Property law review should be picked up by new Qld Government – pets & smoking are contentious issues

It appears that just before the recent election campaign the previous Queensland Government launched a review of property law with a focus on body corporate matters, including the regulation of pets and smoking in apartment buildings. I trust that the new Queensland Government will pick up this review and consider any legal changes it deems necessary in the public interest.

Brisbane-based economist Dr Stephen Thornton made an interesting submission to the review (Dr.StephenThornton_BCCMPropertyLawReview_30.01.2015), in which he argued for a clear right for an apartment owner or occupier to keep at least one pet, without the consent of the body corporate, subject to reasonable conditions (e.g. on noise, animal behaviour, etc). Stephen makes an interesting case based on the economic, financial and social impacts that would be associated with the higher rate of pet ownership that would occur as a result of his policy change. There is no doubt that pets are big business – according to estimates in Stephen’s submission over $1 billion is spent on cats and dogs in Queensland each year – and that a higher rate of pet ownership would result in additional economic activity and jobs in pet-related industries.

Stephen estimates that, if the proportion of Queensland apartment dwellers with pets increased from his current estimated rate of 5% to say 25%, there would be additional pet-related expenditure of $80-160 million per annum and additional employment of around 550-600 people in the medium-term (see p. 4 of his submission). Stephen also considers important financial benefits via an estimated property price uplift of 5% and important health benefits (e.g. reduced stress) associated with owning pets. In summary, it’s a very interesting submission that deserves consideration by the new Government.

cat_loving_townhouse_livingSlipper, a former Paddington cat who loved townhouse living.

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3 Responses to Property law review should be picked up by new Qld Government – pets & smoking are contentious issues

  1. Mark Beath says:

    Thanks for that post and link Gene. Strata law is a subject of interest given my role as body corporate Chairman in my block. We are now dealing with our first formal request for a pet. Should be pointed out that the situation advocated by Stephen on pets is pretty much the current situation anyway following adjudicators decisions from the Commissioner’s office. A reasonable request for a pet effectively can’t be refused now and a by-law specifically banning pets would be deemed unreasonable.

    Common property issues and conditions are also included in recent adjudicator’s decisions. The only previous request by a prospective tenant for a cat in our building was refused because a specific feature of the location and property is prolific birdlife enjoyed by residents.

    I haven’t read Stephen’s full submission but also the costs where things go wrong and result in a dispute can be very deep and personal and I’m not sure that has been adequately accounted for. I don’t expect much change in the current position on pets. Smoking on balconies and common property was also an issue in the recent discussion paper.

    The other issue of economic interest in that strata property review round and discussion paper was the conditions to terminate a scheme to allow redevelopment. This currently requires a motion without dissent which is extraordinarily difficult to obtain the enable redevelopment of older blocks as they become uneconomic with a single owner able stop anything against the broader interest. I’m fully supportive of reduced conditions which is currently also proposed in NSW and can be controversial.

    Sorry for rambling on. I had been planning a post on this myself for some time.

    • Gene Tunny says:

      Yes, good point about it practically being the current situation anyway. Thanks for pointing out the issue around terminating a scheme to allow redevelopment. It probably explains why I see so many rundown old apartment blocks in great locations in Brisbane.

      Definitely not rambling on, very useful info. Looking forward to any post you might make on the topic. Thanks Mark.

  2. Stephen Thornton says:

    Hi Mark,

    Thanks for your comment. You are somewhat correct in what you say. The current situation is that body corporates have a range of pet by-laws from allowing all pets, to allowing some pets with restrictions (weight limit a typical one) to outright prohibition of pets. You are correct that the Body Corporate Commissioner’s Office have been finding in favour of occupiers who have made an application for adjudication where a body corporate will not allow a pet or where there are arbitrary restrictions in the current by-law (restrictions such as 10kg weight limits, not conditions). However, there are a few issues with that. I’ll try and be brief:

    1) All body corporates have not been required to amend their unlawful by-laws in light of many of the adjudicator decisions. Body corporates currently still deter pet ownership meaning occupiers need to “take on” the body corporate (this feeds into the costs you mentions as often the body corporate will need to use the services of their strata manager or even a law firm).

    2) The current review being undertaken by QUT law faculty on behalf of the (now former) government has two options – to retain the status quo or to allow individual body corporates the right by a change in the Act to prohibit pets (thereby limiting the chances of a successful application for adjudication as it is at present). My submission sets out my reasons why both options proposed are inadequate.

    You will be aware the the Options Paper is also proposing to give body corporates the power to directly fine offending occupiers in breach of by-laws. That is an issue I have not turned my mind to in the attached submission although it is fair to say that will come with its own can of worms.

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