There are many buildings which say they are ‘pet-free’. Others allow pets, but have limits such as the weight of a dog. These restrictions are not enforceable.
This is because every request to keep a pet must be decided by the committee on a case-by-case basis. The committee must act reasonably in coming to decisions. If a committee says “your dog is 20kg, which is over the 10kg limit” to deny a pet, then that is unreasonable. Similarly, if a committee says “the building is pet-free, no animals”, that is also unreasonable. Why is this so?
There is no special law, definition, or incantation that makes a decision reasonable. It means exactly what it says. Given all the facts and circumstances of the request to keep a pet, can you legitimately reason your way to a conclusion? This means that a reasonable conclusion may not necessarily be a ‘correct’ conclusion, and it is possible for two people to come to different conclusions, both of which is reasonable, but that is rare. Usually there is only one reasonable conclusion.
When considering a pet approval, the committee must take into account all relevant facts and circumstances. This is always unique to each situation, but certain topics that might be relevant are:
· Is the type of animal suitable for that specific building?
· Are there other factors such as council conditions on pet ownership that would affect the decision?
· Is there a risk of nuisance, whether by noise, smells, etc?
· Are there conditions that could be reasonably imposed to address concerns while also allowing the animal?
An example of an unreasonable pet by-law is one that limits dogs to under 10kg. This is unreasonable because it doesn’t actually provide any reason as to why all dogs under 10kg are suitable, and why all dogs over 10kg are unsuitable. Why is a little dog that constantly yaps allowed despite causing a nuisance, but a quiet and lazy greyhound is not allowed? Having a limit of 10kg is purely arbitrary – relying on an arbitrary rule is devoid of reason.
Also consider the other lot owners. Are there people who are allergic to dogs, and would their brief presence on the common property (if any) be detrimental to the enjoyment of their lot? If so, it may be reasonable to deny permission to have the dog, but the committee should consider if there are any conditions that could be imposed. If the dog would be a problem in common areas, would a suitable condition be to limit the dog’s access to common areas?
What if the person seeking permission is allergic, but has a hypoallergenic dog? Clearly, it would be unreasonable to refuse on the basis of allergies.
The committee must consider everything that is relevant in coming to its decision. Any attempt to rely on any arbitrary rule will necessarily be unreasonable. If the committee’s decision cannot be reasoned based on the facts and circumstances of each request, it is liable to be overturned by an adjudicator.
It is possible for a pet to not be approved, but it must be reasonable. This is because such decisions affect how people can live in their own lot, which is not something to take lightly.
This article is intended as general information only and should not be relied upon as legal advice. For specific legal advice please contact us here.