Commissioner's Blog: Renters have new rights to protect kids
With Commissioner for Consumer Protection David Hillyard
It has been my position for a number of years that a small amount of damage to a wall, which can easily be repaired, is a small price to pay for ensuring the safety of children living in a rental home. Since 2001, on average, one child a year has died in Australia from toppling furniture with many more suffering serious injuries.
I’m really pleased to say that we’ve now changed the law, so renters in Western Australia can attach furniture or TVs to walls to prevent a child, or person with a disability, being injured or killed. And landlords can only deny requests in certain circumstances, such as when fixing something to the wall would disturb asbestos, or if the property is heritage listed.
The catalyst for the amendments to WA’s Residential Tenancies Act was the death of 21-month-old Reef Kite who was crushed by a chest of drawers in his family’s Yokine rental home in 2015. The inquest into his death heard that the landlord had refused a request to secure the furniture and the Coroner recommended the law be changed.
What’s become known as “the toppling furniture Bill’ passed Parliament in November 2019 and commenced at the start of December.
Previously, tenants could only anchor furniture to the wall if they had the landlord’s permission. Now, tenants simply submit a request form and landlords can only say no in very limited circumstances. Tenants should let Consumer Protection know if their request is being denied, so we can check if the property owner’s refusal is justified. We will take a dim view of property owners or agents that do not comply with this new law and they may face prosecution or disciplinary action.
If you live in a rental home and want to anchor furniture to walls to protect someone with a disability, or children, the request form to use is on our website: www.consumerprotection.wa.gov.au.
The trade-off is that tenants are required to restore the wall at the end of their tenancy by patching holes and repainting if necessary.
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