Pets are great aren’t they? There’s nothing quite like a puppy running up to greet you when you get home from work, or a cat snuggling up to you on the couch while you watch TV, or even a turtle just sitting on a rock in your terrarium eating some lettuce and doing what turtles do.
A lot of people in Canberra love pets, and with good reason. They’re funny, they make great companions, they teach kids important lessons about responsibility, and they never judge you (except maybe for cats). Pets can be a great addition to a home. But as you know, these days more and more Canberrans are choosing to live in apartments, and while apartment living can provide a lot of advantages, it can also make things difficult if you happen to be a pet owner.
Apartment buildings (and any other property where land has been subdivided to make units or townhouses) are managed by an Owners Corporation, and most have rules regarding animals you have to follow.
If you own the apartment and you want to keep a pet, things are a little bit easier, because the Owners Corporation also has to abide by the Unit Titles Act 2001. Section 51A of the Act says unit owners need the consent of the Owners Corporation to keep a pet, however it also says that they can’t refuse permission without good reason.
What constitutes a good reason can be subjective, but basically it comes down to common sense. Say you want to keep a flock of ravens in your apartment, it would be reasonable to refuse your request (no matter how badly you need to send a message to Kings Landing). You probably wouldn’t be able to keep a wolf or a bee hive either – also you usually have to apply for each pet individually, so for a whole beehive that would be about 40,000 separate applications. On the other hand, you shouldn’t have a problem getting approval for a cat or a small dog. The Owners Corporation might put certain conditions on your pet, but these are usually fairly straightforward, like ensuring your pet is registered, vaccinated and micro-chipped, or keeping your pet leashed while it’s on Common Property so it doesn’t dig up the carefully landscaped gardens or bother other residents.
When you are renting though, things can start to get a little trickier. It really comes down to whether or not your landlord is okay with you having pets in their property. Some landlords are fine with pets, but most of them aren’t keen and some will even have a no pets rule specifically written into the tenancy agreement. From their perspective, it’s understandable – if your pet causes a lot of damage, it’s their property getting ruined. This can make it very hard for people who already own a pet to find rental accommodation, and the RSPCA believe this is significant factor in the number of pets that are abandoned or need to be rehomed each year.
We asked Norm Honey, Director of Independent Property Management, for his thoughts on the issue and he mentioned that in other parts of Australia, they’ve made some good steps towards addressing the difficulties of pet owners finding rental accommodation. “In NSW for example, renters can pay a Pet Bond, which can go a long way towards convincing property owners to allow animals, as they know they are covered for any potential damages. A similar system would be a great idea for Canberra, and it’s one actually one of the proposed changes we submitted to the ACT Government regarding the Residential Tenancies Act which is currently under review. At the end of the day though, even with this change, the final decision about allowing pets would still be in the hands of the property owner.”
Despite the current difficulties, the last thing you should do is go behind your landlord’s back and get a pet without their approval. This can cause a lot of issues and you may end up being forced to give up your pet or vacate the property.
A better option might be to put together a resume for your pet, highlighting how well-trained and well-behaved your animal companion is, along with references from previous properties you have lived in and proof they are up to date with all their vaccinations. Some tenants even offer slightly more rent to help cover potential damages.
If you’re a pet owner who is looking for rental accommodation, give one of our property managers a call. They’ll be able to provide you with some helpful advice on finding a suitable property. And if you’re already living in an apartment, make sure you get in touch with your strata manager before you go pick up your new best friend.