Where Does my pet fit into the rules of community schemes
The debate about pets in community schemes and even to some extent in HOA’s is getting much more attention these days and therefore it is important to make sure where your pet fit into the rules of a community scheme or rules of the HOA.
You get 3 different types of people in any community scheme, and this is not to generalize at all, the “I cannot live without my pet, they are my world and I would do anything for them”, the “I do not have my own pets, but if they do not bother me, I will not bother them” and then the “I cannot stand animals in my house”. And there is no right or wrong here, but it is because of this that the relationship between all involved need to be looked after and common ground should be found.
Community schemes are regulated to a large extent by the Sectional Titles Scheme Management Act of 2011. The main idea behind the act is to regulate a community living in close proximity with each other to such an extent that they can live in harmony with each other. As this is becoming more the norm because of security benefits, you will have to familiarize yourself with the requirements of living in such a scheme.
Always make sure what the relevant community scheme’s pet policy is before you buy or rent in such a scheme. If there already is a “no pet policy”, you would have to adhere to this policy as the scheme has every right to impose such a policy. If you already live in a scheme, and pets are allowed, should any changes be made to the rules of the scheme, this will have to be addressed in a vote of all shareholders and cannot be changed unilaterally.
When you move into a scheme and you already have pets, your attention can be drawn to the Prescribed Conduct Rules in Annexure 1 of the Regulations to the Sectional Titles Schemes Management Act which states that consent must be obtained, which consent cannot be unreasonably withheld: “Keeping of animals, reptiles and birds –
- The owner or occupier of a section must not, without the trustees ‘written consent, which must not be unreasonably withheld, keep an animal, reptile or bird in a section or on the common property.
- An owner or occupier suffering from a disability and who reasonably requires a guide, hearing or assistance dog must be considered to have the trustees ‘consent to keep that animal in a section and to accompany it on the common property.
- The trustees may provide for any reasonable condition in regard to the keeping of an animal, reptile or bird in a section or on the common property.
- The trustees may withdraw any consent if the owner or occupier of a section breaches any condition imposed in terms of sub-rule 3.”
It is understandable that you would like to live in an area or community which does not cause any disturbance to you and your family. And therefore, free of consistent barking for example or cats roaming free at all hours and entering your property. It has to be established then, when a pet is brought into this community, whether this pet will interfere with the other homeowners or tenants’ right to use and enjoy their property in an undisturbed manner. Consent can never be withheld without good cause and the trustees of the community scheme will need to consider each request on its own merits. For example, if a certain cat caused a problem, it cannot merely be assumed that all cats will cause the same problem. However, we are dealing with animals here, and dogs bark, that is part of their nature, and one cannot change that. It is when the barking becomes a nuisance that the behaviour needs to be addressed and the owner is then responsible to make sure the problem does not persist. It was decided in the case of “Body Corporate of The Laguna Ridge Scheme No 152/1987 v Dorse 1999 (2) SA 512 (D)” that trustees are to consider each request for permission to keep a pet individually and they are not entitled to refuse an application on the basis that they are afraid of creating a precedent.
Should you find yourself in a situation where you are in breach of the rules of the scheme, you will have to be advised in writing and given the opportunity to remedy the breach. In some instances a hearing might need to be held and a decision made by the trustees, should the owner fail to remedy the breach or permission will be withdrawn to have a pet.
If it is found that the pet is a nuisance to such an extent that it cannot be allowed to remain in the property and the scheme, the owner will have to be given reasonable time to remove the pet and make alternative arrangements. Permission to keep a pet in a community scheme will again have to be applied for in the instance where a pet dies and the owner is of the intention to get a new pet. Permission does not carry over automatically.
In a case where you as the pet owner feel that permission is withheld without reason and unjust, you can address a complaint to CSOS to declare a dispute. This should however only be done where the parties involved cannot come to an agreement on the aspect.