Article: can I have a pet? Please? Keeping an animal in strata, part 1

When I was a kid, my Christmas wish-list every year included a puppy. But all I remember was receiving different pairs of I-swear-they-are-fashionable-funky-socks and some you-will-grow-into-them-sweaters from my parents. I must admit, Santa and I were not on the best of terms for a long time. But eventually, I realised the real obstacle standing between Father Christmas and my fulfilling childhood were the by-laws for our unit block.

To be more precise, the Owners Corporation of each strata scheme has the power to create a by-law that dictates whether its residents can keep pets in the building (though this doesn’t apply to guide dogs). Therefore, it is important for residents who wish to keep pets to obtain a copy of the by-laws and be aware of the Owners Corporation’s requirements when it comes to the keeping of animals.

For instance, it is usual for the Owners Corporation to require the resident who intends to keep a pet to seek the Owners Corporation’s prior written approval. This often means the resident should provide information that contains (but is not necessarily limited to) the following:-

·         Details of the pet, for instance its age, breed, appearance, weight, height, personality/disposition;

·         Details of registration of the pet with local council, micro chipping, de-sexing and all necessary vaccinations;

·         Whether the pet has received any obedience or behavioural training;

·         References or statements from the residents’ previous neighbours, landlords or even room-mates about the ‘angelic’ behaviour of the pet; and

·         It is also helpful to provide evidence showing that other residents of the same building are keeping or have kept pets in the past.

But of course, all of the above is subject to the actual terms of the by-law in your strata scheme.

Some strata schemes may simply adopt the Model By-Law 17 in Schedule 2 of the Strata Schemes Management Regulation 2010 (for schemes registered on or after 1 July 1997), which contains 3 possible options regarding the keeping of animals, summarised below:-

a)     no animals can be kept (other than fish in an aquarium) unless the permission of the Owners Corporation is first obtained;

b)    a cat, small dog, a small caged bird or fish in aquarium may be kept; or

c)     no animals are permitted, with the exception of a guide or hearing dog.

If your strata scheme was registered before 1 July 1997 and the Owners Corporation has not otherwise registered a by-law dealing with animals, then By-Law 16 in Schedule 1 to the Strata Schemes Management Act 1996 applies. This By-Law permits residents to keep an animal, provided that he/she has obtained the Owners Corporation’s prior written approval.

Having said the above, the NSW strata legislation is currently under review. The NSW Fair Trading Minister, Anthony Roberts, has confirmed that the above model by-laws will be changed to encourage pet-friendly strata schemes. Perhaps, soon enough, we will see Santa with more furry friends in his sleigh.

In our next newsletter we will deal with what happens if the Owners Corporation objects to your keeping a pet.

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