Electrical safety, mould and unsafe pool latches: Landlord’s bulletin issue 22
Health and safety issue: mould, electrical safety & unsafe pool gate latches
Don’t let mould take hold
During the winter months, household mould can take hold. Aside from being unsightly, mould can cause property damage and negatively affect the health of your tenant. Lessors and tenants both have a role to play in making sure the property is mould-free.
In order to reproduce, mould produces tiny particles called spores. These spores can cause health problems if inhaled by people who are allergic or sensitive to them, such as a running or blocked nose, irritation of the eyes or skin and sometimes wheezing. For people with asthma, inhaling mould spores may cause an asthma attack. In extreme cases, people may develop a mould infection in their lungs.
Consumer Protection frequently receives enquiries from tenants who are concerned about the impact of mould on their health, or that of their family, and complaints that lessors fail to remedy the problem. Even though some people are not affected by mould, it’s important to know there are health risks and they should be taken seriously.
Mould can grow on many common building materials. Over time, mould can cause significant damage to furniture, chattels and structures. This can lead to expensive maintenance or management costs. It’s better to address the issues before it comes to this.
Mould can also produce an unpleasant odour that lingers after it is removed and this smell can be difficult or expensive to get rid of.
What causes mould?
Mould thrives in damp and humid spaces. These conditions might result from issues with the property itself such as faulty plumbing, a leaky roof or inadequate ventilation. Tenants might also contribute to or cause mould growth in a number of ways. These include failing to use exhaust fans, not cleaning up spills properly or failing to report plumbing issues and leaks in a timely manner.
Keeping the property mould free requires a joint effort between tenants and lessors. You can help by responding quickly to maintenance issues involving plumbing, leaks, dampness or broken exhaust fans. Gutters should be regularly cleaned to reduce the risk of rainwater overflowing into the property during storms.
During winter months, remind tenants to take extra care to keep the property well-ventilated. They can help to reduce the risk of mould by quickly reporting damage or maintenance issues, using exhaust fans appropriately and opening windows to aerate the property. They also need to keep the property reasonably clean and free of clutter. It is equally important for landlords to take appropriate action to address any contributing factors that may be causing the mould.
More information about mould is available from:
- The Building Commission guide Ventilation in buildings; and
- The Department of Health publications Mould and dampness, and Guidelines for managing mould and dampness related public health risks in buildings.
Take the shock out of electrical safety
Consumer Protection receives various enquiries about electrical safety matters. Some recent examples include a tenant being hospitalised after receiving an electric shock from their shower, a tenant that believed their RCDs were subject to a recall and had shocked them, rats in the roof causing electrical safety issues and certain lights tripping the main power.
You can help avoid these and other electrical safety issues by ensuring the rental property is safe. Some ways to do this include:
- Checking that residual current devices (RCDs) are installed;
- Responding quickly when issues are identified by the tenant; and
- Having any electrical work done by a licensed electrical contractor, not by a maintenance service provider or by you as the property owner.
RCDs prevent electrocution by monitoring the electricity flowing in and out of a circuit. RCDs cut the electricity supply instantly if a person touches a live part and receives a shock, to prevent electrocution. If RCDs are not fitted, engage a licensed electrical contractor to install them and ensure the property complies with the regulations. Read more about the requirements around RCDs on the Consumer Protection website.
Tenants should be reminded to test the RCDs every three months and to inform you if an RCD is not working.
When a tenant advises you of a dangerous electrical problem, it is important to act quickly to arrange repairs.
Urgent repairs to address a risk of injury to the tenant or damage to the property must be arranged within 48 hours. The timeframe is 24 hours if repairs are needed to restore electricity or other essential services. Read more about urgent repairs on the Consumer Protection website.
Electrical safety certificates
When you have any electrical work done, the contractor must give you an electrical safety certificate within 28 days.
If you don’t receive the certificate, contact the electrical contractor. If that fails, contact your local network operator, which in most cases will be Western Power or Horizon Power. The network operator will investigate.
Electrical safety certificates certify that the work is safe and the person who carried it out is licensed. See an example electrical safety certificate on the Consumer Protection website.
Use our online licence search to check if your contractor is licensed
An electrical contractor’s licence can be identified by the prefix ‘EC’ at the start of the licence number. An electrician’s licence number will begin with ‘EW’.
Check for unsafe pool gate latches this winter
The winter months provide an opportunity to make sure swimming pools and fences are safe and in good repair so you’re prepared when the weather heats up. This year, when checking pool fencing during property inspections or when completing property condition reports, we urge you to pay particular attention to gate latches.
A voluntary recall is currently underway for a striker component contained in several pool gate latches that were sold by Bunnings. The recalled striker component does not comply with Australian standards and can cause the gate to be locked in the open position, posing a potential drowning risk for children.
A recent Ombudsman’s report found that between 2006 and 2015, the majority of drowning incidents involving children occurred in swimming pools.
Find out more about the recall.
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