Keep your tenants and your investment safe by being aware of the safety regulations.
The landlord is responsible for the installation of an appropriate number of smoke alarms, hardwired wherever possible, that comply with Australian standards. They need to be fitted in every property where people sleep, in accordance with the Building Code of Australia.
At the commencement of a new tenancy, you need to make sure the alarm is working and a new battery is fitted. The alarms should then be tested every six months, which can be easily done during the bi-annual inspection of the property. Batteries (including the backup battery if the smoke alarm is hardwired) should be replaced every twelve months.
In apartments, the Owners Corporation is responsible for carrying out fire inspections for common property and occasionally will also carry out the maintenance of smoke alarms in each apartment.
There are companies that will attend to all the requirements relating to fire alarm legislation for a small annual fee. Personally, I think it’s worth the peace of mind.
More and more research is becoming available on the health dangers posed by mould, although it is a grey area in regards to rental properties.
There are basically four ways that mould exists in properties:
Lifestyle – Cooking, showers and drying clothes indoors are the main ways that tenants contribute to the build-up of excessive moisture inside a property. Without adequate ventilation, the excess moisture will result in condensation and eventually mould will form. The best and cheapest remedy is ventilation – opening windows or providing airways to let the steam and condensation escape.
Repairs and maintenance – Mould can also be caused by a lack of maintenance, or repairs that have not been carried out quickly enough. For example, if a blocked gutter spills water down walls and inside wall cavities, this would be a maintenance issue. If the gutters need replacing, that would be a repair issue.
It would be the landlord’s responsibility to ensure that the property is maintained correctly and that repairs are carried out in a timely manner to prevent mould occurring.
Design of the property – Sometimes it’s the design of a property – the way it’s sited or built – that may cause mould to become a problem. Some south- facing walls never see any sunshine and will remain damp for much longer after rainfalls. In persistent rainy weather, walls may never get a chance to dry out. Additionally, there are areas of the house such as basements that will be more prone to condensation.
Climate – Zones of high heat coupled with high humidity and/or rainfall, such as Cairns, are prone to mould growth.
LOCKS AND SECURITY
The property needs to be secure. This means that you need to provide locks to ensure adequate security.
NSW is the first state in Australia to legislate new laws to prevent children from falling from residential strata buildings. In October 2013, parliament passed the proposal to fit safety devices on windows over the next five years to limit the width of the opening to less than 12.5cm.
While the laws are directed at new constructions and strata buildings, it would make sense to recognise the need to install such devices in older homes with a second level.
Vertical bars on balcony railings are also to be limited to 12.5cm spacing and the railings must be at least one metre high, including from any horizontal element from which a child can get a foot-hold to climb.
As of 8 July 2010, there are also mandatory requirements in respect to the installation of blinds and curtains. Any cords must be kept firmly attached to the wall to prevent the possibility of a loop forming. This is to prevent children getting tangled in the cord and choking.
There are a number of areas in a property where you should make sure toughened glass is used, in particular in bathrooms and kitchens.
Shower screens clearly require attention; if a mishap occurs, the last place you would want shattered glass is when you are naked in the bathroom.
Cooking on a hot plate can generate a lot of heat. Make sure your glass splashback is made of toughened glass.
Throughout the rest of the property, make sure any cracked glass panels or mirrors are replaced.
Tragically, children under five are still drowning in swimming pools due to poor or faulty pool fencing.
There are very strict measurements and requirements for pool fencing. Also be aware that there needs to be a non-climbable zone around the pool.
If you have doors and windows forming part of the pool barrier, these will need to be checked to make sure they still comply.
Legislation is designed to protect children and it is imperative that your pool complies.
From the 29 April, 2016 pool owners will need a Certificate of Compliance before you can lease your property.
Member of the Real Estate Institute of New South Wales.