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Pets in strata: what do pet adoption surges mean for strata communities?

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  2020 changed everything, but what about pet laws?

Guess who’s moving in? Pets! While you were social distancing, you may have missed the news that pet adoption has surged once again around the country.

Reports emerged in recent weeks that RSPCA shelters around the country have already beaten previous adoption records, despite it still being only May.

  • There’s been 4,600 animals adopted from the South Australian shelter so far this year — a new record.
  • RSPCA NSW reports there’s been more than a 30% increase in pet adoptions since February.

    The issue of pets in strata communities has a chequered history, with pet bans and by-laws refusing pets common place in some communities until recent years. The reason for the change? Australians love pets, and they want pets to have a home in strata properties.

    There are over 29 million pets in Australia and we have one of the highest pet ownership rates in the world [1]. Approximately 61% of households in Australia own pets, with dogs being the most common (40%), followed by cats (27%).

    It appears the loneliness that many experienced during lockdown has only made pets more important to the happiness and everyday lives of Australians, so it’s worth thinking about how this will impact strata properties.

    By the end of this article, we hope to have answered these two looming questions…

  • What has changed since we last spoke about pet laws?
  • What can communities do to manage an increase in pets at a community level?
  • pets in strata

    So what has changed?

    Legislation in this space has seen some overhauls in recent years. State to state, the rules vary about pets in community-living properties like apartments and townhouses.

    In Victoria, for example, tenants have the right to keep a pet (and can’t be denied a lease because they own a pet), and this can only be refused by a Victoria Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) order.

    Queensland shares similarities with the banning of all pets, as well as banning dogs of a certain size or weight by bodies corporate has been ruled invalid.

    In New South Wales, the default is no longer to ban pets (as it was prior to a 2015 law change), but instead allow pets after you obtain written approval from the strata committee, which can’t be unreasonably refused.

    However, this doesn’t consider a strata property’s individual by-laws. Even when legislation provides for the occupier of a strata apartment to have a dog, cat, or even bunny, that doesn’t mean you have the strata committee’s approval. As with all by-laws, each strata committee gets to choose which by-laws it wants to incorporate into their strata scheme.

    If you live in a strata property and are considering buying a pet, the best course of action will be to check your state or territory’s laws and confer with your strata committee before taking action.

    What can communities do to manage more pets?

    In our experience providing strata management services to over 65,000 strata lots nationwide, we have found the best thing communities can do is;

  • Help educate owners on the right pets for their particular strata community
  • In many strata properties with shared walls or floors, having a pet that isn’t suitable for the space could create ongoing problems with noise disturbances and damage.

    The RSPCA has made resources available for Australians to choose the right pet and we’d recommend communities share this with community members who have raised an interest in pet adoption.

  • Provide clear and where necessary, expanded by-laws on pets
  • If your by-laws don’t comprehensively address all the aspects of modern-day pet ownership, it might be time for them to be clarified or expanded.

    The aspect of strata legislation has evolved quickly in recent years so clearly articulating what is lawful inside your community will benefit owners greatly.

    Additionally, there have been countless disputes between strata owners and committees hitting the news in recent years because established by-laws were not up to speed with modern pet ownership rulings so be sure to avoid that unfortunate outcome.

    Seeking further advice?

    If you wish to discuss any strata community matters further with an Ace Body Corporate Manager, please do not hesitate to visit our contact page and locate your nearest Ace Manager for a chat.

    Ace Body Corporate Management
    Disclaimer: This is not advice and should only be referred to for general information purposes. Strata management contracts often vary, so we recommend you contact your local Ace manager for more information, or seek expert legal advice. This article is not intended to be personal advice and you should not rely on it as a substitute for any form of advice.Ace Body Corporate Management offers this newsletter to clients to assist in updating them on company and industry news. The content within this newsletter is of a generic nature and may not be applicable to all owners corporations. Ace Body Corporate Management attempts to provide the most up-to-date and accurate information for our clients, however we strongly recommend that individuals and committees seek further advice before acting on any information in this newsletter.