Unit owners across the Australian Capital Territory are set to benefit from better governance and fairer rules with the recent amendment of pet rules and other strata legislation.
The amended Unit Titles (Management) Act 2011 puts the rights of owners “front and centre” in the governance of strata and owners corporations, ultimately aiming for greater transparency, fairer decision-making and easier changes to adopt environmental sustainability measures.
Among the changes are the relaxation of the regulations on pet ownership, where unit owners may now keep an animal within the property provided that the animal is an assistance animal. If not, the animal may still be kept provided that the rules of the owners corporation include a pet-friendly rule and the animal be kept in accordance with it.
Additionally, the owners corporation may also consent to the animal being kept with or without conditions.
Pets that may be kept at home include amphibians, birds, fish, mammals or reptiles.
The pet owner must tell the owners corporation in writing that the animal is being kept in the unit within 14 days of the day that the animal is first brought into the unit.
The owners corporation must respond to any request for pet ownership in writing. If the consent is granted subject to conditions, the conditions must be stated clearly. If the request is denied, reasons for the refusal must also be provided.
In some occasions, the decision-making power may be delegated to the executive committee.
If no action is taken within weeks of the day on which the request is made, the owners corporation is taken to consent to the request to keep a pet.
Apart from pet ownership, the amendments to the Unit Titles (Management) Act 2011 that take effect in November also include:
- Minutes to be provided to owners within 14 days of all meetings, which will improve transparency;
- Limits to voting proxies will limit the influence of any one person, including a chairperson;
- Allowing improvements that have environmental benefits; and
- Greater potential to adopt split levies on a different basis than unit entitlement provided they are fair.
The Owners Corporation Network ACT and the Strata Community Association have been working to improve the overall operation of strata communities and welcome these changes.
According to Gary Petherbridge, president of the OCN ACT, these changes are made to create clearer boundaries and expectations for owner organisations, executive committees and strata managers.
“We expect this will result in better contracts, more transparency and more accountable budgeting,” the president said.
Gray Green, a unit owner in a mixed-use strata complex in Kingston, said that he expects the new legislation to provide owners with the opportunity to more equitably share the costs of operating their owners corporation, as opposed to the previous “one size fits all” approach, applied even when commercial entities and residential units have different cost structures and require user-pays apportionments.