The Reasonableness of Keeping Animals in Sectional Title Schemes

10 April 2024 ,  Queny Mingo 947
Getting home after a long stressful day and being greeted by a wagging tail and a warm adoration in your pet’s eyes, might be the best thing since sliced bread. You adore your pets because of their loyalty, the protection they give, their unconditional love and knowing that, no matter what, they will always have your back. 

The past few years highlight a rapid growth in the demand and supply of sectional title developments as individuals elect to move away from a conventional standalone homes in exchange for the benefits that comes with a sectional title unit. Where an individual opted for a sectional title lifestyle, they may be confronted with potential conflict due to the inherent characteristics of sharing communal property with other residents. The rights and use of common property areas can, however, be limited in terms of the rules of the scheme. This brings us to a controversial issue on how the execution of these rules may potentially affect some of our most precious family members – our pets.

The default position is that every pet owner is entitled to approach the trustees for approval to keep their animals in the scheme, and that trustees may not unreasonably refuse to grant permission without taking all the circumstances into account. Where permission was approved by the trustees, the owner or occupier of the property must ensure that the animals are kept within the unit, supervised when it is in the common property and take any action necessary to clean all areas of the lot or common property soiled by the animal.

The keeping of pets in sectional title schemes are governed by the Conduct Rules under “The Keeping of Animals, Reptiles and Birds read together with Section 10 of the Sectional Titles Schemes Management Act of 2011. Section 10 provides that all rules, including rules relating to pets, must be reasonable and apply equally to all owners of units. In terms of South African law, trustees cannot refuse consent for a disabled person to keep assistance animals. 

Therefore, any request lodged to the trustees by a pet owner must be considered by taking into account various factors such as:-
i. the nature of the animal
ii. the type of scheme
iii. the inconvenience to other residents
iv. the existence of other similar pets in the section
v. the need of the applicant to be assisted by the animal

If, after consideration of all the relevant factors, the trustees refuse to allow the pet owner to keep his/her pet, they should furnish the applicant reasons for such a refusal. 

Should an owner feel as though the trustees have been unnecessarily unreasonable or unfair in denying permission, they are entitled to approach the Community Schemes Ombud. To lodge a complaint, a pet owner may complete a dispute resolution form.  If the regional adjudicator is still convinced that an animal kept in a section or common property is causing a nuisance or is unduly interfering with someone else’s peaceful use and enjoyment of his/her section or the common property, he/ she may grant, an order requiring the owner or occupier in charge of the animal to take action to remedy the nuisance hazard or interference or remove the animal. 

The reasonableness of keeping pets in a sectional title scheme is a balancing act of the interest of all owners and occupiers in the scheme. To have pets should be considered incidental to property ownership. Thus, a blanket prohibition on the keeping of pets is invalid, unreasonable and cannot be justified. However, this does not preclude the body corporate to implement or amend a rule that limit the number of pets per unit.
Related Expertise: Sectional Title Schemes