Sectional Title is not new and I find it very difficult to understand buyers who claim that they are innocent victims when the rules go against them! This is particularly true of buyers who move in with three dogs and a cat and are then amazed when they are asked to find a new home for one of their elderly dogs and the cat! Sectional Title schemes are by nature governed by a set of rules that are there to make life comfortable for everyone and the rules regarding pets are quite clear. No pet may be kept without the WRITTEN permission of the Trustees. Many schemes have adjusted their rules for simplicity to such as “two dogs under 30 cm high and no cats”. That’s the rule. You must be aware that there are rules in all schemes and it is up to the buyer to check the rules before bringing pets into the scheme.
Unfortunately there is a tendency to blame the Managing Agents and the Trustees because they did not tell the Buyer that they could not have these extra pets and “they are being unreasonable in lot letting me keep my children”. Not so – it up to the Buyer to check whether or not pets are allowed and how many NOT the other way around. Many times however it is the Selling Agent that is at least partially to blame. “Of course you can keep pets”, they say without having checked the Rules especially regarding the size, type and number of pets that are normally allowed. Personally I think that these agents should be taken to task for causing considerable upset to their buyers – and in fact telling them falsehoods. I think that they should be sanctioned by the EAAB for unprofessional conduct at the least.
Why are pets limited in Sectional Title schemes? Well firstly most schemes have limited open space. People coming from a large house with a big garden must understand that gardens are quite small in most complexes. Secondly people are living really close together. In a home your neighbours yapping dog is probably a fair distance away and there is a really high wall between you and your neighbour. In a complex units are really close together and there is no sound breaking wall between. You may believe that when your dog barks every time somebody walks past they are warning you, but to your neighbour it is simply irritating noise! On the practical side little dogs have little poos, big dogs big ones. Imagine living next door to two Great Danes. In an ideal work the owner is waiting with a plastic bag to pick the excreta but in reality it often is not picked up for days. Smells and flies are a result – again in a house, because of the size of the garden, not a major problem but in a townhouse scheme it is a problem at least for your neighbour. Smaller the dog the smaller the problem – the reason for the height limit!
Cats are another story altogether. I love cats but cats can and often are a nuisance for your neighbours. They tend to use other peoples gardens as a toilet and can do considerable damage to flower beds. They tend to fight and spray – there is nothing more permeating than a cat marking its territory. They steal food from nearby homes. Most importantly they cannot be kept in one’s own garden. One of the really big problems is the disposal of cat litter, it simply amazes me how cat owners are quite content to dump cat litter next to dustbins.
What is the solution? Firstly Buyers simply must check the rules before they buy! Would you buy a new or second hand car without checking the tyres and taking it for a test drive? Perhaps they should talk to the Trustees to find out their attitude to pets before they buy. Secondly estate agents should be far more careful about the casual basis on which they give advice to Buyers. Many selling estate agents have no real understanding of how a Body Corporate works. Lastly it would be prudent to put up a few simple rules and information on a notice board at the gate. Pet policy would be one of these. At least potential tenants and buyers could not complain that they “Did not know!” when they move in.
So Buyers beware – check before you sign. The Managing Agents and Trustees are quite within their rights to refuse you keeping your pet and insisting that you find another home for it or even put it down as you are breaking the Rules. Don’t complain because the Rules don’t suit you. They are there to protect everyone not to pander to individual preferences.