The question of whether Owners Corporations can prohibit lot owners, or occupiers of lots, from keeping pets, is something lot owners and tenants think of often.  To answer this question we first need to understand Owners Corporation rules – specifically, what is it in the power of the Owners Corporation to make rules about, and can they be made about the keeping of pets?

Model Rules

The Owners Corporations Regulations make provision for Model Rules for Owners Corporations.  These rules make general provisions for expected levels of behaviour at the property and address administrative issues related to the use of the common property.

There are two model rules regarding the use of common property that are relevant to the keeping of animals in buildings with Owners Corporations:

  • 4.1 (4) If the owners corporation has resolved that an animal is a danger or is causing a nuisance to the common property, it must give reasonable notice of this resolution to the owner or occupier who is keeping the animal.
  • 4.1 (5) An owner or occupier of a lot who is keeping an animal that is the subject of a notice under subrule (4) must remove that animal.

These rules are relevant to the use of common property where the animal is either dangerous or causing a nuisance.  If it is established that this is the case then the Owners Corporation will usually decide if the animal needs to be removed.  Tim Graham, from HWL Ebsworth lawyers, outlined this process (See Pets in Owners Corporations in Victoria).

Consumer Affairs Victoria have recently released an exposure draft of the Owners Corporations and Other Acts Amendments Bill for public consultation, and this sets out many proposals to improve the governance and internal relations in Owners Corporations, including the development of new model rules.  To date, there is no mention of new model rules regarding the keeping of animals.

Preparing rules

In addition to the model rules however, Owners Corporations do have the ability to make their own rules, if granted permission by special resolution.  Importantly, these rules cannot conflict with other laws:

  • SECT 140 – OWNERS CORPORATIONS ACT 2006.  Rules to be of no effect if inconsistent with law.

It is widely accepted practice that the drafting of such rules be completed by a solicitor experienced in this area of the law as they need to follow the requirements of the Owners Corporation Act 2006 and the Australian Consumer Law and Fair Trading Act 2012, amongst others.  These regulations protect people’s rights, such as to privacy and not to be discriminated against.

Consumer Affairs Victoria’s How to Make Owners Corporation Rules information sheet details the process of making rules.

Rules prohibiting pets

There have been cases where Owners Corporations have made additional rules that owners or occupiers have tested the validity of at VCAT. In one such case (Owners Corporation SP24474 v Watkins), an Owners Corporation had made two special rules to prevent animals from being both in units and on common property.

In this case it was decided by VCAT that the rule preventing pets from being in units was invalid, and that the rule preventing pets from being on common property unfairly discriminated against pet owners.

The ruling regarding common property however was made in the context of that particular buildings plan of subdivision (where the common property driveway was the only way into and out of the property) and noted that there may be some instances where restricting an animals access to common property is fair, such as in the case where the buildings common property includes a swimming pool or gymnasium, and the animals presence in these areas interferes with other owner or occupiers enjoyment of common property (see note).  It may also be fair to make a rule requiring animals to be on a leash when on common property.

In summary, if your pet is not a danger or a nuisance when using common property, it is unlikely that an Owners Corporation can prohibit you from keeping a pet.  They may be able to make rules however prohibiting your pet from certain common property areas or requiring them to be on a leash when on common property.

If your Owners Corporation has made a rule around the keeping of pets contact your Owners Corporation manager to discuss it, or seek legal advice.

Note: rules cannot be made that restrict the use of a guide dog.

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