Consumer Protection has recently received an increased number of complaints from tenants about unacceptable living conditions. Are you and your team aware of the requirements under the Acts when this happens?
It is the responsibility of every landlord to ensure their rental property is safe for tenants and visitors to the premises. This is a duty of care under Common Law. In fact a landlord could be sued for negligence if an injury or death occurs as a direct result of their failure to ensure the rental premises is safe.
To ensure compliance the landlord must:
- Comply with all requirements applying to the premises in respect of building health and safety laws, and
- Ensure all urgent repairs are attended to promptly to avoid the risk of injury.
Recently the Consumer Protection Authority has reported receiving a higher than average number of complaints from tenants about living conditions, some of which are making the property uninhabitable. This would suggest that an increasing number of landlords are not adhering to the rules and putting themselves at risk of litigation. The risk could also apply to property managers and agencies if it can be proven that they have failed in their duty to adequately manage the property.
Reports received by Consumer Protection from tenants include:
- Dangerous levels of mould.
- Uncovered asbestos.
- Meth exposure if the property has previously been used to manufacture methamphetamine (Clandestine Laboratory), which can cause a range of health problems.
- Faulty electrical wiring – in some reported cases tenants had no option but to vacate the property after faults were reported to the property manager but no action was taken (this is a classic example where the property manager could be found liable if something were to happen to the tenant or a visitor to the premises).
- Plumbing issues – in one case a burst water pipe resulted in ankle deep water throughout the property.
Obligations under the Acts
The Health Act 1911 states that a property may be declared unfit for human habitation due to:
- A lack of cleanliness or essential services, or
- Where the property poses serious health or safety risks for occupants.
The Residential Tenancy Act 1987 (RTA) specifies that the above are grounds for a landlord or a tenant to terminate a Tenancy Agreement.
What can you do to protect landlords, tenants and yourself?
As a property manager you are not expected to be a building, health and safety inspector. However you are expected to conduct regular and thorough property inspections, identifying health and safety risks to the best of your ability. You are also expected to respond promptly to requests for repairs and maintenance.
Fortunately there is smart technology available today that helps you fulfil all those requirements quickly and efficiently removing the stress and reducing the risk for all concerned.
Call 1300 155 888 to ask us about PropertySafe and Maintenance Manager. The two work hand in hand to protect tenants & landlords and help you perform your role with efficiency while mitigating risk to protect yourself and the agency you work for. If you recommend that your landlords have a PropertySafe safety inspection conducted, your agency will receive Maintenance Manager free of charge, even if the landlord declines the inspection.