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Ask RiotACT: Buying a townhouse when you own a dog

By KJ - 17 July 2017 11

Ask RiotACT

Hi Rioters,

I have a two year old, medium sized dog and I am in the process of trying to buy a townhouse. I have made a formal offer that has been accepted by the owners, however, after reading through the contract I have found that there is a clause stating that animals are not permitted unless approved by the body corporate. This seems to be from dated legislation and does not fit with my understanding of the current legislation that permits owners to have a pet, unless the body corporate can reasonably justify they should not be allowed. Has anyone else had any experience with this? I have applied to the body corporate for permission through my solicitor but I’ve been told this could take weeks. I don’t want the owners to have to sell the townhouse from under me because it’s taking too long. Does anyone have any advice on how to tackle this? Should I stop worrying and just sign the contract? Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

What’s Your opinion?


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11 Responses to
Ask RiotACT: Buying a townhouse when you own a dog
Mysteryman 9:52 am 19 Jul 17

MERC600 said :

bronal said :

Do you have a copy of the body corporate rules? They should have been provided with the contract for sale. It’s worth getting in touch with the person at the managing agents who looks after the development. The executive committee is likely to be guided by his/her views. Are there any existing pets in the development? What evidence can you show that your dog won’t be a nuisance? For example, will it be left alone during the day and possibly start to bark?

“”possibly start to bark? “” ??… Good grief thats what dogs do for a living…they bark !.

True. And that’s exactly why people reasonably object to having them in such close proximity.

KJ 8:09 am 19 Jul 17

Thank you all for your feedback. After sending through our application, several body corporate members objected to having a dog on the premises. Even though I could fight it in ACAT I have decided it’s not worth the risk to have potentially angry neighbours. It’s a real shame. Our dog is part of our family so we will do whatever it takes to make sure she can stay with us. No wonder so many other animals end up at the RSPCA.

CanberraStreets 3:05 pm 18 Jul 17

Long story short – Unit Titles Act 2001 was changed in 2009. The law permits animals to be kept in unit titles. You need to obtain permission from the Owners’ Committee. The Owners’ Committee may not unreasonably withhold approval.

The Department of Justice Fact Sheet on the issue is here – http://cdn.justice.act.gov.au/resources/uploads/new_unit_title_fact_sheets/Fact_sheet_10_-_animals.pdf

A cursory search of the ACAT decisions on the issue turned up two cases – both upholding the owners’ rights to keep their dogs.

One case involved 2 Staffordshire Bull Terriers (LANFRANCHI & OWNERS OF UNITS PLAN 806) and the other a Wolfhound (NEVILE v OWNERS UNITS PLAN 3107, so it seems there is a predisposition to allow people to keep their fur babies.

Mind you, managing or reinstating neighbourhood harmony after a legal dispute is probably the trickier aspect.

runtheredlight 10:15 am 18 Jul 17

Lucy Baker said :

Try getting a letter from your doctor to say the dog is a companion animal. Worth a shot!

No. OP should not do this, and you should not be recommending this.

watto23 9:14 am 18 Jul 17

I’ve been on my body corporate EC for over a decade. As I’m in a complex of only 20 townhouses we have less obstructionist nimbyism going on. However we’ve had to take action against one owner who had three dogs, and never sought permission to have them. We have a standard form to fill in for pets and have never knocked any back as yet. The owners heart was in the right spot, having rescued the three dogs from the RSPCA shelter and then left them alone by themselves. She was a nurse and did shiftwork, so the real issue was the three dogs would bark when she wasn’t home at all hours of the night.

I did however rent a few places many years ago and some of those Body corporates are why they get a bad name at times. Our landlord was always reluctantly pestering us with things that others had complained about and most of the time it was pretty unreasonable or petty requests. From memory one was, they were trying to watch the news at 6 pm, but we had music on and that meant they couldn’t watch the news in peace and quiet. Now while I and my flatmates were young, often the music was barely audible outside the house as I took the rubbish out and couldn’t hear it.

Beau Locks 10:47 pm 17 Jul 17

I reckon you’d probably be right to move in, and it’d all be okay. Even if there was an objection and you end up in ACAT you’d also likely be right: the Act says that an EC can’t reasonably refuse permission (and the onus is on them to establish why they reasonably refused your application)…BUT you may end up making some enemies, or at least beginning your relationship with the EC and other neighbours on a rockier footing than you’d like.

If I were you I’d drop a note in your prospective immediate neighbours’ letterboxes, or knock on their doors and say g’day and talk about your predicament. If your courtyard is small, and your pooch barks, they may express an understandable concern. If your dog is mainly inside, or if you’re mostly at home, they will likely be pacified, thus smoothing the way with the EC. Plus you’ll have massive good neighbour brownie points before you’ve even moved in 🙂

Best of luck!

Lucy Baker 8:33 pm 17 Jul 17

Try getting a letter from your doctor to say the dog is a companion animal. Worth a shot!

MERC600 5:36 pm 17 Jul 17

bronal said :

Do you have a copy of the body corporate rules? They should have been provided with the contract for sale. It’s worth getting in touch with the person at the managing agents who looks after the development. The executive committee is likely to be guided by his/her views. Are there any existing pets in the development? What evidence can you show that your dog won’t be a nuisance? For example, will it be left alone during the day and possibly start to bark?

“”possibly start to bark? “” ??… Good grief thats what dogs do for a living…they bark !.

bronal 1:41 pm 17 Jul 17

Do you have a copy of the body corporate rules? They should have been provided with the contract for sale. It’s worth getting in touch with the person at the managing agents who looks after the development. The executive committee is likely to be guided by his/her views. Are there any existing pets in the development? What evidence can you show that your dog won’t be a nuisance? For example, will it be left alone during the day and possibly start to bark?

Gin02 1:38 pm 17 Jul 17

Have a dog, was looking to buy a townhouse, offer was accepted, did the right thing and sought approval from the Body Corporate. They approved the dog and then within 24 hours one of the members changed their mind and the application was rejected – one of the people took offence to the dog being a Staffy and also that there was already a couple of dogs in the complex.

You can appeal through the Admin Tribunal but I took it as a lesson of how the BC may operate in the future and made a quick escape.

Maryann Mussared 11:05 am 17 Jul 17

I bought a townhouse ten years ago that didn’t allow any pets. I moved in with my cat and my partner went onto the Body Corporate Executive and changed the rules so that people could have pets if they had a letter from their vet saying the pet was suited to townhouse living. When we sold, the buyer was a solicitor with a cat and he exchanged without getting permission, but sought it as soon as possible. He was prepared to take the risk, and that sort of action should be considered risk. Also, you could read the Body Corporate minutes to see what their track record is with approving pets. I think you can request to view the books for a small fee through the agent.

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