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  • #3115
    Richard45
    Participant

    Dear Amanda,

    The bye-laws of my newly acquired unit state “you may keep a single cat or dog weighing less than 10kg”. I have 2 indoors cats who have always been inseparable companions. How do I get around this problem and keep them together?

    #3142
    Amanda Farmer
    Expert

    Hi John,

    Welcome to the Forum and thanks for your question.

    I find the most practical way to deal with that question (which I get a lot) is to consider: what will happen if I keep my two cats in breach of the by-law?

    Now, whilst I do not advise owners to purposely breach by-laws, some by-laws are a little silly (like the one you quote) and, if challenged before the Tribunal, would likely be held to be unreasonable. On the issue of restricting pets by weight, check out my interview with Dr Emma Power here if you haven’t already.

    Yes, you have the option of applying to the Tribunal to have the by-law ruled invalid on the grounds that it is unreasonable, but I imagine it’s unlikely you want litigation to be the first item of business you bring to your new building.

    In my view, one of two things may happen if you keep your two cats in breach of the by-law:

    1. Nothing. No one will know you have two cats rather than the mandated one; or

    2. You will be sent a letter informing you that you’re in breach of the by-law.

    Situation 2 can itself be dealt with a couple of ways:

    1. You might decide to ignore that correspondence. The Owners Corporation would then have to either commence Tribunal proceedings against you (which I think you would have good prospects of successfully defending, with some proper advice and representation) and/or issue you with a notice which could ultimately result in a fine of up to $1,100 (and when I say ultimately, I mean 6 months down the track if the Owners Corporation is moving quickly. Probably longer).

    Again, I am not condoning breaching the by-laws, but you might feel that this ‘worst case scenario’ is actually bearable.

    At the end of the day, the Owners Corporation has no power to enter your lot and forcibly remove your pet. Recurrent fines are about as serious as it gets.

    2. Once you get the complaint letter, you go in to bat for your cat. You explain why it is necessary that the two cats stay together, and why the by-law is unreasonable and likely to be invalidated if challenged. I would suggest you have some legal representation to best assist you in that task.

    The alternative all together is to apply to the strata committee, before you move in, for an exception to the rule. Savina’s articles here will probably assist you with that route:

    http://lawyerschambers.com.au/can-i-have-a-pet-please-keeping-an-animal-in-strata-part-1/

    http://lawyerschambers.com.au/keeping-animals-in-strata-part-2-the-road-to-approval/

    Bear in mind the references to the legislation in those articles are now out of date, but they still contain useful content for your situation.

    Let me know how you go.

    Amanda.

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