Written for Property Poser

The Property Poser panel has been asked to assist a reader whose complex has instituted a “no pets” policy, which is negatively affecting the sale of her property.

The reader owns a sectional title unit, which she vacated some time ago and recently put on the market.

She explains that the body corporate has recently decided to disallow any new pets in the complex, as there are currently too many of them.

This decision has had a negative impact on three potential sales as the interested buyers quickly lose interest when they hear that pets are not allowed in the complex.

The reader has spoken to the chairman of the body corporate who advised that they have erected a sign outside the complex advising of the new policy. She even approached the managing agents but to no avail.

She now asks what else she can possibly do as the new stance regarding pets has a direct negative impact on her due to the difficulty in finding a buyer.

According to Schalk van der Merwe from Rawson Properties in Somerset West, Cape Town, the general rule is that an owner shall not be entitled to keep a pet in his section without the written consent of the trustees.

“The trustees should consider the individual circumstances and merits of each application to keep a pet. This considered consent might be subject to certain conditions.”

Should the owner breach these conditions, the given consent may be withdrawn, says Van der Merwe.

“Most importantly, the consent should not be withheld unreasonably.”

Van der Merwe says the ownership of a section allows the owner certain rights generally enjoyed by property owners.

“However, ownership of a section may be, and is generally, limited by certain rules.”

A general and total exclusion of pets negates this aspect of ownership and makes no provision for an application to keep a pet to be considered on its own merits, says Van der Merwe.

Grant Hill of Miller Bosman Le Roux Attorneys in Somerset West says the total exclusionary policy would probably be acceptable in certain instances where such a policy could be justified.

“The fact that the trustees feel that there are too many animals in the complex is arguably arbitrary in nature.”

Hill says it would, for example, be difficult to rely on the policy where the pet’s existence would not be obvious to anyone outside its owner’s section.

“Consider a case where the animal is completely housebound and absolutely quiet. While this example may sound extreme, it is useful in identifying where a blanket policy could be considered unreasonable.”

The reader could formally request that the policy be reconsidered and the position on individual applications clarified, says Hill.

“Even with the apparent abundance of animals in the complex, new applications could be considered more strictly and approved only where the trustees consider it appropriate.”

Should the trustees not reconsider this matter, the reader may have recourse to the courts for a declaratory order on the basis of them having unreasonably withheld their consent, says Hill.

“This would apply equally to any new or existing owner of a section.”

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