I was buttonholed recently by Richard Holloway, one of the doyens of strata management, who hustled me into a quiet corner and said he wanted to talk to me about pets.
Richard has been around the industry since Stonehenge held its first executive committee meeting and the ‘body corporate’ was a human sacrifice to appease the strata gods (ahhh… if only).
So I fully expected the age-old strata manager rant about pets woofing , mewing, weeing and pooing where they oughtn’t.
Instead, Richard said that permission to have pets should be the default position in by-laws, with the option, of course, to impose conditions or even ban pets outright, via votes at a general meeting.
Richard was inspired by the experiences of a close relative who was seriously unwell for a long time but who got through her ordeal with the help of her dog.
“Had it not been for that dog, she probably wouldn’t be with us today,” says Richard. “Many people just don’t realise how important companion animals are, especially to those who are on their own.”
He has a point. According to the advice website helpguide.org, researchers have found that pet owners are less likely to suffer from depression, have lower blood pressure in stressful situations and have fewer warning signs of heart disease than those without pets.
The website also claims heart attack patients with pets survive longer and pet owners over age 65 make 30 percent fewer visits to their doctors than those without pets.
That’s just for the general population. The increasing use of pet therapy with everyone from victims of sexual abuse to hardened criminals in prison has shown the benefits of mutual and unconditional affection that pets provide.
Richard clearly has a point, although there would have to be allowances made for apartment residents who can’t abide the thought of living close to animals.
He would be encouraged that NSW Fair Trading Minister Anthony Roberts confirmed in Parliament this week that the impending change to strata legislation will see the default by-laws change so that pets will be allowed, subject to ‘reasonable’ approvals and conditions set by Executive Committees.
Currently in NSW they are banned unless there is written approval so this is a subtle but significant change in emphasis, given that it takes a 75 percent vote of owners to change by-laws.
“This reflects the overwhelming views of the discussion papers submitted last year.” Mr Roberts told Flat Chat. “Nobody should be surprised that this is our position or that the default by-laws will change.”
So there you have it – when the new strata laws come in NSW (hopefully some time next year), the default position will be pro pets although an overwhelming majority of owners will still be able to ban them, if they so desire.
That’s the way it should be – real choice that reflects the way the majority of us want to live. No-pet buildings will still be around but everyone will know beforehand what they are getting into.
By the way, default or ‘model’ by-laws are not immutable state laws, they are just a template that most new buildings can adopt and adapt to suit their own specific circumstances.
And if your building has a specific set of by-laws that ban pets or let people keep a zoo on their balconies, the new law won’t change them – it doesn’t act retrospectively