Changes to Pet Laws in NSW Strata Schemes

Pets are becoming increasingly more familiar in our homes, especially since the COVID-19 lockdown. However, as of 25 August 2021, new laws in NSW under the Strata Schemes Management Act 2015 will limit blanket bans on pets in strata which are considered harsh, oppressive and unconscionable.

This win for pet owners is a great outcome for those looking to live in strata with their furry friends, but are unable to do so due to the previous by-laws which made pet ownership difficult. These new laws now reflect this changing attitude to have pets in our homes helped by the rise of pet ownership.

Minister for Better Regulation, Kevin Anderson revealed that “A lot has changed since the Act commenced in 2015, including a huge shift to apartment living as more and more people in NSW are choosing to buy and rent in higher density areas”.

“On top of that, research tells us that Australia has one of the highest rates of pet ownership in the world, with 61 per cent of households including a pet in their family, and 91 per cent of households owning a pet at some point in their lives.

Our new laws have been designed to strike the right balance for everyone living in strata communities, putting an end to blanket bans on pets while giving owners corporations clear guidance on how they can set rules to ensure other owners aren’t impacted.”

So, what do the new laws entail?

When can an animal enter a strata scheme?

An animal can enter a strata scheme if it has been first approved by the owners corporation.

  1. Animals can be approved unless the animal causes an unreasonable interference to another occupant or common property.
  2. The owners corporation must decide upon the animal approval within a reasonable timeframe.
  3. If the owners corporation doesn’t make their decision based on the above rules, the animal can automatically be approved to enter the strata scheme.

How to allow an animal into a scheme?

Animals can be allowed into a scheme in two ways, under the model by-laws.

  1. Residents are allowed to keep an animal as long as the resident provides written notice within 14 days of the animal first staying in the scheme.
  2. Residents are required to get written approval for the animal from the owners corporation and the owners corporation cannot unreasonably refuse permission. If refusal is given, written reasons for the refusal must be provided.

If the owners corporation doesn’t wish to use the model by-laws, they can create their own by-law, which should include any necessary approval processes as to how animals can enter their scheme.

What information is required to approve an animal?

To help the owners corporation identify animals in their strata scheme, it is recommended that animal owners provide the following details as part of the approval process:

  • Animal name
  • Animal type
  • Size
  • Breed
  • Age
  • Photographs
  • Vaccination records and microchip number (if relevant)

When can an animal be refused entry into a strata scheme?

Under the new laws, an owners corporation can only refuse entry to animals within their strata scheme when the animal unreasonably interferes with the common property or affects other residents from enjoying their lot.

What is unreasonable interference?

According to the Strata Scheme Management Regulation 2016, Part 5, Section 36A, an animal that causes unreasonable interference is when:

  • The animal makes a noise that persistently occurs to the degree that the noise unreasonably interferes with the peace, comfort or convenience of another occupant, or
  • The animal repeatedly runs at or chases another occupant, a visitor or another occupant or an animal kept by another occupant, or
  • The animal attacks or otherwise menaces another occupant, a visitor or another occupant or an animal kept by another occupant, or
  • The animal repeatedly causes damage to the common property or another lot, or
  • The animal endangers the health of another occupant through infection or infestation, or
  • The animal causes a persistent offensive odour that penetrates another lot or the common property

For a cat kept on a lot:

  • the owner of the animal fails to comply with an order that is in force under the Companion Animals Act 1998, section 31

For a dog kept on a lot:

  • the owner of the animal fails to comply with an order that is in force under the Companion Animals Act 1998, section 32A, or
  • the dog is declared to be a menacing dog or a dangerous dog under the Companion Animals Act 1998, section 34, or
  • the animal is a restricted dog within the meaning of the Companion Animals Act 1998, section 55(1)

What by-laws can an owners corporation introduce in their strata scheme?

An owners corporation can choose to adopt the model by-laws or create their own as to how pet owners should look after their animal when living in strata.

Under the model by-laws, a resident must:

  • Keep the animal within their lot
  • Supervise the animal whenever it is on the common property, and
  • Take any action necessary to clean all areas of their lot or the common property that are soiled by the animal

If creating your own by-laws, the owners corporation need to include reasonable conditions on how pet owners should look after their animal, to prevent animals from causing an unreasonable interference in their scheme. Some examples include:

  • Keep animals on a leash or carry them whilst walking through common property areas or within lifts
  • Animals to enter and exit through a dedicated entrance or lift to avoid contact with other residents
  • Ensure certain animals like cats or dogs are microchipped or vaccinated

What steps can you take to remove an animal from a scheme?

If an animal causes unreasonable interference to other owners and residents within a scheme such as becoming a nuisance or being a hazard, an owners corporation or another resident can take various steps to prohibit an animal from their scheme.

Step one: resolve disputes with the pet owner

As with any strata disputes, the first thing to do is to talk to the pet owner and discuss your concerns about the animal’s behaviour and how it can be resolved. It is important to make the pet owner aware of the by-laws that are adopted within the scheme as they might be new to the building or are unaware that they are breaking any rules.

If there is an internal dispute resolution procedure within the strata scheme, residents can use this approach if the first one doesn’t work. From here, if the disputes are ignored and there has been a breach in the by-law, the owners corporation can issue the animal owner with a notice to comply with a by-law.

Step two: seek a nuisance order

If the animal continues to cause unreasonable interference, any resident or the owners corporation under the Companion Animals Act 1998, can apply to the local council to seek an order against nuisance cats and dogs. Once the pet owner is issued with a nuisance order, they must adhere to the conditions otherwise face a fine.

Before seeking an order, it’s worthwhile checking the local council’s conditions and process. You may need to supply evidence of when this animal caused unreasonable interference so it is worth keeping notes about the time, day and the type of incident that took place to help issue an order.

Step three: prohibit an animal from strata

If the above two steps have been ignored and the animal is still causing unreasonable interference to other lot owners and common property areas, then the animal may be removed from the strata scheme as a last resort.

For this to happen, a resident of the scheme or the owners corporation must first approach NSW Fair Trading for mediation. For unresolved disputes, the resident or owners corporation can escalate this to the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (the tribunal) for an order to remove the animal from the scheme.

Are assistance animals prohibited from strata schemes?

A strata scheme’s by-laws cannot prohibit an assistance animal from the scheme. However, to assess the animal’s assistance status, the owners corporation can request the following evidence:

  • accreditation from a recognised assistance animal training body, or
  • an assistance animal permit issued by Service NSW, or
  • a signed statement that the animal has been trained to assist a person with a disability and meet hygiene and behaviour standards for an animal in a public place.

The owners corporation however cannot ask for private medical records.

How are rental tenants affected by the new pet law changes?

Allowing pets within a strata scheme is now favoured under the new NSW pet laws. However, landlords can still stop their tenants from keeping pets in their lot. A tenant must adhere to their tenancy agreement and are required to seek the landlord’s permission first before having a pet.

For landlords that do allow a pet within their lot, they cannot make a tenant pay a deposit to keep the animal. Also, a landlord cannot require a higher amount for the rental bond that is permitted by the Residential Tenancies Act 2010 for keeping a pet.

Contact us

To find out more about these latest pet law changes and how to update your by-laws for these new rules, get in touch with the friendly strata team today.

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37/342 Military Rd, Cremorne
Sydney, NSW 2090

Ph: 02 9909 5300