Keeping pets in a sectional title

Jul 25, 2017 | Advice

The policy on whether or not property owners can keep their dog or cat in a
sectional title scheme is an emotive one. What are the rules?

Did you know that keeping animals, reptiles and birds is the first conduct rule in the Sectional Title Schemes Management Act 8 of 2011, which came into eff ect in October 2016? My reasoning is that this is justified by the number of pet-related disputes in the industry and the amount of time, energy and legal fees that owners and body corporates are prepared to spend fi ghting cases involving either keeping or removing a pet.

IS THAT DOG ALLOWED?

If your clients live in a sectional title scheme, they will have to abide by certain rules along with those set out in the Act mentioned above. If their sectional title scheme falls under the new Annexure 2 Model Conduct Rules, then owners or occupiers must have trustees’ written permission to keep a pet. Trustees are not allowed to withhold consent unreasonably, which means they need to consider the best interests of the scheme compared to the interests of the prospective pet owner.

Should a quiet bulldog be removed from his 11-year-old companion, for example, if the child’s parents provided a psychiatrist’s report stating that the dog helped the child deal with anxiety? Or consider the case of an elderly Great Dane, whose owners assured the trustees that their pet hardly ever moved during the day and had forgotten how to bark. These are the type of issues with which trustees must grapple. If trustees decide to allow a pet into the scheme, they can impose conditions such as walking dogs on a leash or enforcing use of a poop scoop.

The trustees can withdraw their permission should any condition be breached. Trustees’ consent is considered a given should any owner require a guide, hearing or assistance dog. Interestingly, there has been an increase in diabetic alert dogs, pets trained to warn their owners of low or high blood sugar levels before they become dangerous.

WITHIN THE BOUNDARIES

Once somebody has permission to keep a pet, they must understand their reciprocal obligation. The Act stipulates that pets should not cause any inconvenience to other owners. If an owner breaches the rules and the Act by either keeping a pet without permission or allowing their pet to be a nuisance to others, the body corporate can obtain a court interdict, enter a private arbitration or refer the dispute to the Community Schemes Ombud Service. If owners want a pet-free complex, it is perfectly possible to draft a no-pets clause, provided three-quarters of those present at a quorum vote for the rule amendment.

“The trustees can withdraw their permission should any condition be breached”

*Marina Constas is a specialist sectional title attorney and a director at BBM Attorneys. She co-authored the book Demystifying Sectional Title, a guide to living in, buying or leasing property in a sectional title complex.

Words: Marina Constas