There are new rules about keeping pets in strata properties.

Australia has one of the highest rates of pet ownership in the world. It’s little wonder, when pets have been shown to have a positive impact on both our physical and mental health, and the benefits extend from children growing up with pets all the way to the elderly living with pet companions. However, for many reasons, not everyone wants to share their building or strata complex with animals. And we’re not just talking about apartments here – strata complexes include many townhouses and villas too.

Strata buildings and complexes that allow pets may benefit from higher property values and rents, but they also run the risk of disputes over pet ownership, more noise and increased cleaning and maintenance costs for common areas.

So regardless of whether the pet belonged to an owner, or a tenant who rented, some strata complexes have previously had a blanket ban on all pets.

But, thanks to ongoing debate that’s been running in the NSW courts for several years now, that is all about to change.

The update

In early October 2020, an unexpected NSW Court of Appeal ruling overturned the right of strata schemes to pass by-laws prohibiting pets.

This comes after residents of the Horizon apartment building in Darlinghurst won a court battle over the residency status of Angus, a 14-year-old miniature schnauzer. The dispute had been running since 2015.

The ruling means that not only can Angus the miniature schnauzer stay in the Horizon building, but no blanket bans on pets will be permitted in any building anywhere in NSW. The Court of Appeal ruled that such a ban is in breach of NSW strata scheme legislation because it is ‘harsh, unconscionable or oppressive’.

Can I have a pet in strata now?

It doesn’t mean that all restrictions around pets in strata are dissolved overnight. Whilst the Horizon decision undoubtedly has wide-reaching implications, existing requirements that some strata schemes have around written notification or seeking consent are unlikely to be affected. The decision only relates to by-laws prohibiting all pets.

There will probably be an extended period of animal lovers taking cases to court to explore the legal meaning and impact of the decision. For example, the Elan apartment building in Kings Cross is now being taken to the NSW Court of Appeal by one of its residents in the ongoing dispute over the right to keep pets in that building. We could even see residents in buildings in our area do the same.

Direction from the NSW government could make things clearer. An amendment to the law preventing strata schemes from passing by-laws stopping owners and occupiers from having companion animals is currently being considered by the NSW Parliament.

What does it mean for renters on the Upper North Shore?

Renters are subject not only to their building or complex’s strata, but also to their lease. At present there is nothing stopping landlords from including a clause restricting pets in the residential tenancy agreement, and many choose to do so. Other landlords are pet friendly, which does increase the pool of potential renters, many of whom find it difficult to locate a pet friendly property.

Landlords are often worried that pets will cause damage to their property or the common areas or make excess noise that will disturb the neighbours. If you’re a renter thinking about asking your landlord for permission to have a pet, these tips might help.

  • Give your landlord as much information about your pet as possible, including its age, breed, size, temperament, details of any training they’ve had and details about how much time they’ll be spending alone. It doesn’t hurt to include cute photos of the animal.
  • If you’re competing for a property with other tenants, many renters consider offering to pay extra rent, perhaps even $5 or $10 a week, to give themselves an advantage. This may not be necessary, or advisable, in all markets though.
  • Address your landlord’s concerns over potential property damage. Reassure him or her that you’ll cover any damages. You could offer to have the carpet professionally cleaned and ensure that your pet is groomed, including nails trimmed, on a regular basis.
  • References from a previous landlord, owners corporation or neighbours can help assure your landlord that your pet is well-behaved and friendly. Some pet owners compile a pet CV, including vaccination and vet records showing that the animal is healthy and well-looked after.

Whether you’re looking to buy or rent, it’s always a good idea to investigate the building or complex’s stance on pets before you commit. It’s the easiest way to avoid disputes down the track.

The good news is that no matter whether you’re looking for a pet-friendly haven or a pet-free paradise, there’s a strata building or complex on the upper north shore to suit you.

If you’re looking to buy or rent an apartment, townhouse or villa on the upper north shore, contact our team today.

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