An office of fair trading has published a warning around injuries involving a property's windows and balconies, with a corresponding real estate institute saying property managers could be easily targeted over the “danger spots”.
The NSW fair trading minister Matthew Mason-Cox has recently urged the public to do regular window and balcony safety checks, after two children were recently admitted to NSW hospitals suffering injuries from window falls.
“Each year, around 50 children fall from windows or balconies in Australia,’’ he said
“Sadly, many children suffer serious injuries and some falls are fatal.”
Professor Danny Cass, head of trauma at The Children’s Hospital at Westmead, said he sees a lot of these injuries during summer months when windows and balcony doors are left open.
REINSW deputy president John Cunningham said the NSW Office of Fair Trading has put out some great information.
“Where the bottleneck occurs is that landlords are actually acting on the advice and this is where there could be some serious liability issues for property managers in the future,” he told Residential Property Manager.
“At the same time we are dealing with a lot of old properties that have non-compliant window locks and window heights and balcony railings that are not compliant.
“There are a lot of grey areas in here and there are a lot of danger spots, and I think there is certainly a lot of onus in this day and age in the litigious world that we live in, where people will always look for the easiest target, and often that is the property manager.
"We are of the view at the Institute that we are really more tenancy managers than property managers, and that there has to be another way of ensuring that this is handled in a better way," he added.
Mr Cunningham said property managers are, in most cases, not always licensed real estate agents.
“They haven’t had the training to actually be fully aware of what is and what is not a safe environment,” he said.
“Despite the fact it is a licensee's obligation to ensure they are fully trained, we are not professional maintenance or safety experts.
“So there is a big, big grey area there that I think everyone needs to be aware of and I think it is good that the minister of fair trading has actually put this warning out in general, not just to property managers, but to property owners and occupiers,” he added.
To avoid any accidents occurring, Mr Cunningham said thorough checklists need to be conducted regularly.
“When property managers do an incoming inspection we have a safety checklist they need to go through - are the window locks secure? Are the blind cords secure? Are there any trip hazards or safety hazards? Then when you are doing your periodical inspections you have got to have that on your checklist as well,” he said.
“To us, the number one thing beyond just the general maintenance of the property is health and safety - I think that is where the major training has to now be focused to ensure that people aren’t being caught out, that it does start when you do that first inspection.
“We are also taking the view that if a landlord is not prepared to provide what is needed for a safe and secure property, we won’t take it on - the liability is just too high,” he added.