Strata Schemes Management Amendment – Animals and Tribunal Applications

Commercial, Property

In addition to our last Article on Strata Schemes Management Act, we direct your attention to the following further updates to the Strata Schemes Management Act for your information:

Keeping of Animals

In response to the case Cooper v The Owners Strata Plan No 58068 [2020] the amendments to the Act now prohibits by-laws from unreasonably prohibiting the keeping of animals on a lot. The new amendment is expected to come into force on 24 August 2021.

Whether keeping an animal on a lot is unreasonable is to be determined by considering whether the keeping of the animal unreasonably interferes with another occupant’s enjoyment and use of their lot, or of common property of the Strata Scheme. New regulations are expected to be introduced in the future as well which will provide further examples and details on what might constitute unreasonable interference.

Where an occupant has applied to an Owners Corporation for permission to keep an animal, permission is taken to be granted where the decision to not allow keeping of the animal was made based on a by-law (as this would contravene the new s137B 1(b) of the Act) or where a decision hasn’t been made within a reasonable time.

If your Strata Scheme has a by-law pertaining to the keeping of animals, the impending amendment presents an opportunity to review such by-laws and determine whether they would be considered valid in light of the amended Act.

Applications to the Tribunal

Under the new Act the Registrar of the Tribunal is no longer required to distribute tribunal applications to any person they think are affected by the proceedings. Instead, the Registrar is required to provide a copy only to named parties and to the Owners Corporation of the Strata Scheme in question. It is the duty of the Owners Corporation to then pass on a copy of the application to each owner of a lot in the Strata Scheme.

Owners Corporations should be aware of this new obligation and ensure they comply to avoid administrative difficulties in future proceedings in the Tribunal. These changes have commenced from 1 July 2021.

Civil Penalties for Contravention of an Order

Under the amendment Act, the Tribunal has been granted the power to issue an order requiring a person to pay a pecuniary penalty of up to 50 penalty unites ($5500) for contravention of an order under the Strata Schemes Management Act.

An application for such an order may be made by the Owners Corporation, an owner or another person who has acquired an interest in a lot in the Strata Scheme that the original order pertains to. Where the order gives effect to an agreement or arrangement arising from mediation, any party to the mediation can also apply for this new penalty order.

It’s worth noting that a person cannot be punished twice, if their act or omissions contravenes a civil penalty provision of the Civil and Administrative Tribunal Act or their action constitutes contempt of the Tribunal, they are only liable to punishment once.

Like the above, these changes have commenced from 1 July 2021.