Pet Own­er­ship in sec­tional ti­tle schemes

Weekend Post (South Africa) - - NEIGHBOURHOOD - www.pri­vateprop­erty.co.za

Pets are con­sid­ered a part of the fam­ily by many and dis­putes around them can be an emo­tive is­sue. The STSMA lays down the rules re­gard­ing pets in sec­tional ti­tle schemes. Of the var­i­ous dis­putes dealt with in sec­tional ti­tle schemes, it could pos­si­bly be said that those in­volv­ing pets is high, and it pos­si­bly for this rea­son that the rules deal­ing with pets is at the top of the list in the Sec­tional Ti­tle Schemes Man­age­ment Act, says Michael Bauer, gen­eral man­ager of prop­erty man­age­ment com­pany IHFM.

Turn­ing to the courts

There have been many cases where the own­ers of pets have been will­ing and able to af­ford tak­ing their dis­pute to court, as it has been very im­por­tant for them to keep their pets with them. There have, too, been cases where the body cor­po­rate has had to present their case in court for the re­moval of a pet. Ei­ther way, it is an ex­pen­sive and time con­sum­ing ex­er­cise, which should be avoided if at all pos­si­ble, says Bauer.

The STMSA and pets

In the STSMA Reg­u­la­tions, An­nex­ure 2 Model Con­duct Rules, it stip­u­lates that own­ers or tenants in units must have the trus­tees' writ­ten con­sent to keep a pet. While the trus­tees can­not be un­rea­son­able in with­hold­ing con­sent for this, they do have to con­sider the cir­cum­stances of the re­quest and the best in­ter­ests of the scheme. When al­low­ing oc­cu­pants in sec­tional ti­tle schemes to keep pets, they could stip­u­late that cer­tain con­di­tions must be met by the owner of the pet and if these are not ad­hered to, the con­sent could be with­drawn.

Guide dogs, hear­ing dogs and ser­vice dogs

There is an ad­di­tion, Rule 1(2), which says that con­sent is au­to­mat­i­cally given if the pet is a guide dog, hear­ing dog or ser­vice dog. There are in­creas­ing cases where dogs are used to alert epilep­tic suf­fer­ers of im­pend­ing at­tacks, or di­a­betic own­ers of blood sugar level prob­lems, and ther­apy dogs used to help those who suf­fer from anx­i­ety and de­pres­sion re­lated dis­or­ders. The owner should be able to present proof of the dis­abil­ity the dog as­sists with.

Obli­ga­tions of pet own­ers

The STSMA does stip­u­late that pets must not in­con­ve­nience other own­ers. Own­ers should have a sense of obli­ga­tion to clean up af­ter their pet and keep it un­der con­trol at all times.

Adding a “no pets” clause

If the own­ers of units in a sec­tional ti­tle scheme are adamant that they want a pet free com­plex, in or­der to in­clude a “no pets” clause in the rules there needs to be a spe­cial res­o­lu­tion taken. To do this there has to be a quo­rum, then 75% of those present must be in favour of the rule – both in value and num­ber.

Breach­ing the rules

If any owner breaches the rules by keep­ing pets with­out per­mis­sion or has a pet that dis­turbs oth­ers, the body cor­po­rate can ei­ther ap­ply to the Com­mu­nity Schemes Om­bud Ser­vice for as­sis­tance in deal­ing with the mat­ter or turn to pri­vate ar­bi­tra­tion or the courts to have the pet re­moved. Pets have in many house­holds be­come “mem­bers” of the fam­ily and this is a highly emo­tive is­sue. When ad­dress­ing a dis­pute that in­volves a pet, there has to be clear rea­sons from each party stat­ing griev­ances and so­lu­tions, to come to a so­lu­tion quickly and ef­fec­tively, says Bauer.

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