This Court Case Changes Everything for NSW Tenants and Their Pets

Published 22nd October 2020Updated 18th August 2022

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It’s no secret that Aussies are an animal-loving bunch. In fact, we have one of the highest rates of pet ownership in the world with over 29 million pets in homes across the country. 

But for those of us navigating the rental market with furry friends in tow, you’ll understand the challenges of securing a pet-friendly abode. You know the feeling: you inspect your dream pad, spend hours pulling together an award-worthy application (complete with an adorable bio of your pooch, of course), only to find out the property is ‘strictly no pets’. 

Are you one of the 60% of NSW households that own a pet? We have some good news for you. Let’s debrief on the recent big win for NSW tenants and their pets.

The court case that changes everything

In news just announced this week, no apartment building in NSW will be able to have a blanket ban on pets. The big win comes from a decision in the NSW Court of Appeal following a four and a half year-long legal battle with the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT) by Darlinghurst tenant’s Johanna and Leo Cooper. 

So, what does this mean for NSW tenants with pets? The decision has overturned the right of strata committees to pass blanket bylaws prohibiting animals in apartment complexes. The case, heard by three judges, has ruled the blanket ban on pets to be “harsh, unconscionable and oppressive” (legal jargon for being totally unfair to pet owners across the state). 

And it makes sense: individual apartment owners should have the right to choose whether they or their tenants can have pets or not.

How did we get here?

Unfortunately, this decision didn’t happen overnight. It’s taken dog owner and tenant Jo Cooper close to five years to overturn a pet ban that threatened to take away her miniature schnauzer, Angus. 

Jo has been living in Darlinghurst’s 43-storey Horizon building with her pooch, and has spent the last few years fighting against blanket strata bylaws that prevent pets from living in the building. And it has cost thousands of dollars to win (with current estimates stacking up to $500,000 in fees). 

But there is a silver lining: the owners of the Horizon building will be footing the bill. And while it took nearly half a million dollars in legal costs to reach an unanimous verdict, it’s a huge win for pet owners far and wide across NSW.

The best bit? The decision can’t be overturned. Well, unless someone is willing to take it all the way to the High Court of Australia (but that ain’t looking likely).

What does this mean for investment property owners?

This means that owners of NSW rental apartments can make the call themselves whether or not to allow tenants’ fluff balls in their investment property. Previously, pet decisions were dictated by blanket decisions by strata schemes. 

We’re hoping that this court case will encourage more property investors to allow pets into their properties. Currently, only 5% of NSW rentals are explicitly pet-friendly, despite over half of Australian households owning a pet! 

If we’ve convinced you to make the change, here are a few  things to consider before allowing pets in your real estate:

  • Approach pets on a case-by-case basis by asking potential tenants what type of pet they own and how well they are trained. 
  • Get as much information as possible about potential pets to make sure you only approve pets suited to your rental property. For example, a large, working-breed dog is probably not a good fit for a small, top-floor apartment!. 
  • You might want to charge a small fee to cover extra professional cleaning when your tenants with pets move out. 
  • Check for pet damage at every inspection to ensure you can hold your tenants to account. 

Of course, if you’ve got a property manager then they should do this for you!

So, are all NSW apartments pet-friendly?

Not exactly. While strata committees can’t pass blanket bylaws to prevent pets altogether, individual owners can create specific rules for their property. And yes, that can mean pets may not be allowed in certain apartments. 

But if someone tells you the entire complex is a pet-free zone? Now you know what to tell them.

In a nutshell, this latest decision means apartment complexes in NSW can’t have a blanket ban on pets. It’s a game-changer for tenants like you across the state that prevents strata committees from passing unfair bylaws against pets and their owners. Maybe it’s time to get that pandemic puppy after all?

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Disclaimer: The views, information, or opinions expressed in this blog post are for general information purposes only and should not be relied upon. We have not taken into account specific situations, facts or circumstances, and no part of this blog post constitutes personal financial, legal, or tax advice to you. You should seek tax advice from your accountant, specific to your situation.

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