Pet owners living in strata buildings have been rejoicing after the introduction of the Strata Schemes Management Amendment (Sustainability Infrastructure) Act 2021 (NSW) https://legislation.nsw.gov.au/view/pdf/asmade/act-2021-1 (Act). Effectively a strata scheme can no longer unreasonably restrict the keeping of pets on a lot.
Restrictions on pets in strata buildings has been a contentious issue in NSW for some time. It has been a highly litigated subject for the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT) culminating in an important decision set down in The Owners — Strata Plan No 58068 v Cooper  NSWCATAP 96 (Cooper). In Cooper a blanket ban on pets in a strata building was approved by NCAT. However in October 2020 the ruling was successfully appealed and quickly became the leading authority. This appeal decision paved the way for legislative change in the form of the Act and more specifically section 137B.
Section 137B(1) states that any by-law or a decision by an Owners Corporation will have no effect to the extent that it would ‘unreasonably’ prohibit the keeping of an animal. Section 137B(2) states that it is ‘reasonable’ to keep an animal on a lot unless that interferes with another occupant’s use and enjoyment of their property or the common property.
The Strata Schemes Management Amendment (Pets) Regulation 2021 (NSW) https://legislation.nsw.gov.au/view/pdf/asmade/sl-2021-464 which commenced at the same time as the Act sets out circumstances which constitute unreasonable interference. These include where:
there is persistent noise by an animal that unreasonably interferes with the peace, comfort or convenience of another occupant;
an animal repeatedly runs at or chases another occupant, a visitor of another occupant or another animal;
an animal attacks or otherwise menaces another occupant, a visitor or another animal;
an animal repeatedly causes damage to the common property or another lot;
an animal endangers the health of another occupant; and
an animal causes a persistent offensive odour that penetrates another lot or the common property.
During the recent lockdown, pets have become even more important to support mental health and increase general wellbeing. The recent changes reflect the consensus and it would seem fair that people living in a strata building should not be deprived of owning pets where those pets do impact other occupants.
NSW Fair Trading will be offering support, advice and mediation services for residents and owners corporations who are unsure about the new rules and how they apply within their scheme.
Henry William Lawyers can assist with any related enquires. Feel free to contact our people:
Ron Zucker 0410 590 111
Steve Williams 0404 821 464
Vincent Tripodina 0408 228 108
Chelsea Woodward 0404 065 899
Anna Polhill 0431 174 352