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Buying and renting pet friendly home units

Home unit owners are either strongly pro pets or anti pets. The strata by-laws in a block of home units / apartments will reflect the views of the majority of owners.

How do you know if the strata scheme is pet friendly when looking to buy a home unit, and looking to rent a home unit? You look at the strata by-laws.

How do strata by-laws deal with pets?

The model strata by-laws give strata owners corporations three options when it comes to pets:

Option A allows pets, if they are approved - an owner or occupier must not keep any animal (except fish kept in a secure aquarium on the lot) on the lot or the common property, without the prior written approval of the owners corporation. Option A is the standard / default option which applies, unless Options B or C are specifically chosen.

Option B pre-approves a cat, a small dog, and a small caged bird, subject to conditions such as carrying the animal when on common property.

Option C completely prohibits pets.

If you are looking to buy a home unit and planning to bring your pet with you, carefully check the strata by-laws before committing to the purchase, to avoid buying in a block of units with Option C by-laws. If it is a block of units with Option A by-laws, then make approval for your pet a condition of purchase.

Many new apartment developers are pitching to pet lovers who are looking to bring their pets with them. They choose Option B for the strata by-laws, limiting the number of pets to 2 four-legged animals, the size to small dogs not exceeding 14 kg in weight, and desexed cats only. Apparently, fat dogs and tom cats are not wanted but fat desexed cats are welcome!

What proposed changes will the strata title reforms in NSW bring?

The new model by-laws which are proposed by the NSW Government will make strata by-laws more pet friendly, by making Option B the default option. They will permit small pets (cats, small dogs, birds and fish) as the ‘standard’, but will still allow strata schemes to limit or ban pets. If implemented, they will apply to new strata schemes created from 2016.

If you are living in a strata scheme with Option A or Option C by-laws, then to make your strata scheme more pet friendly, you need to change the by-laws to Option B. This is done by a special resolution at a general meeting of the owners corporation.

Tenants with pets

Clause 43 of the standard Residential Tenancy Agreement prohibits pets as the default position:

43. The tenant agrees not to keep animals on the residential premises without obtaining the landlord’s consent.

This protects the landlord of a strata unit because it is consistent with Options A and C of strata by-laws.

Landlords who are willing to rent to tenants with pets must obtain the approval of the owners corporation. Otherwise they may be caught in the middle with the owners corporation pursuing a breach of the strata by-laws on the one hand and the tenant pursuing a breach of the lease on the other.

Illustration: In Tenancy Tribunal decision 2009/410, the Tribunal ordered the landlord pay the tenant $3,723, after the owners corporation took legal action against the tenant to remove their dog. The landlord had assured the tenant before they moved in that the building was “pet friendly”, even though the strata by-laws prohibited the keeping of animals.

The standard Residential Tenancy Agreement contains an optional clause if the landlord agrees to a pet, and allows for an extra 2 weeks rental bond to be collected.

It also contains this additional clause which applies if the tenant has kept a pet on the premises with or without the landlord’s agreement:

45. The tenant agrees to have the carpet professionally cleaned or to have the residential premises fumigated if the cleaning or fumigation is required because animals have been kept on the residential premises during the tenancy.

Most landlords will have the carpet professionally cleaned and fumigate the premises.

Disclaimer: Because lenders assess borrowers differently, and because each borrower’s circumstances are different, the comments made in this newsletter are not to be relied upon in specific cases.

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