‘No pets’ rules are not set in stone
SECTIONAL title schemes, particularly densely populated ones often with little or no common property gardens, may not be the ideal places for pets. Yet many people living in sectional title schemes, or thinking about moving into one, would not dream of getting rid of their pets.
Prescribed conduct rule 1 (PCR 1) provides that owners or occupiers of sections shall not keep any animal, reptile or bird in a section or on the common property without the written consent of the trustees, which may not be unreasonably withheld. Owners who think the trustees have unreasonably withheld their consent may apply to court for declaratory orders.
If the trustees allow a particular owner or occupier to keep a pet, they are entitled to impose reasonable conditions, requiring the owner to, for example, keep the pet on a lead on the communal property.
Some schemes have amended the prescribed rules and now have a rule that no pets are allowed in the scheme. This absolute prohibition on the keeping of pets could be argued to be an unjustifiable infringement of a person’s right of ownership. Then again, if the rule was in place and filed at the Deeds Registry before the owner bought into the scheme, the legal principle caveat emptor (let the buyer beware) comes into play because the buyer is presumed to have knowledge of the rules applicable to the scheme.
If a scheme has the prescribed rules and wants to adopt a no-pets rule as an amendment to PCR 1, this can only be done by the body corporate passing a special resolution amending PCR 1 and having this filed at the Deeds Registry. But the new rule must take into consideration the vested rights of owners who already have pets at the scheme.
The “grandfathering” principle is appropriate here. This means not taking rights away from those in whom they are already vested. That is, you should not make those who have pets get rid of them, but once those pets die they should not be entitled to replace them.
Jennifer Paddock is a lawyer and course convener at Paddocks, a sectional title training firm. Visit www.sto.co.za for free sectional title advice or www.paddocks.co.za for sectional title training information.