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25 August 2016
In light of a recent incident of the near strangulation of a toddler in a rental property, the Department would like to remind agents of their responsibilities.
Unsecured blind and curtain cords or chains, particularly those with loops or the ability to form a loop, pose a significant risk to children. Children do not understand that a cord or chain wrapped around their neck can tighten and strangle them in a few minutes if they sit down, roll around or climb down.
Agents have a duty to protect the safety of all tenants and visitors to a rental property. If a child dies or is injured in the rental premises, the landlord may be sued for negligence.
Agents must ensure landlords are aware of their obligations under sections 42(2)(c) and 43(1) of the Residential Tenancies Act 1987 to comply with all building, health and safety laws, and their responsibility to arrange for urgent repairs to avoid exposing a person to the risk of injury.
As a matter of best practice when inspecting rental properties, property managers are advised to check all internal window coverings are as safe as possible for children.
A mandatory safety standard for blinds has been in place since 2004. The most recent standard, which was introduced in 2010, requires blinds and curtains to have the necessary installation instructions, warning labels and tags and any components specific in the instructions as necessary for cord safety.
If the blinds or curtains were purchased prior to 2004, or there are long cords children can reach, the property manager should alert the tenants to the potential hazard and advise them to immediately tie the cords out of reach and move any furniture children might climb on to reach the cords.
Property managers should ensure tenants:
As well as taking immediate steps to reduce the danger, the landlord should be advised urgently that a more permanent solution is needed.
Property managers should ensure landlords:
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission produced an installation guide to explain how either a cleat or a cord guide can be installed to keep loose cords secure.
A tenant may also ask for permission to install curtains or blinds in their rental premises. If the owner provides permission, it would be advisable for the property manager to inform the tenant in writing they need to install blinds or curtains as required by the mandatory safety standards.
Alternatively, the landlord and property manager may wish to specify only curtains or blind without cords or chains should be installed.
Preventable child deaths are unacceptable. Agents should be proactive in ensuring property managers are aware of the dangers presented by blind and curtain cords. Safety checks of the window coverings should be incorporated into the property condition inspection reports, in order to protect the tenants as well as the interests of the landlord.
Further information can be found in the publication Obligations of landlords – corded internal window coverings.