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  • Protecting Children In Rental Properties – are you the Landlord liable?

Protecting Children In Rental Properties – are you the Landlord liable?

November 1st, 2017

Protecting Children In Rental Properties – are you the Landlord liable?

It is a parents worse nightmare to have anything happen to their children. The concern is do you know your responsibilities as a Landlord to prevent child injury? Has your property manager made you aware of the laws in relation to children in properties? Protecting Children in Rental Properties

Having seen an incident first hand I can tell you it is the most upsetting time as a property manager. When I first started in Real Estate we managed a unit on the second floor. Whilst the mother was looking the other way the child climbed to the window and leant on the fly screen which gave way. After this incident, it was made mandatory that anything above ground floor would require security fly screens or/and window locks. In this case the Landlord was not at fault, it was not a law that they needed to be a metal screen however this didn’t help the guilt.

There was another instance that has brought the department of commerce to spring to action. A 22 month old boy was found dead in October 2013. They had discovered that the boy had died of injuries suffered when a 1.25m tallboy he was climbing on fell onto him. This again would not fall under the Landlord’s responsibility however the tenant had asked her Landlord to allow her to bolt the tallboy to the wall however, her request was denied. Between 2000 and 2015 alone a least 14 children under the age of 9 died in Australia after furniture fell on them.

The Consumer protection encourages landlords and property managers to allow tenants permission to anchor furniture. A hole in the wall can always be patched and painted however a child’s life cannot be replaced.

For more information on how to anchor furniture correctly please visit the Product Safety Australia page offering information on Toppling Furniture: Anchor it and protect a child by click here.

So what can you do as a Landlord to protect your tenants and children in your property?

The answer is follow the laws and guidelines. As professional property managers, we always insure that our properties comply with the current safety and security laws. It is our job to protect the Landlords and the tenants to avoid any unnecessary injury and especially, any fatality. Below are some requirements for BOTH Landlord and Tenant as set out by the Department of Commerce. Does your property comply?

Landlord’s responsibility

Landlords must ensure the rental premises are safe to live in. Under common law, a landlord has a duty of care to tenants as well as anyone the tenant invites into the property.

The landlord may be sued for negligence if an injury or death occurs as a result of the landlord’s failure to ensure the rental premises is safe.  The landlord therefore has an obligation:

  • to comply with all requirements applying to the premises in respect of building health  and safety  laws; and
  • to arrange for urgent repairs necessary to avoid exposing a person to the risk of injury.

 

Tenant’s responsibility

A tenant also has some responsibility.  They must ensure the rental property remains a safe environment by:

  • not creating hazards by their actions; and
  • by alerting the landlord or property manager (in writing) to any safety issues around the home as soon as possible.

Pool and Spa Fences

Landlords must ensure a pool or spa is appropriately fenced according to local government building laws and residential tenancy laws.

The Building Commission has developed a comprehensive guide to pool and spa fencing called Rules for pools and spas.

Rules for pools and spas
Rules for pools and spas, by Building Commission

Shows examples of suitable pool barriers and gives answers to frequently asked questions.

Tenants must ensure that objects that can be climbed on, such as garden furniture, are kept away from pool and spa fences, gates and latches.

Landlords and tenants both have safety obligations for portable pools. Pool fencing laws apply to portable pools 300mm deep or more.

The landlord should include in any lease agreement advice that the tenant would need to obtain permission to erect any pool over 300mm and that if approved would also be required to provide regulation fencing.  The tenant must seek approval from the landlord before erecting any pool with a depth of 300mm or more.

Inflatable and portable pools less than 300 mm also present a danger as they are not usually fenced and may not be completely emptied after use.  Even in a small portable pool with very little water, it only takes seconds for a child to drown.

Tenants should completely empty portable pools after use and store them away securely.  If pools are left out they can fill up with rain or sprinkler water which could prove to be a fatal mistake.

Blinds and curtains

At least 18 deaths of children from strangulation by blind and curtain cords (and chains) have occurred in Australia since the early 1990s.

Landlords must ensure that blind and curtain cords in the rental premises are safe for children.  There should be no unsecured cords or chains which a child could reach or become entangled in.   Detailed information is available on the blind and curtain cord safety page.

Tenants are responsible for securing any curtain or blind cords using the safety devices supplied with them (cleats).

Curtain and blind cord ties
Curtain and blind cord and chain ties, by Product Safety Australia
Installing your blinds and curtain cords correctly may help prevent serious injury or death.

If there is an unsecured cord and no safety device the tenant must immediately secure the cord so that it cannot be reached by a child and advise the landlord or property manager to provide a permanent solution.

Tenants also have a responsibility and should not place any furniture near curtain cords.  They should also notify their property manager or landlord if they are unsecured cords to the cleats need replacing.

As a matter of best practice, landlords and property managers should check all internal window coverings during every inspection of a rental property, to ensure they are as safe as possible for children.  Remember this applies if there are children living at the premises or not.

Obligations of landlords – corded internal window coverings

What types of internal window coverings are a safety hazard for children?

Obligations of landlords – corded internal window coverings

Anchoring of furniture

At least one child under 9 dies a year in Australia from domestic furniture falling on them.  Consumer Protection have received reports from tenants that when it comes to anchoring furniture, property managers or landlords do not allow them to drill holes in the wall.

If any furniture can topple onto a child tenants should request permission to anchor furniture safely from the landlord or property manager immediately.

