NSW has passed a new law amending the no-pet rule in the Strata Schemes Management Act, allowing apartment residents to have an animal companion in their homes.

The new law, which took effect on 25 August, provides specific grounds where an owners corporation can prohibit an apartment resident from keeping an animal in a strata scheme.

The new policy also enables owners corporations to set reasonable conditions through their own by-laws on how pets are kept in their scheme.

Minister for Better Regulation Kevin Anderson said the scrapping of the no-pet rule came after an extensive public consultation.

"Research tells us that Australia has one of the highest rates of pet ownership in the world, with 61% of households including a pet in their family, and 91% of households owning a pet at some point in their lives," Mr Anderson said.

"As a dog owner myself I understand how important pets are for families in this state, and their companionship cannot be understated, particularly during the current pandemic."

How pet approval works

Under the new law, owners corporations can only refuse to allow an animal into the strata scheme if the animal "unreasonably interferes" with another resident's use of their lot or common areas.

The owners corporation will be allowed to require residents to apply for approval first before having their pets enter the scheme.

There are two ways the approval process can go. The first option is for residents to submit a written notice to the owners corporation within 14 days of the pet first staying inside their property.

The other model is for residents to seek written approval from the owners corporation.

The owners corporation must make their decision about the animal within a reasonable timeframe. Failure to decide on the approval will automatically allow the resident to keep their pet.

Owners corporations can have their own approval process provided they do not unreasonably refuse permission.

They can request the resident to submit information about the pet, including photographs, vaccination records, and microchip number.

Additional pet rules

Owners corporations have the freedom to set reasonable conditions in their by-laws on how residents should manage their pets.

They can require residents to keep the animal within their lot, and to supervise their pets whenever they are in common areas.

Residents can also be required to maintain cleanliness in their lot or in common areas.

Owners corporations can also set rules and requirements for certain animal types to be vaccinated.

They can also set which entrances the pets are allowed to use to keep them from passing human traffic.

Resolving issues with pets

Should problems arise, residents and owners corporations can make use any existing internal dispute resolution to solve any issues and concerns about the animal behaviour.

The owners corporation, or any other resident, can also go to the local council to seek an order against nuisance pets. The council, however, will require complainants to have proof.

When issued with a nuisance order, the resident must comply with the conditions or risk getting fined.

If the owners corporation wants to remove an animal in the scheme, they must first reach out to NSW Fair Trading for mediation. Unresolved issues will need to be submitted to the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal.

Dealing with assistance animals

The owners corporation shall not make any additions to their by-law to prohibit residents to keep their assistance pets.

Still, they can still require residents to provide evidence of their assistant animal's status, which is only limited to accreditation from a recognised assistance animal training body, an permit from the Service NSW, or a signed statement that the pet has been trained to assist the resident.

Owner corporations are not allowed to require residents with assistance animals to submit private medical records as evidence.