July 2019

Doggone strata disputes

After cats, dogs are our best friend for a good reason – they are lovely companions. But not everybody thinks that way, especially in strata buildings.

Your building might have by-laws about keeping animals in your unit. These often require an owner or occupier to keep an animal in the unit only with the written approval of the owners corporation, while also providing that the owners corporation must not unreasonably withhold approval.

So what if your owners corporation is being a little ruff and won’t let you keep your quiet little husky in your unit?

Over the past couple of years, NCAT has considered a couple of such cases. The consistent line of decisions coming out of NCAT is that if your pooch will not cause interference or nuisance to any other owners or occupiers, then it would be unreasonable – maybe even dogmatic – for the owners corporation to refuse consent.

In Forster, Mr and Mrs Ison, the owners of two young cavoodles, were asked by the owners corporation to remove their pups from the building. The Isons had not received permission before they moved their dogs into the unit.

Evidence was fetched to show that the dogs lived without complaint in their townhouse in Sydney and that they wouldn’t cause any interference or nuisance to anybody else in the building. The Isons were even prepared to agree to various conditions being imposed, such as using a short leash on the dogs when on the common property.

NCAT took into account all these matters and was satisfied that the owners corporation’s refusal of consent was unreasonable and made an order allowing the dogs to be kept in the unit.

More recently, NCAT considered an application for a small Maltese Cross Terrier, named Baxter, to be kept in a unit in Sydney.

Again, NCAT considered whether the owners corporation was reasonable in refusing approval for Baxter to be kept in the unit. It concluded that the right to keep an animal as a pet within strata units, under suitable conditions, is part of contemporary community standards. The Tribunal also opined that it may be ‘a part of a lot owner’s basic right of habitation’.

The upshot is that if you can show that Fido will not be a nuisance and that you will keep her on a leash in the lifts and stairwells, then NCAT is likely to support you. Owners corporations may want to keep these rulings in mind when considering owners requests to keep dogs.

Author: Peter Barakate