Dog versus strata? Dog wins!

A landmark judgement made in NSW delivers a huge win for Angus and all apartment owners with pets!

The highest court in New South Wales has delivered a decision that has struck down an attempt from one of Sydney’s most famous apartment buildings to ban animals.

The Court of Appeal invalidated the apartment building ban on animals and the decision will have wider ramifications for owners corporations and apartment owners.

Bartier Perry partner Sharon Levy explains a unanimous decision from three Court of Appeal judges on The Horizon’s attempt to ban animals from the building was a breach of legislation.

She said: “This decision effectively changes the way owners’ corporations can govern their strata schemes.”

Ms Levy’s firm represented Jo Cooper, the owner of a 13-year-old miniature schnauzer named Angus, the court found that banning animals breaches strata scheme legislation which provides that by-laws can’t be “harsh, unconscionable or oppressive.”

Ms Levy said the decision of Angus’ owner Ms Cooper to fight a lengthy legal battle to keep Angus in her apartment had not only been vindicated but was also set to impact thousands of apartment owners across the State.

This ruling may have far wider ramifications as to the by-laws owners corporations can impose on apartment owners. Every dog has its day but Angus’ win could mean some significant changes and legal challenges to by-laws for years to come,” said Ms Levy.

Ms Cooper said she was overwhelmed by the court decision after a five year legal battle to keep Angus in her apartment.

“The emotional toll from pursuing this case has been incredibly hard. Yet throughout the last five years I’ve also lost count of the number of pet and apartment owners who have reached out and supported our stance.

Today is a win for Angus but it’s also a decision that will hopefully ensure owners corporations take a more balanced approach to the governing of apartment owners,” said Ms Cooper.

The decision will mean that strata schemes will not be allowed to have a bylaw to ban animals and while pet-lovers celebrate, others see this a blow to the right of the “collective” to decide on issues like pets living in their strata properties.

Australian Resident Accommodation Managers Association (ARAMA CEO) Trevor Rawnsley commented on the ruling saying: “Sometimes I think that pets have more rights than humans in strata ….. that might make sense when you consider that some pets behave better than some humans!

“Pets, along with Party`s, Parking, Personality Clashes and Passive Smoking are the five P`s in Strata and there is no shortage of argument or legal disputes associated with them.  This pet friendly decision really hinged on the “unreasonableness” of the by-laws. It is not new and will unlikely change anything In Queensland anyway for the foreseeable future. If the by-law is unreasonable then it is unenforceable. The courts have ruled this way for some time.

“ARAMA has been advocating for a change in legislation to enable those schemes who do wish to have blanket ban on pets to do so however it will take a change in the law to achieve this.”

What do our readers think?

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3 years ago

I have a small horse (stallion) for a pet. Does this set a precedent for Him?

Chris McDonald
3 years ago

Whilst it is good to have a court decision in NSW on something that has been accepted in Victoria for a long time, it is sad that our system has required that an individual had had to have a five-year legal battle to get a ruling on it.
Just time consuming and ridiculously expensive for those involved.

Reply to  Chris McDonald
3 years ago

Who says that it is accepted in Victoria , it has been forced upon landlords by Govt. and look where that Govt has got us now , why should I not have a choice as the owner of the building to say if I will allow pets or not. Especially in an apartment block , it`s bad enough having to listen to barking dogs left at home by themselves in suburbia , it would be much worse in an apartment block.

Mike Butler
3 years ago

Pets are, and always have been, an integral part of many individuals’ lives. During the Covid-19 pandemic, this has become even more apparent. Over my 40+ years in the property business, I have watched the down-sizing trend of aging Australians, and the increasing trend of those older Australians to wish to down-size with their family dog or cat.
The demographics of apartment living are rapidly changing, and for committees to have a blanket power to ban ALL pets was NEVER going to last!
We all know that in many strata schemes, there can exist one overbearing individual who can get himself/herself elected to the Chairman’s role — usually due to the apathy of other owners — and then “rule the roost”! If that individual is a dog-hater, bad decisions can be made. I am not saying that this was the case at “Horizons”, but I am astounded that the Committee at this complex was allowed to spend over $500,000 of Body Corporate money on this case!
As far as I am aware, the Commissioner in QLD over-ruled blanket “No Pets” By-laws some years ago, and rightly so.
BTW, the suitability of dogs for apartment or townhouse living is not always dependent on the size of the dog! One of the dogs that LOVES apartment living is the retired greyhound. Just give him/her a 30-minute walk each day, and the lazy hound will just spend the other 23.5 hours asleep on the couch! LOL!

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