Pets and Strata Laws… what are your rights?

While most of us were stuck at home throughout 2020, companionship was a high priority for a lot of people.

By John Christian – May 17, 2021
Pets and Strata laws - resources

While most of us were stuck at home throughout 2020, companionship was a high priority for a lot of people. During these times of increased loneliness, most people went out and either bought, adopted, or fostered a cute and cuddly four-legged companion. In fact, the RSPCA reported last year that the number of Australians adopting and fostering pets during the COVID-19 pandemic had ‘exploded’. While pets and strata laws can something be tricky to navigate, the unprecedented demand for domestic pets, combined with the increase in apartment living in urban areas, has seen the age-old issues of apartment living for dog lovers and renting with pets to become more prevalent than ever before. 

In this article, we will aim to outline the nuts and bolts of pet by-laws so that you can get organised now, well before moving day. 

The good news is that your furry little friend can accompany you in your new rental home, but you may need to do some homework before you can welcome it into your home. 

The legal stuff 

In Queensland, the relevant law is the Body Corporate and Community Management Act 1997 (the “Act”). 

Section 180 of the Act acts as the guidebook for the limitations of by-laws. For instance, a by-law must not be oppressive or unreasonable having regard to the interests of all lot owners and occupiers of the scheme i.e., a no-pets by-law or one that restricts a dog’s weight to 10kg. BCCM Adjudicators and Tribunals have held that these types of by-laws are oppressive and unreasonable and therefore invalid. 

For these reasons, it is very important that you request a copy of the Community Management Statement (the “CMS”) for your particular scheme as early as possible and that you read-up on the provisions provided under the heading ‘BY-LAWS’. If it is the case that the CMS does not contain the by-laws for the scheme, the by-laws for the scheme are the default provisions stated in Schedule 4 of the Act. The by-laws contained within Schedule 4 of the Act account for many things including the keeping of animals i.e., that 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. 

As the occupier, you 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. 

Section 181 of the Act provides the right of the owner or occuiper of a lot to keep a guide, hearing or assistance dog on their lot. A by-law can not exclude or restrict a right given by this section.

The next step 

If the by-laws require you to ask permission from your body corporate to keep an animal, the next step is to apply in writing to your body corporate for approval for the pet. Remember, approval should be sought for the keeping of any animal, be it a cat, dog, bird, lizard or other commonly kept domestic animals. 

A handy way of demonstrating that you are a responsible pet parent is to provide as much detail as possible about the pet and perhaps consider providing a ‘pet resume’ that outlines the pet’s immunisation history, temperament, microchip details, name and contact details of your Vet, de-sexing certificate etc. You may also want to consider introducing your pet to the committee to build rapport with your fellow residents. If approved, the body corporate may have some conditions around the approval that you need to comply with. These conditions can range from: 

· the animal is not to roam on common property; 

· any feces are to cleaned up immediately; 

· appliable local council regulations are to be complied with; and/or 

· approval may be revoked in response to any valid complaints about the animal i.e. if the animal causes any noise or disturbance that interferes with the use and
 enjoyment of another owner’s or occupier’s use of their lot or the common property. 

In the case where you have provided the body corporate with a copy of your pet’s resume, and you have taken the time to introduce your pet to the body corporate, however the body corporate refuses to approve the keeping of the pet on the scheme, it is not the end of the road. Lot owners can pursue several avenues to overturn the decision, such as an attempt to resolve the issue with the body corporate informally or alternatively, through conciliation and then possibly adjudication.  

Conciliation and adjudication often require parties to seek legal advice, at least at an indicative level, before proceeding with either of these avenues of recourse. It is our experience that resorting to these forms of dispute resolution can be costly and cause people to be overwhelmed by the process. In this regard, we encourage lot owners and occupiers to do their research before moving day so that the necessary approvals can be sought thereby avoiding any conflict after you move in. As they say, ‘the best preparation for tomorrow is doing your best today.’ Your time is better spent leading a fulfilling life with your cuddly companion (or goldfish, bird, cat etc).  

Call us 

If you or anyone you know is experiencing issues with pets and strata laws, contact our experienced body corporate lawyer for a free initial phone consultation. 

Article by John Christian, Principal Lawyer, Founder and Director of Victor Legal

John has extensive experience in complex civil and commercial dispute resolution and litigation matters, specialising in:

Building and construction disputes
Complex litigation
Contract drafting and review
Dispute Resolution
Commercial Law
Corporate insolvency
Securities and caveats
Debt collection
Contract disputes
Commercial and risk mitigation advice

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