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Fatality at the hands of PMs ‘heading our way’

12 December 2014 Elyse Perrau

A peak industry body has expressed grave concerns over the “creeping expansion” of property managers' responsibilities, saying if something is not done soon, a death will occur.

In response to the issue, the Real Estate Institute of NSW (REINSW) recently ran Part 1 of a webinar series titled ‘Property Manager or Builder?’ to educate PMs on managing the safety risks associated with swimming pools, balconies, decks, asbestos and more. The series covered issues such as what PMs can do to protect the safety of tenants, and when to seek professional assistance.

“You can see how broad these issues are and the level of experience that one needs to bring to the investigation,” REINSW CEO Tim McKibbin told Residential Property Manager.

“Making determinations on whether or not a balcony has the necessary structural integrity to support the weight that will be on there – that is beyond the scope of a property manager. We are getting into the structural engineer's domain, he said.

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“I think it is dangerous to expect a property manager to discharge those functions, and grossly unfair on them. Monthly, now, we are hearing about balcony collapses and that sort of thing. In fact, I heard of one just on the weekend passed.” 

The concern over PMs' expanding responsibilities is so serious, Mr McKibbin has written to the NSW coroner.

“Unfortunately, the institute can see a fatality heading our way, because property managers that don’t have that experience are being pushed into that domain to make those decisions, and as a consequence of a decision ... we are going to have a fatality,” he said. “I am disappointed that government isn’t picking up our lead on this.”

Mr McKibbin said he has observed a “creeping expansion” of PMs’ functions over time.

“In fact, we are wondering if the starting point here is to look at the terminology of a property manager, and we believe that is potentially inaccurate,” he said. “We wonder whether or not a better term might be a 'tenancy manager'.

One area of immediate concern to the REINSW is child safety locks on windows.

“If that safety lock does not meet the Australian standards or is damaged and a child, unfortunately, falls through a window as a consequence of that ... we can have ourselves a very seriously injured child or, worse, a dead child,” Mr McKibbin said.

“Again, the property manager, in their inspection, is being asked to make an assessment of that particular device. With no disrespect to property managers, I don’t think they have the training, experience and knowledge to make those determinations – and yet they are being forced into it.”

Fatality at the hands of PMs ‘heading our way’
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