Death of brothers sends message to check gas appliances

Death of brothers sends message to check gas appliances

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Landlords in Victoria are being urged to check gas appliances at their rental properties, following the death of two young brothers in a rental property two years ago.

At this week's inquest into the deaths of eight year-old Chase and six year-old Tyler Robinson in May 2010, Coroner Jacinta Heffrey found they had died because their rental home had a dirty heater that pumped out carbon monoxide at extremely high levels.

The heater had not been serviced in at least five years and the landlords had not taken action despite the real estate agent writing three letters asking that it be serviced.

Ms Heffrey said while it was “regrettable”, the landlords were not to blame as most people in the community had no idea of the danger prior to the tragedy.

She also found the home lacked adequate ventilation and that the exhaust fans had made things worst. However, she said there was no need to change current building codes.

In her findings, Ms Heffrey said landlords should be "encouraged" to sign tenancy agreements with mandatory service requirements.

A spokesperson for Energy Safe Victoria (ESV) told Residential Property Manager the deaths highlighted the dangers that carbon monoxide could present in Victorian homes.

“ESV is committed to educating Victorians about the dangers of this silent killer,” she said. “ESV welcomed and accepted the coroner’s findings this week, and will be acting on all the recommendations.”

The regulator advised landlords and agents to ensure safety checks were done at rented premises at agreed intervals, at least once every two years.

“Managing agents could have legal exposures if they do not proactively warn landlords of the possible consequences of inadequate maintenance,” she said.

Spokesperson for the Real Estate Institute of Victoria (REIV) Robert Larocca said the institute had already taken action by implementing measures into lease agreements requiring gas appliances to be checked every two years.

“In fact, our default position in those agreements are now annually, with the option of every six months, so this is something our members believe is very important and have already taken action on,” he said.

Mr Larocca said the REIV was happy to work with the government in making the requirement become mandatory.

“Ultimately, our members are hired by someone to do something and we can’t make them take up a service that is not required by the government,” he said.

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