Protecting children in rental properties from toppling furniture: Real estate bulletin issue 159 (October 2017)
30 October 2017
A recent coronial inquest was held into the death of a 22 month old boy, who tragically died at his family’s Yokine home in October 2013. Forensic pathologists found that the boy had died of injuries he suffered when the 1.25m tallboy he was climbing on toppled onto him.
During the inquest the boy’s mother gave evidence that before the tragedy she had asked her landlord to allow her to bolt the tallboy to a wall but her request had been denied.
Small children tend to climb on freestanding bookshelves, drawers, wardrobes and sideboards and if they are unsecured the child’s weight can cause them to topple. Furniture units over a metre tall and any unstable furniture should be secured using angle braces or anchors screwed into the wall.
Landlords have a responsibility to ensure that rental premises are safe to live in. Under common law, landlords have a duty of care to tenants, as well as to anyone the tenant invites into the property.
As you would be aware, under Western Australian tenancy law, tenants can be prohibited from affixing fixtures, renovating, altering or amending a 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.
It is important to remember that 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.
As evidenced above, unstable furniture can tip over when a child climbs or pulls on it. If the furniture falls on top of a child it can cause serious injuries or be fatal. Between 2000 and 2015, at least 14 children under the age of 9 died in Australia after domestic furniture fell on them, with many more presenting to hospitals with serious injuries.
Consumer Protection is urging property managers when requested, to seek permission from owners to allow tenants to anchor unstable furniture in a bid to protect children. Arrangements should always be made in writing.
Any landlord supplying furniture that could be unstable should ensure it is securely anchored before renting, whether or not a child will be living at the premises.
Consumer Protection advises tenants that they are happy to intervene and discuss the issue with any owner or property manager who refuses a tenant permission to anchor furniture.
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