Not all lease agreements have provision for the granting of permission to the tenant for the affixing of fixtures.  Tenants should consider this when signing the lease agreement.

Under WA tenancy law, tenants can be prohibited from affixing fixtures, renovating, altering or amending the home OR they can be allowed to, on a case-by-case basis with consent.

Consumer Protection encourages landlords and property managers to give tenants the permission to anchor furniture in a bid to protect children. A hole in a wall can be patched or repaired at the end of a rental agreement, but a child’s life cannot be replaced.

If the rental property is furnished the landlord should secure any furniture that may pose a hazard.

For more information visit Product Safety Australia’s website on Toppling Furniture: Anchor it and protect a child

Minimum security standards

The landlord is responsible for the rental property security standards being in place.  Minimum security relates to door locks, window locks and exterior lights

Additional safety responsibilities regarding the installation of RCDs and smoke alarms are prescribed in legislation which the landlord must also comply with.

RCDs

Two RCDs must be installed on the switchboard at the rental premises before it can be leased.  Energy Safety’s  RCD rules page has more detailed information..

Tenants need to test the RCDs every three months to ensure their reliability.   If the RCD does not operate they should inform the property manager.  Faulty RCDs must be replaced immediately.

If the tenant has already moved into a rental property and there are not two RCDs in place, they should contact the landlord or managing agent.

Smoke Alarms

Mains powered smoke alarms are required in all existing residential buildings prior to sale and before a new tenancy agreement is signed. It is the responsibility of the owner to ensure the smoke alarms fitted are:

  • no more than 10 years old;
  • in working order; and
  • permanently connected to mains power.

Smoke alarms with a 10 year battery life are permitted where mains powered smoke alarms cannot be fitted, due to the construction of the dwelling not permitting space to conceal the wiring or where no mains power is available.

Tenants are responsible for the maintenance of smoke alarms.  They should test the smoke alarm monthly so they are aware of the alert, and replace the battery if needed.  All smoke alarms have a test button that, when pressed, indicate whether the alarm is working or not.

Balconies and Decks

Landlords need to obtain a building inspection on the property’s balustrade, balcony or raised deck. The report should be prepared by a suitably qualified person such as a structural engineer, registered builder and or licenced pest inspector.  The balcony/deck should have regular (bi annual) maintenance whether it is made from timber, metal, concrete or another material.

Tenants must ensure all outdoor furniture and other climbable objects well away from balustrades;

More information and safety tips are available on the Balconies and decks page.

Minimum security standards:

Main entry door:

The minimum required security is either a deadlock or an AS 5039-2008 compliant key lockable security screen door.

The deadlock can be either a single cylinder or double cylinder. A single cylinder deadlock can be opened from the inside simply by turning the handle or a knob, allowing a person to exit the house quickly in case of an emergency.

The deadlock can be separate to the door handle or it can be incorporated into the handset.

There is no need to retrofit security if there already is an Australian Standards compliant key lockable security screen with a deadlock fitted.

Security main entry
Security main entry, by Consumer Protection

The main entry must have a key lockable door.

All other external doors

The minimum required security is either a deadlock, a patio bolt lock (if a deadlock cannot be installed) or an AS 5039-2008 compliant key lockable security screen door.  If there is a need to install a patio bolt, it does not need to be key lockable.

Security door
Security door, by Consumer Protection

Screen doors are one option.

Windows

Windows must be fitted with a lock which prevents the window from being opened from outside the premises. This does not mean having to install keyed window locks, but all openable windows have latches, closers or locks fitted and be in working order.

If the window is fitted with an Australian standards (AS 5039-2008) compliant security screen, there is no requirement to retrofit a window lock.

Security window

Windows must be secured from being opened from outside the premises. It does not have to be key lockable.

External lighting

Minimum required security is an electrical light at, or near, the main entry capable of illuminating the main entry to the premises and is operable from the inside.

This doesn’t apply if the property is a flat or apartment and the lighting is the responsibility of the strata body.

Security light
Security light, by Consumer Protection

Security lights need to cover the main entry.

Special considerations

Apartments/Units not on the ground floor

Apartments which are not on the ground floor will need to meet the minimum security requirements in relation to the main entry door.

If there is a door onto a balcony, security isnot required if the balcony can only be accessed from inside the premises.

Window locks do not need to be installed if the windows are not easily accessible from the outside of the premises.

Entry light requirements do not need to be installed if the external lighting is the responsibility of the strata company (body corporate) rather than the individual owner.

Multi storey homes

The required locks will need to be applied to all entry doors and windows on the ground floor.

If there is a door onto a balcony, you do not need to install the required security if the balcony can only be accessed from inside the premises.

The requirements also do not apply to any window situated on the second storey or above in a multi-storey home which is not easily accessible from the outside.

Louvered windows

Louver windows must have a functioning locking mechanism. If it is not, then another mechanism will need to be installed to allow the lever to be locked in the fully closed position.

Rural properties

If the property is on land zoned for agricultural or rural use, it is not a requirement to meet the minimum security standards. However locks or other devices must be provided and maintained to ensure the rental premises are ‘reasonably secure’.

Heritage listed properties

Properties listed on the State Heritage Register are exempt from these requirements however locks or other devices must be provided and maintained to ensure the rental premises are ‘reasonably secure’.

The minimum levels of security fact sheet is available by clicking here.

 

About the Author

Celestine has been in the Real Estate Industry since 2002. She has competed in some of the most competitive markets in Australia. Combine her strong negotiation skills and keen customer service to achieve the best results for her clients.

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