Under most circumstances, housing pets requires prior approval from the Body Corporate, but how reasonable do the Committee need to be when making this decision?
A recent Adjudicator Order looks at Pets within Body Corporate Schemes and the reasonableness of the Committee’s decision to refuse an application for approval.
The keeping of animals within a Body Corporate Scheme has long been a source of contention with Committee’s often interpreting Animals By-Laws as restrictive, rather than permissive and putting an unreasonable emphasis on precedence. Further complicating the matter is the frequent use of ‘House Rules’ and ‘No Pet Policies’ which do not have the status of legislation and by-laws and therefore are non-binding and can not be applied in a way that is inconsistent with legislation or by-laws.
In a recent order, the Adjudicator states “It is often submitted by committees that they are concerned that if they approve one application they must approve all applications – the ‘floodgates’ argument. There is simply no basis in law for this concern. I have noted above that the committee is not required to approve every pet application, they must only give reasonable consideration to each application”. This is a statement often made by Adjudicator’s in the context of the reasonableness of a Committee refusing an application for approval of any kind. It is vital for Committee’s to understand that ‘precedence’ is not considered a valid argument for refusing approval of an animal.
It is also worth noting that Adjudicators frequently refer to the argument by Bodies Corporate about hypothetical concerns: another occupier may be allergic to the animal; units are not suitable for dogs; the animal may cause a nuisance; an occupier may have a fear of the animal. It is often stated by Adjudicator’s that ‘it is not reasonable to refuse approval on the basis of hypothetical concerns’. Many of these concerns can be addressed within the conditions of approval and it seems this is often overlooked as a tool to manage these concerns when approvals are sought.
Countless applications are submitted to the BCCM Office each year regarding pet approvals, at a significant cost to both the Body Corporate and the individual Lot owner. If you are a committee member considering a pet approval and you have concerns, speak to your Body Corporate Manager. They can help you consider what conditions can be added to the approval to help address your concerns and ensure your community is a peaceful and harmonious place for all who live there.
The full order can be read here.
More information on pets in bodies corporate and by-laws can be found here.
It is important to note that the adjudicators orders that we review each month are made on a case by case basis by the commissioners office based on the applications, submissions, by laws pertaining to each of the schemes, legislation that is applicable and are not a fit all order.