Keeping Pets in a Sectional Title Scheme

Young professionals looking to purchase their first property often lean towards apartments or homes in a complex – also called sectional titles. Not only are these properties the more affordable option, but they usually come with other benefits, such as added security and amenities. Of course, there are some drawbacks, specifically for current or prospective pet owners. However, keeping pets in a sectional title scheme is possible, but, as with most things, some terms and conditions apply.

What exactly is a sectional title scheme?

A “sectional title” describes separate ownership of units or sections within a complex or development. Someone who buys property in a sectional title complex purchases a section as well as an undivided share of the common property.

Keeping Pets in a Sectional Title

The first thing prospective buyers should do before purchasing a sectional title is to familiarise themselves with the code of conduct and rules of that particular complex. Remember, when buying home buyers accept the rules and regulations of living there.

Pet ownership in a sectional title is one of the most common disputes between owners and the Body Corporate, but the law, better known as the Sectional Title Schemes Management Act (STSMA), does offer protection.

According to the prescribed STSMA Conduct Rules, owners or tenants require the written permission of the trustees to keep a pet. The trustees cannot unreasonably deny permission but must consider the circumstances of the request as well as the best interest of the complex. What’s more, the trustees may set conditions that the pet owner must abide by; otherwise, permission could be withdrawn. These rules aim to avoid nuisance so that all residents enjoy living in their units.

Of course, there are specific provisions for residents who require guide animals and emotional support pets. These owners have automatic permission to have an animal on the premises, but they will have to present proof of disability.

Pet-free complexes

There are complexes where the owners have unanimously agreed on a no-pets policy, and potential buyers need to make sure they know this. Where owners feel that they don’t want any pets in the complex, the conduct rules can be changed through a special resolution. To do this, a special general meeting must be called for owners to vote. At the meeting, a quorum must be present, and 75% of those present must vote in favour of the new rule.

Lodging a complaint with the Community Schemes Ombud

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. Lodging a complaint is easy:

Step 1: Refer the Dispute
Download and complete the Dispute Resolution Form. Walk-in and email complaints are also an option.

Applications for dispute resolution from Gauteng, North West and Limpopo can be emailed to gp-complaints@csos.org.za

Applications for dispute resolution from Kwa-Zulu Natal, Mpumalanga and Free State can be emailed to kzn-complaints@csos.org.za 

Applications for dispute resolution from Eastern Cape, Western Cape anNortherner Cape can be emailed to wc-complaints@csos.org.za 

 

Step 2: Assessment by the Ombud
The application will be assessed to determine its validity, but could potentially be rejected because:

  • The matter falls outside of the jurisdiction of the CSOS.
  • The internal disputes processes have not been exhausted.
  • The applicant failed to provide further information as requested.
  • Another competent authority such as a court of law or tribunal is better equipped to resolve the dispute.
  • An application for waiver of adjudication fees is denied.

 

Step 3: Conciliation

If the application is deemed valid and the case is likely to be resolved amicably, it will move to the conciliation stage. The conciliation hearing is chaired by a CSOS Conciliator who is there to assist in finding a resolution. There are two types of conciliation:

  • Informal – quick telephone conciliation; and
  • Formal – conciliation hearing

If conciliation is unsuccessful, the conciliator will issue a Notice of Non-Resolution and Referral to Adjudication.

 

Step 4: Investigation & Adjudication
Cases that are referred for adjudication will first undergo an extensive investigation. The investigation process may include:

  • Requests for additional information or documentation.
  • Requests for sworn statements or affidavits.
  • Analysis of photo evidence.
  • Inspections in loco.
  • Review of all relevant laws and rules.

At the hearing, the Adjudicator will consider all the evidence presented and will hand down a determination which is binding on all parties to the dispute. Orders are enforceable in the Magistrate Court or High Court depending on the quantum or nature of the relief granted in the determination.

Examples of previous court cases involving pets and sectional titles:

Each case is treated as objectively as possible, and rulings are made considering the unique facts and circumstances of the specific situation in question. In some cases, the court found in favour of owners keeping their pets in the sectional title, and in others ordered the animals be rehomed:

  • In 1999, the trustees of Laguna Ridge had a general no-pets rule, but a homeowner asked for permission to keep a small dog it in her apartment but was denied and told to rehouse the animal. The trustees eventually took the matter to court, and it was found that the trustees acted unreasonably. Essentially, it was found that the body corporate cannot refuse a request for permission purely based on the fact that they do not want to create a precedent. They had to base their decisions on the facts and circumstances of each request. Ultimately, it was ruled that the trustees failed to reasonably apply their minds and the owner was allowed to keep her small dog.
  • In a 2014 case involving the owners of a large Saint Bernard puppy and Mount Edgecombe Estate Management Association, the court ruling was not in favour of the pet owner. The estate’s rules clearly stated that dogs could not be over a certain size and weight, and the trustees refused to grant a request for permission. The court ruled that the owners bound themselves to estate rules when they purchased their property and gave the owners three months to re-home the dog.

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