Blanket pet bans in apartments ruled illegal in landmark Melbourne legal fight
Herald Sun
Peter Mickelburough
05 September 2016

Hamish, Madison and her partner Mark Steele.     Picture: Jason Edwards

Hamish the “lapdog” has won a landmark fight to outlaw blanket bans on pets in apartments, units and townhouses.

The dogfight began “the very first day” Hamish and owner Madison Brewster, 24, moved into their new home and a neighbour told her she could not have a dog.

Ms Brewster and her landlord Greg Watkins were taken to VCAT by the owners corporation of their Eaglemont townhouse in a bid to evict the well-behaved pooch because his mere presence breached its rules.

But the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal has ruled blanket pet bans are illegal and unfairly discriminate against animal lovers.

VCAT’s Linda Rowland found the same laws the Appeal Court recently decided allow owners to rent their property on Airbnb also give them a right to keep pets.

A delighted Ms Brewster said the decision had saved her and Hamish, a 4-year-old cavoodle, from having to sniff out a new home.

“We were completely against having a blanket rule on dogs. We found it to be really unfair and are really happy with the outcome,” she said.

Ms Brewster moved into the only one of six townhouses not occupied by its owner last December.

Although advertised as “pet friendly” the owners corporation had two rules prohibiting pets after a previous issue with a dog in 2013.

Ms Brewster’s tenancy was accepted on the basis that she had no pets, but shortly before moving in she inherited Hamish from her parents, who were going overseas, and obtained permission from Mr Watkins to keep him.

But her unhappy neighbours then served a number of breach notices on her and Mr Watkins, who both refused to comply because they did not consider Hamish was causing a nuisance.

Ms Rowland of VCAT agreed, finding no suggestion Hamish was dangerous or barked excessively or loudly.

“There is no evidence that the dog is causing a nuisance,” she said. “The owners’ corporation seeks its removal simply on the grounds that it is in breach of the rules.”

Ms Rowland told the parties in June that she did not believe the ban was valid but reserved her decision pending the outcome of the Airbnb matter, which also revolved around special rules.

Ms Rowland has now informed the parties that rules prohibiting pets are invalid because the powers of owners corporations are limited to making rules about the use of and behaviour on common property; external appearances; noise and nuisance control; and, only where health, safety or security are involved, the use and enjoyment of the private premises.

“I do not consider that a concern about possible noise or nuisance is sufficiently connected to a general ban of all pets from all lots,” she found.

Ms Rowland said the ban on pets in common areas was also invalid because it was discriminatory.

“There was no evidence that an appropriately restrained dog traversing the common property driveway could interfere with the enjoyment of the common property by other lot owners and occupiers.”

In refusing to order Hamish’s eviction, Ms Rowland continued an interim order requiring him to be restrained while on common property for a further six months to give the owners corporation time to adopt this as a permanent rule if it so chooses.

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