Advice and Opinion

Pets and sectional title schemes; always an issue

With the increasing demand for sectional title units (according to a recent FNB Property Barometer report) comes, too, the need for pet friendly sectional title schemes.

There is a rising trend for people – often young professionals and couples without children – to own pets and to treat them much like members of the family, which has in recent times even led to lengthy court cases (and even been taken to the Supreme Court of Appeals in one instance) when the owners have been told they can not keep their pets with them.

The first thing that prospective buyers of sectional title units should remember, however, is that they should familiarise themselves with the prescribed conduct rules in that scheme before they commit to purchasing or occupying a unit, said Shan Hulbert, sales manager for Knight Frank Residential SA. This is because the legal principle “caveat emptor – let the buyer beware” applies and a buyer is expected to have knowledge of the rules applicable to the scheme. In signing an offer to purchase he is accepting the rules and regulations of living there.

Some schemes have rules which prohibit the keeping of any pets. Others provide that the owner/occupier of a section may only keep certain pets (often even listing the type and size restrictions of pets that are allowed) with the written consent of the trustees. Trustees should be reasonable in the rationale behind specifying what sort of pet is allowed and what isn’t, however, as there are many cases where disallowing them could cause the owner much distress and financial loss if they should have to sell. If it should happen that an owner feels the trustees have unreasonably withheld consent, a court or arbitrator may be approached for a declaratory order.

While it can be argued from the body corporate’s perspective that sectional title schemes have limited space and, therefore, can only allow a certain size or number of pets to live in them, the age and time that the pet has been with its owner must be taken into account when a prospective buyer applies to have his pet live with him as well as whether there is a chance of “replacing” them with others should they die, said Hulbert.

The other question that needs to be asked is, “How will this allowing this pet affect other owners in the scheme?” – if it does not bark excessively, is not a threat to the safety of others or will not roam, then there is no legitimate reason not to allow the owner to keep it, she said.