Home safety for rental properties
Safety in and around a rental property is the responsibility of both the landlord and tenant.
Landlords must ensure the rental premises are safe to live in. Under common law, a landlord has a duty of care to tenants as well as anyone the tenant invites into the property.
The landlord may be sued for negligence if an injury or death occurs as a result of the landlord’s failure to ensure the rental premises is safe. The landlord therefore has an obligation:
- to comply with all requirements applying to the premises in respect of building health and safety laws; and
- to arrange for urgent repairs necessary to avoid exposing a person to the risk of injury.
Landlords must also provide either a Form 1AC “Information for Tenants” or Form 1AD “Information for Tenant with Non-written Tenancy Agreement” at the start of a tenancy. These forms alert the tenants of the safety concerns associated with
- pool barriers; and
- blind and curtain cords.
It is recommended that pool barrier and blind/curtain cord checks are included as part of the quarterly property inspections.
In the case of blind and curtain cords, and pool fences the rules apply whether the tenants have children living in the premises or not. The safety protections / risk apply to visitors as well as tenants.
A tenant also has some responsibility. They must ensure the rental property remains a safe environment by:
- not creating hazards by their actions; and
- by alerting the landlord or property manager (in writing) to any safety issues around the home as soon as possible.
Pool and Spa Fences
Landlords must ensure a pool or spa is appropriately fenced according to local government building laws and residential tenancy laws.
The Building Commission has developed a comprehensive guide to pool and spa fencing called Rules for pools and spas.
Shows examples of suitable pool barriers and gives answers to frequently asked questions.
Tenants must ensure that objects that can be climbed on, such as garden furniture, are kept away from pool and spa fences, gates and latches.
Landlords and tenants both have safety obligations for portable pools. Pool fencing laws apply to portable pools 300mm deep or more.
The landlord should include in any lease agreement advice that the tenant would need to obtain permission to erect any pool over 300mm and that if approved would also be required to provide regulation fencing. The tenant must seek approval from the landlord before erecting any pool with a depth of 300mm or more.
Inflatable and portable pools less than 300 mm also present a danger as they are not usually fenced and may not be completely emptied after use. Even in a small portable pool with very little water, it only takes seconds for a child to drown.
Tenants should completely empty portable pools after use and store them away securely. If pools are left out they can fill up with rain or sprinkler water which could prove to be a fatal mistake.
Blinds and curtains
At least 18 deaths of children from strangulation by blind and curtain cords (and chains) have occurred in Australia since the early 1990s.
Landlords must ensure that blind and curtain cords in the rental premises are safe for children. There should be no unsecured cords or chains which a child could reach or become entangled in. Detailed information is available on the blind and curtain cord safety page.
Tenants are responsible for securing any curtain or blind cords using the safety devices supplied with them (cleats).
If there is an unsecured cord and no safety device the tenant must immediately secure the cord so that it cannot be reached by a child and advise the landlord or property manager to provide a permanent solution.
Tenants also have a responsibility and should not place any furniture near curtain cords. They should also notify their property manager or landlord if they are unsecured cords to the cleats need replacing.
As a matter of best practice, landlords and property managers should check all internal window coverings during every inspection of a rental property, to ensure they are as safe as possible for children. Remember this applies if there are children living at the premises or not.
Obligations of landlords - corded internal window coverings
What types of internal window coverings are a safety hazard for children?
Anchoring of furniture
At least one child under 9 dies a year in Australia from domestic furniture falling on them. Consumer Protection have received reports from tenants that when it comes to anchoring furniture, property managers or landlords do not allow them to drill holes in the wall.
If any furniture can topple onto a child tenants should request permission to anchor furniture safely from the landlord or property manager immediately.
Not all lease agreements have provision for the granting of permission to the tenant for the affixing of fixtures. Tenants should consider this when signing the lease agreement.
Under WA tenancy law, tenants can be prohibited from affixing fixtures, renovating, altering or amending the 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. 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.
If the rental property is furnished the landlord should secure any furniture that may pose a hazard.
For more information visit Product Safety Australia’s website on Toppling Furniture: Anchor it and protect a child
Minimum security standards
The landlord is responsible for the rental property security standards being in place. Minimum security relates to door locks, window locks and exterior lights
Additional safety responsibilities regarding the installation of RCDs and smoke alarms are prescribed in legislation which the landlord must also comply with.
Two RCDs must be installed on the switchboard at the rental premises before it can be leased. Energy Safety’s RCD rules page has more detailed information..
Tenants need to test the RCDs every three months to ensure their reliability. If the RCD does not operate they should inform the property manager. Faulty RCDs must be replaced immediately.
If the tenant has already moved into a rental property and there are not two RCDs in place, they should contact the landlord or managing agent.
Mains powered smoke alarms are required in all existing residential buildings prior to sale and before a new tenancy agreement is signed. It is the responsibility of the owner to ensure the smoke alarms fitted are:
- no more than 10 years old;
- in working order; and
- permanently connected to mains power.
Smoke alarms with a 10 year battery life are permitted where mains powered smoke alarms cannot be fitted, due to the construction of the dwelling not permitting space to conceal the wiring or where no mains power is available.
Tenants are responsible for the maintenance of smoke alarms. They should test the smoke alarm monthly so they are aware of the alert, and replace the battery if needed. All smoke alarms have a test button that, when pressed, indicate whether the alarm is working or not.
Balconies and Decks
Landlords need to obtain a building inspection on the property’s balustrade, balcony or raised deck. The report should be prepared by a suitably qualified person such as a structural engineer, registered builder and or licenced pest inspector. The balcony/deck should have regular (bi annual) maintenance whether it is made from timber, metal, concrete or another material.
Tenants must ensure all outdoor furniture and other climbable objects well away from balustrades;
More information and safety tips are available on the Balconies and decks page.
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