own rulings specific to the keeping of animals  by Special Resolution. 

Articles or by-Laws cannot prevent an occupier or visitor to a Corporation from having a disability assistance animal at the premises.

Contact: South Australia Departments of the Attorney-General, Legal Services Commission - Tel 1300 366 424
www.lsc.sa.gov.au  - See under handbook/housing/strata titles

Tasmania

Tasmanian strata communities are subject to the Strata Titles Act 1998. The Act provides a clause regarding the keeping of animals as follows:

Schedule 1

"7. Keeping of animals

(1) Subject to subclause (2), the occupier of a lot must not, without the body corporate’s written approval:
(a) bring an animal onto, or keep an animal on, the lot or the common property; or
(b) permit an invitee to bring an animal onto, or keep an animal on, the lot or the common property.


(2) If a person reasonably requires the assistance of a guide-dog by reason of impairment of sight or hearing, the person is entitled to be accompanied by a guide-dog while on a lot or the common property and, if the person is the owner or occupier of a lot, is entitled to keep a guide-dog on the lot."


This standard by-law means that a resident must have written approval from the body corporate before they bring an animal onto the property. Body corporates can make use of the standard by-law or they can register their own by-laws with the Recorder of Titles.  This means that Tasmanian by-laws can vary widely.   Pet owners should check with their body corporate to see what rules apply to their strata development.

Contact: Land Titles Office – Tel 6233 3659
www.dpiw.tas.gov.au – See under strata schemes/Strata Living in Tasmania

Western Australia

West Australian strata communities are subject to the Strata Titles Act 1985.  The Act includes a standard by-law relating to animals as follows:

Schedule 2

"By-law 12 A proprietor, occupier or other resident shall not –
(c) subject to section 42(15) of the Act, keep any animals on the lot that he owns, occupies or resides in or the common property after notice in that behalf given to him by the council."


This standard by-law means that residents must not keep an animal if they have received notice from the strata council.  The keeping of pets is therefore at the discretion of the strata council. The standard by-laws provided by the Act apply to all strata schemes unless they have created and registered their own by-laws.

WA strata by-laws are subject to section 42(15) of the Strata Titles Act which states that by-laws cannot prohibit or restrict the keeping or use of a guide dog on a lot or common property by a completely or partially blind person.

Contact: Landgate Strata Advisory Service - Tel 08 9273 7044
www.landgate.wa.gov.au – See under quicklinks/Landgate practice manuals/A Guide to Strata Titles

Australian Capital Territory

ACT strata communities are subject to the Unit Titles Act 2001. The Act includes a by-law relating to the keeping of animals as follows:

"51A     Animals—owners corporation's consent

(1)   A unit owner may keep an animal, or allow an animal to be kept, within the unit or the common property only with the consent of the owners corporation.

(2)   The owners corporation may give consent under this section with or without conditions.

(3)   However, the owners corporation’s consent must not be unreasonably withheld.
Note: An owner or occupier of a unit may apply to the ACAT to resolve a dispute with the owners corporation about keeping an animal, or allowing an animal to be kept

(4)    In this section:
animal includes—
(a)    an amphibian; and
(b)    a bird; and
(c)    a fish; and
(d)    a mammal (other than a human being); and
(e)    a reptile."


This standard by-law means that residents may only keep a pet with the consent of the owners corporation. The owners corporation can give its consent with or without conditions, but they must not withhold consent unreasonably. Further, an owners corporation cannot amend its articles (by-laws) to preclude any right of any unit owner to keep an animal, that is to say they must not introduce a blanket “no pets” by-law.

Where a resident is in dispute with an owners corporation they can apply to the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal to have the dispute resolved. 

Contact: ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal - Tel (02) 62071740
Justice and Community Safety – Tel 13 2281
www.justice.act.gov.au – see quick links/unit titles/fact sheet/FS6 Changed Rules about Keeping of Animals

Northern Territory

Northern Territory strata communities are subject to the Unit Titles Act.
There is a clause in the Act relating to animals as follows:

Schedule 1  Articles

"2. (4) A member of the corporation shall not:

(f) Except in accordance with the permission given by a majority resolution of the corporation, keep any animals or birds in or on his unit or the common property."


This clause means that residents can only keep pets if they have the permission of a majority vote of the owners corporation.  It is possible for strata schemes to change this clause by creating and registering their own house rules or articles (by-laws).

Contact: Department of Justice - Tel 08 8935 7777
www.nt.gov.au/justice/

Strata Community Australia thanks the Petcare Information Advisory Service (PIAS) for providing this article.