15 May Keeping pets in sectional title schemes
The keeping of pets in sectional title schemes is one of the most controversial issues faced in community schemes. Fortunately, owners and trustees can rely on the prescribed conduct rules or amended rules of their scheme to assist with this potentially challenging matter.
To keep a pet in a sectional title complex, you need to apply to the body corporate in writing. Before you do so, you should ensure that you are familiar with the rules of the scheme regarding pets.
It is the responsibility of body corporate trustees to review all applications for keeping pets; however, they have limited authority as their decisions need to align with the scheme’s conduct rules.
The Community Schemes Ombud Service is available to those owners who feel their application has been treated unfairly and in an unreasonable manner. The prescribed rules in terms of the Sectional Titles Schemes Management Act or amended rules, will indicate what the body corporate policy is towards pets.
Each application needs to be responded to in writing. The trustees will typically approve an application with a number of reasonable conditions that the owner must abide by. The decision of the trustees must be recorded in the minutes of the trustee meeting while the written approval or rejection must be signed by two trustees.
Unreasonable rejections or amended rules
Although certain bodies corporate may have amended rules, they may not always seem reasonable. Trustees may also sometimes make mistake when rejecting an application from an owner which may cause unhappiness and accusations of being unreasonable or unfair.
Receiving a rejection does not necessarily mean that the dejected owner should merely accept the outcome or the amended rules of the scheme. Owners who feel that their scheme rules or trustee rejections are unreasonable may approach the Community Schemes Ombud Service (CSOS) and lodge a dispute with the Ombud against the body corporate or trustees. They may request the Ombud to declare the trustees’ rejection unreasonable or for it to be overturned. Where they feel the amended rules are unreasonable, the owner may ask the Ombud for the rule to be removed, amended or for the reinstatement of a previous rule.
Overturning an approved application
Where an owner breaches the conditions imposed by the trustees, the trustees have the authority to overturn the application. However, it is critical that proper procedure is followed in this instance. The owner must be informed of the breach and must be given the opportunity to rectify the breach.
Should the owner continue to ignore the restrictions and continue to be in breach, the trustees may proceed to obtain an adjudication order from the Community Schemes Ombud Service to have the pet removed. As the trustees are not entitled to forcibly remove an animal from an owner`s property, the trustees will have to request a suitable agency such as the SPCA to assist.
The Sectional Titles Schemes Management Act aims to be reasonable and fair to all members of a community scheme. By contemplating each individual case on the basis of being fair and reasonable, the decision-making process may not be as daunting as it may seem.