Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Jack Russell beats the body corporate

The body corporate adjudicator recently allowed a dog to reside in an apartment, even though a number of apartments in the building were used for short term or holiday rentals.

See The Mirage [2017].

"Pets are not necessarily incompatible with high density living. No evidence has been provided that this dog is inherently unsuited to predominantly indoor living.

While it is not possible to determine the basis upon which owners in general meeting voted against motion 11, submissions by the committee and two lot owners raised hypothetical concerns. In particular they are concerned that if the dog barks, the body corporate would not be able to take enforcement action, because the applicants only stay in their unit for one or two weeks per year. In my view it is unreasonable to refuse permission to keep a pet based on hypothetical concerns, without a cogent basis to believe the animal will actually cause problems or the lot owner will not comply with conditions of approval. It is appropriate to impose conditions to avoid problems arising, and to withdraw approval if those conditions are not met.

Similarly, it is difficult to see how the body corporate would not be able to take enforcement action in the event that the applicants’ dog causes a nuisance. While there may be a time delay between when a breach of the conditions occurs, and taking of enforcement action, I do not believe this means that the conditions of approval cannot be enforced against the applicants. The applicants are the owners of unit 25, they stay in unit 25 whenever they visit the scheme and the requested approval relates to the keeping of a dog in unit 25 only. It stands to reason that if the applicants are in breach of the conditions of approval, then the body corporate could withdraw the approval and they would not be able to bring their pet dog into the scheme on future visits to their unit. 

While I note the concerns raised by the owners of unit 45 regarding temporary or short term approvals, any such approval must be given by the body corporate in general meeting in accordance with by-law 11. Further, there is no legal basis for owners to be forced to allow short or long-term tenants to keep a pet in their lot. Even if the Body Corporate approves dogs generally, or in a specific case, a tenant still requires the approval of the lot owner under normal tenancy arrangements. If owners in the letting pool do not want dogs in their lots, they do not have to allow them. Potentially the building manager could decline to accept lots in the letting pool where pets are allowed in that lot."

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