In Queensland, The Body Corporate and Community Management Act 1997 provides a by-law regarding the keeping of animals as follows:
1) The occupier of a lot must not, without the body corporate’s written approval –
a) Bring or keep an animal on the lot or common property; or
b) Permit and invitee to bring or keep and animal on the lot or common property.
There has been a growing concern that owners who choose not to live with animals are being challenged and the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal is being left with the decision of determining whether there are grounds for or against a pet related by-law being upheld. The following case study has been chosen to share, in the aim of helping others who might find themselves in similar circumstances.
A strata community had an existing by-law stating it was NOT a pet friendly building and for ten years it remained that way with some owners, prior to settlement, left giving away their pets in order to comply. One day, one of the lot owner’s came home with a dog and claimed they were unaware approval was needed to keep the pet. After applying to the body corporate and having their claim rejected, the lot owner appealed and the case was heard before the Queensland Body Corporate Commissioner. The appeal was rejected after considering more than 35 submissions against the lot owner keeping their dog.
This process not only cost thousands of dollars in legal fees, but caused stress, anxiety and bad feelings around the once harmonious community.
The issues relating to pets in strata are extremely complex, and many different aspects are taken into consideration when decisions are being made. It is becoming increasingly difficult to enforce pet related by-laws and it is often the case that they are being judged on a case-by-case basis.
In this case, although there was an existing by-law stating no pets were allowed, and although bringing a pet into the building was a breach, the onus was on the owners to make a case against the pet owner. They had to prove why the dog was not suitable and show grounds by providing evidence. In this case the by –law was upheld.
To avoid situations like this, it is highly recommended that in such circumstances prospective purchasers do their homework prior to entering into community titled schemes. Namely, be aware of existing by-laws! To tackle problems, such as this one, a strong, pro-active body corporate is very helpful in conveying the needs of the majority.
At the end of the day by-laws can’t apply to some and not others – although where strata living is concerned the legislation is increasingly being interpreted to this effect.