By Daniela Nelson - Head of Property Management
Are you an Owner of a rental property in Perth? If you are getting your property ready to be leased or rented out, speak to your Property Manager about what your legal and safety requirements are.
A Landlord in Perth was fined $24,000 by the Department of Commerce for failing to meet the obligations of lodgings bonds with the Bond Administrator…whilst in this instance the fine was hefty, not meeting your legal obligations in regards to safety can cause serious injury and in some cases death.
In June 2018 a house fire in Thornlie resulted in two deaths, and in that case the smoke alarm was found not to be working.
Follow our simple checklist below to ensure you meet the key components:
- RCD’s / Safety Switches
- Smoke Alarms
- Security (Locks & Lighting)
- Blind Cords
- Swimming Pools and Spa’s
- Prescribed Lease
- Bond Lodgement
- Property Condition Report
- Landlord Protection Insurance
Need more details on each of the items above?
Residual current devices
You must ensure at least two residual current devices (also known as safety switches or RCDs) are professionally installed to protect all power point and lighting circuits in your rental properties before they are leased or sold.
For common areas of strata schemes at least one RCD is to be fitted to protect power points and lighting circuits. Penalties of up to $15,000 for individuals and $100,000 for bodies corporate may apply if RCDs are not fitted. Ask for a no-obligation quote from a licensed electrical contractor before authorising installation and have the contractor give you an Electrical Safety Certificate afterwards. For more information visit www.commerce.wa.gov.au/rcd or call Energy Safety on 9422 5200.
You must ensure the rental property has smoke alarms as required by law. Most dwellings built since 1997 already comply with the requirement to have professionally installed smoke alarms. Where mains-powered (hard-wired) smoke alarms cannot be fitted (a common issue in multi-story buildings), approved battery-powered smoke alarms must be fitted before any new tenancy agreement commences. Mains-powered smoke alarms also contain rechargeable batteries so both kinds must be less than 10 years old (the whole alarm – not just the battery). The year of installation should be visible upon removal of the cover.
The yearly changing of batteries as they run out is likely to be considered household maintenance that the tenant may be responsible for if it is reasonably accessible by your particular tenant. However, the overall responsibility for ensuring there are working smoke alarms as required by the Building Regulations 2012 is the lessor’s. There are new requirements for new house and apartments built after 1 May 2014 where more than one smoke alarm is required to be installed. For more information visit the Building Commission (https://www.commerce.wa.gov.au/building-commission) and the Department of Fire and Emergency Services (www.dfes.wa.gov.au).
Security - Minimum Levels of Security
Residential tenancy laws in Western Australia have always required lessors to provide and maintain locks or other devices to ensure rental premises are ‘reasonably secure’. Minimum levels of security standards have now been defined – your rental property must meet these standards. These security measures include:
- Main entry door – either a deadlock or a key-lockable screen door to Australian Standard.
- All other external doors (excluding balcony doors where there is no access to the balcony except from inside the premises) – a deadlock or, if a deadlock cannot be fitted, a patio bolt lock or a key lockable security screen to Australian Standards
- Exterior windows (excluding windows fitted with security grilles to Australian standard, windows on, or above the second floor of the building and where the window is not easily accessible from outside the premises) – must be fitted with a lock that prevents the window from being opened from outside. Does not have to be a key lock.
- Main entry light – an electrical light that can illuminate the main entry to the premises must be fitted to or near the exterior of the premises and be operable from inside the premises.
A deadlock is defined by reference to Australian Standards as, “A bolt that is not actuated by a spring. When locked the bolt cannot be returned by end pressure”. Exclusions apply, including residential premises that are on the Register of Heritage Places, and land zoned for agricultural or rural use under a local planning scheme. The requirement for a light at the main entry does not apply if a strata company is responsible for the lighting to the main entry. For commercial reasons, you may want to provide additional security measures. For example, if you choose to have keyed window locks or a security alarm it will improve the value of the property and may help you retain tenants. Further information is available from the department’s website and in the fact sheet Minimum levels of security.
Curtain and blind cords
The mandatory requirements for corded internal window coverings were implemented due to the risk of strangulation to small children through some curtain and blind cord fittings. This product safety order has particular relevance for lessors, as blinds in rental properties may have been installed before the order was made, so pose a greater risk of strangulation. You should check that no cords or strings pose a hazard. The National Product Safety website provides information about bans and mandatory standards on particular products such as internal blinds, curtains and window fittings. Find out more at www.productsafety.gov.au.
Swimming pools and spas
Unless the written agreement states otherwise, the tenant is responsible for keeping the pool or spa and any associated equipment in a properly treated and clean condition and for observing all legal requirements relating to pools or spas during the period of the tenancy.
You are responsible for ensuring the pool is child safe and complies with pool safety standards. Local government authorities enforce requirements for swimming pool and spa enclosures. Under the 2012 Building Regulations the occupier of a property is also responsible for pool fencing; however, it is ultimately the lessor’s responsibility as the Act requires the lessor to be responsible for complying with building, health and safety laws. The Building Commission produces several publications that are available on its website at https://www.commerce.wa.gov.au/building-and-energy/swimming-spa-and-portable-pools about pool fencing laws.
At the start of the tenancy you should make sure the water is clean and chemically balanced and the pool and equipment are serviceable. You should also provide the necessary tools and equipment for day-to-day maintenance, such as vacuums, hoses, brushes and scoops. Before the tenancy begins, give your tenant clear instructions on how to use and care for the pool or spa and the equipment. A chemical reading check from your local pool shop will provide proof of the water balance at the start and end of the tenancy and a full ingoing pool report from a Professional company and handover are recommended.
Whilst this is not a legal obligation it’s the most highly recommended item a Landlord can have. Landlord insurance covers you for tenant-related losses. Things like loss of rent due to a tenant breaking their lease or being evicted, or damage caused to your contents by tenants, like drink spills on carpets. Other insurance may not cover these events, and very often, the bond won’t be enough to cover the associated costs.
Prescribed Lease & Forms
A prescribed form must be used and in addition, all content must remain on the form and not be deleted or changed. In WA the Residential Tenancy Lease is a prescribed form and in addition, the following shown below:
For more details on prescribed forms go to https://www.commerce.wa.gov.au/consumer-protection/rental-forms-and-notices
Bond money must be lodged with the Bond Administrator no later than 14 days after you have received the money from the tenant.
Property Condition Report
Mandatory Property Condition Reports (PCRs) were introduced in July 2013 in order to minimise the number of bond disputes. A lessor is required to prepare a PCR (which follows a prescribed format) within seven days of the tenant entering into occupation of the premises and to provide two copies of the report to the tenant.
Need more help?
For more details or assistance in understanding your obligations contact one of our Property Managers at Empire Estate Agents. Our office would love to assist you or alternatively if you require more information on the legislation you can also go to https://www.commerce.wa.gov.au/who-we-assist/landlord-lessor
About the author
With nearly a decade of experience in Real Estate, Daniela Nelson is part of the superhero Property Management Department at Empire Estate Agents in Victoria Park in Perth. As Head of Department Daniela works closely with her Property Owners, Tenants and clients on a daily basis. Her friendly professionalism combined with her excellent time management and organisational skills means that she is able to give clients a level of service second to none.
Need more information or can we help you with any other of your Property Management questions? Feel free to call and speak to us Empire Estate Agents to have a chat on (08) 9262 0400 or email
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