NSW: Ban on pets in upscale apartment tower overturned

A blanket ban on pets in a lavish inner-Sydney apartment block has been overturned by the NSW Court of Appeal, and the unanimous decision could have wider impacts for anyone living in an apartment in the state.

Describing the ban as “harsh, unconscionable and oppressive”, the highest court in New South Wales delivered the landmark decision which follows a lengthy legal battle involving the ritzy Horizon apartment tower in Darlinghurst, Johanna Cooper and her 14-year-old miniature schnauzer named Angus. The judges found that the Sydney tower’s attempt to ban animals from the building was a breach of legislation.

The court decision follows a five-year legal battle to keep Angus in Cooper’s apartment.

The trouble began after Angus urinated in the lobby of the Harry Seidler-designed tower, which occupies 260 apartments and stands 43-storeys tall.

In its ruling, the court found that banning animals breaches strata scheme legislation which provides that by-laws can’t be “harsh, unconscionable or oppressive”.

Legal firm Bartier Perry, which represented the Coopers, said the decision has wider ramifications for owners’ corporations and apartment owners.

“This decision effectively changes the way owners’ corporations can govern their strata schemes,” Bartier Perry partner Sharon Levy said.

The decision was unanimous from three Court of Appeal judges.

“This ruling may have far wider ramifications as to the by-laws owners corporations can impose on apartment owners,” Levy said. “Every dog has its day but Angus’ win could mean some significant changes and legal challenges to by-laws for years to come.”

The court also found that the pet ban seemed to be for the possible administrative convenience of the owners’ corporation or strata committee.

“Today is a win for Angus but it’s also a decision that will hopefully ensure owners corporations take a more balanced approach to the governing of apartment owners,” Cooper said.

Written: 17 October 2020

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