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Confusion surrounds whether pets are allowed in NSW apartments

Last month, the New South Wales Court of Appeals delivered a landmark decision, rejecting an attempt by an owners corporation to ban animals in Sydney’s Horizon building, finding their blanket rule was a breach of legislation.

This came on the heels of an amendment passed in the NSW Upper House in August that stops strata management from passing by-laws that “unreasonably prevent owners and occupiers from having companion animals”.

Both rulings have been celebrated as wins for animal lovers. But, according to the Real Estate Institute of NSW, it has also sparked confusion among both landlords and tenants about what the current situation is.

“As it stands, it’s confusing for both tenants and landlords,” REINSW CEO Tim McKibbin acknowledged.

“It’s not widely understood that landlords can refuse a tenant from having a pet, irrespective of any by-law preventing the owners corporation from making a blanket ban. 

“A lot of tenants aren’t aware of this,” he continued.

“In some ways, landlords are damned if they do and damned if they don’t. To grant their tenant permission to keep a pet in their apartment, the landlord also takes responsibility for the tenant’s adherence to the by-laws that govern the keeping of pets in the building.”

Mr McKibbin explained if the tenant takes the pet to the wrong common areas, or fails to clean up after a pet, the landlord is the one who has not been compliant.

“There are other concerns too,” Mr McKibbin noted.

“For instance, the potential for the pet to damage the landlord’s property, and even more fundamentally, what constitutes a suitable ‘pet’? I’m reminded of the story of an Eastern Suburbs apartment resident living with his horse! 

“On the other hand, if a landlord doesn’t permit the tenant to keep a pet, they risk the wrath of their tenant. Add into the mix comes the fact that tenants now have the right to know their landlord’s address, and there’s another layer of privacy and security concerns for mum-and-dad investors. 

“At the end of the day, it’s important to remember the basis on which rental agreements exist. The rented property is indeed the tenant’s home, but the property itself belongs to the landlord.”

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Nathan Jolly

Nathan Jolly was an in-house journalist with Elite Agent. He worked with the company from July 2020 to December 2020.