In February, the NSW Minister for Innovation and Better Regulation, Matt Kean announced new plans to change how buildings are constructed in NSW. The changes were made in response to the Shergold-Weir Report and include a requirement that building designers and engineers declare that their plans comply with the Building Code of Australia and for builders to declare that buildings have been constructed in accordance with those plans. In a statement, Mr Kean said, “This plan will ensure those who control the risks – building practitioners – are held responsible for their work. People deserve to feel safe in their homes and have confidence that they are buying a quality building.” This is good news for new builds. But there are grey areas. For instance, what about older rental properties that complied with the Code years ago but would not comply today? How do you ensure the safety of new tenants moving in?
A woman’s fall through the glass balustrade of an apartment in August 2016, which left her seriously injured, resulted in questions being asked about the safety of the balustrade. When Council investigated the incident, which happened in Auckland New Zealand, they found that the glass balustrade complied with the building code at the time of construction. However, just months before the incident occurred, the building code regarding glass barrier requirements was amended. As a result of this finding, owners of other apartments in the building were advised to get professional advice and make “minor modifications” as recommended by glass experts to prevent something similar from occurring.
Closer to home, an Australian rental property owner recently contacted us after having a property safety inspection report completed on their property. The report recommended a top rail be added to a glass balustrade at the property despite the fact that when the home was built it was deemed compliant. The fact is, if built today, better safety standards would apply to protect occupants and guests. The owner was calling to thank us, as he would have been completely unaware of this without the report.
In another example, a 19-month old toddler tragically drowned after falling into the fully fenced backyard swimming pool of her aunt’s home on the northern fringes of Adelaide in January 2016. Nobody knows how the little girl entered the pool area. The pool fence may have been compliant at the time it was built but was deemed non-compliant by the local council two years prior. The required changes included that a double gate needed to self-close or have a 1.5-metre high latch installed. However the changes had not been implemented and the matter had not been followed up. The Court heard that since the incident, the local council has made a number of policy changes. The inquest continues.
Just a couple of weeks ago there was more tragic news with the deaths of two young brothers after they were found unconscious at the bottom of their backyard pool in Brisbane. While this matter is yet to be investigated, reports have indicated that the pool was “completely surrounded by a high metal fence”.
What would have happened if these incidents had occurred in rental properties? Who would have been at fault? This article serves to make you more aware as property managers of these grey areas and to let you know that there is something you can do to minimise the risk for you, the landlord and, most importantly, the occupants of the property.
Property managers are not safety or building experts, however as a number of legal cases have shown, they can be held accountable in a court of law if proper procedures and processes haven’t been carried out. By offering your landlords the opportunity to have a PropertySafe inspection conducted every two years, the onus is placed on the landlord to accept or decline the offer. That means that if something goes wrong, you are not at fault.
If accepted, the inspection is completed by a trained professional and the landlord is sent the report, which makes them aware of the level of risk in their property, enabling them to take action to mitigate those risks. As property manager, you are only advised of any major safety hazards, including non-compliant balustrades, stairs, decks and swimming pools.
There is no other national safety inspection service that offers such a comprehensive report and service for landlords. For the cost of just $289 if requested via a real estate agent (more if arranged independently) it offers peace of mind for all parties. To learn more about the benefits of a PropertySafe inspection, call 1300 350 000.