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Rental Property Hazards: Who is responsible for your safety? – By Barry van Heerden – Partner

rentalSMOKE ALARMS 

It is common knowledge that from 1 July 2007 all residential dwellings in Queensland are required to have smoke alarms installed (Qld Fire and Rescue Services Act 1990).

With rental properties there appears to be confusion as to who is responsible for the maintenance (including the replacement of batteries) of smoke alarms.  In most cases there are 3 parties involved:  the tenant, the landlord and the agent, and all 3 parties are usually quick to put the responsibility for checking the smoke alarms on the other.

Landlord’s Obligations 

  • must ensure smoke alarms with a minimum service life of 10 years are installed in the dwelling;
  • are responsible for cleaning, testing and replacing of batteries within 30 days before the start of a tenancy and this includes any renewal of a Tenancy Agreement;
  • must repair/replace smoke alarm if smoke alarm fails for any reason (except for a flat battery which must be replaced).

Tenant’s Obligations 

  • must clean and test the alarm during a tenancy if the tenancy is longer than 12 months and must do so at least once every 12 months;
  • must replace the batteries if the batteries are flat or almost flat during a tenancy.

 Managing Agents

Managing agents act for the landlords and it will depend on the Management Agreement entered into between the landlord and the managing agent.  The legislation places the obligation on the landlord who remains the ultimate responsible party.  If the Management Agreement states the agent is responsible to perform these duties on behalf of the landlord the agent will not escape liability;

Agents should be aware of their specific duties resulting from their Management Agreement and something like the testing of smoke alarms should be specifically negotiated with the landlords.

BLINDS, CURTAINS AND WINDOW FITTINGS 

Most people are not aware of the fact that in 2006 the Qld Government has introduced mandatory safety standards in relation to blinds, curtains and window fittings installed after 3 February 2006.

In 2010 the ACCC has issued regulations which regulate the design, construction and labelling of corded window furnishings and from 1 July 2011 all suppliers and landlords must comply with these regulations.

Landlords are responsible to ensure the property and all products they provide are safe and this includes blinds, curtains and window fittings.

The Department of Fair Trading has issued a guideline with 7 easy steps to ensure blind and curtain cord safety:

  • make sure children cannot reach any blind or curtain cords;
  • make sure the bottom of any blind or curtain cord is at least 160cm above the floor;
  • move children’s costs, beds, high chairs or playpens away from windows with blind or curtain cords;
  • make sure your child cannot climb on furniture and reach the blind or curtain cord;
  • wrap blind cords securely around a hook attached high on the wall;
  • install a cord tensioning device for vertical blinds;
  • when installing new blinds seek advice from the supplier about products that use ‘wands’ instead of cords to operate the blinds.

Again, agent’s responsibilities in this regard should depend on the contents of their Management Agreement.  We strongly advise agents should consider their Management Agreement and would recommend that it is not enough for an Agreement only to state the agent will manage the property on behalf of the landlord.  Statutory obligations, as outlined above, should be specifically discussed and recorded in the Management Agreement to avoid any disputes.

Should you require any further information in this regard please do not hesitate to contact our property and commercial department on 07 5536 9777 or email info@attwoodmarshall.com.au.

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Barry van Heerden

Barry van Heerden

  • Partner
  • Property and Commercial
  • Direct line: (07) 5506 8248
  • Mobile: 0403 452 455