The rules you need to know when keeping a pet in a complex or estate

With complexes and estates becoming increasingly popular in South Africa, more residents are having to deal with the issue of pets.

According to real estate agents Seeff, it is important to understand the complex/estate rules before you buy or move in, and obtain the necessary prior authority to do so.

Below it outlined some of the things you need to know before making the move.

Sectional Title Schemes

The body corporate may impose limits on pet ownership by either prohibiting pets altogether, impose a limit on the number, types, breeds or sizes allowed, access to common areas, noise-control, replacement on the pet’s death and so on.

Seeff said that trustees should take care to clearly define what is allowed and what is not.

“Pets vary in type and size, and there is a difference between keeping dogs versus cats, cats and cage birds. Then, what about pet pigs, guide dogs, hamsters, snakes and goldfish and so on.

“The more detail the better. If no rules are in place, then generally, the standard ‘prescribed conduct rule’ is in force, unless amended by the body corporate,” it said.

This rule reads as follows:

  • 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).”
  • Where this Prescribed Rule applies unamended, the body corporate is specifically required to act “reasonably” in all the circumstances of each matter. That entails a delicate balancing act between the competing rights of pet-owning residents and their neighbours, which means grey areas and fertile ground for dispute. Hence the advice to get clarity on your rights before buying into a complex.

Home Owners Associations (HOAs)

HOAs have similar rights to restrict the keeping of pets, but no ‘prescribed rules’ apply and their powers will depend on whatever founding documentation underlies them.

HOAs normally govern free-standing estate houses rather than apartments, and so are perhaps more likely to be pet-friendly but again, you should always check the complex’s rules before you buy, Seeff said.

Trustees barking up the wrong tree? Polly ruffling feathers? The ADR alternative

If embroiled in a dispute with your Body Corporate/HOA or a fellow resident or owner, you should first attempt a chat over a friendly cup of coffee to find common ground and a win-win outcome.

If that fails, the (relatively) new Community Schemes Ombud Service provides an alternate dispute resolution (ADR) service designed to assist with just this sort of situation.

Read: Ramaphosa signs off on stronger rights for land occupiers

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The rules you need to know when keeping a pet in a complex or estate