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Repairs needed? What am I liable for if tenants are injured?

Discussion in 'Property Management' started by bread_boy, 28th Jun, 2016.

  1. bread_boy

    bread_boy Well-Known Member

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    Hi Forumites,

    Just wanted some opinions:

    Settled on a house about 2 months ago. Ex-houso highset property in Moreton Bay Council region. Tenants have been in there for a few weeks and all is well (for now).

    PM, however, is pushing to carry out repairs (approx $2k) on front & rear external stairs - installing 3 additional rails to each set as it may be considered 'unsafe' in its current condition.
    What I don't get is QLD Housing has been renting this thing out since the dawn of time and they didn't have an issue with the handrails, so why should I?
    Is the PM looking out for my best interests or just trying to cover their backside?

    If I refused to carry out the repairs what am I liable for if the tenant has an injury on my property?
    Is there any type of insurance I can take out to cover against this?

    Any help is appreciated!
     
  2. wombat777

    wombat777 Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    Basic principle is that if an event such an injury is reasonably foreseeable and you don't do anything about it then you are liable. There is also a cost test. Google the term "so far as is reasonably practicable". The fact that you know about it would make you more negligent if an accident were to occur. The agent is protecting themselves by recommending that you have the issues dealt with (edit - and looking after your best interests, it seems they are a responsible/professional agent).

    I bought a property in the same area last year. It had similar issues. I had a new railing added to the front steps and a railing and some step treads on the rear steps repaired/replaced. I also had anti-slip tape added to the rear steps. I also had electrical and gas safety inspections done (as well as repairs/rectification) due to issues identified in the building and pest inspection.

    You can take out landlord insurance which generally includes legal liability cover, however I think you would be on shaky ground with a claim if there is evidence that you knew about an issue that could easily contribute to an accident (i.e. it was reasonably foreseen ).

    NB - much of my work role involves safety and risk and hence I'm reasonably familiar with the legislation.
     
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  3. bread_boy

    bread_boy Well-Known Member

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    Thanks Wombat.

    But the house was owned and rented out by the QLD govt for 20+ years without any change to the stairs (they are still in good condition). If it was 'safe' enough for them, would it be any different for me?
    The PM is saying the gaps in the railing are too large.
    Should I get a safety inspector/professional to confirm? The B&P report shows the stairs are 'generally acceptable' however this may only refer to the condition and not the safety aspect.

    stairs1.JPG stairs2.JPG
     
  4. wylie

    wylie Moderator Staff Member

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    ... because the government has in house lawyers and also has deeper pockets than you.

    If someone slips and decides to go to a "no win, no fee" lawyer you are up for a world of pain.

    Our son bought a house with reasonably new steps and a handrail not to code. He had no reason to change anything, but we pushed him to replace the stairs and bring the rail to code. Cost $2K... peace of mind... priceless.

    Do you really want to risk having the angst of fighting someone who can go to a "no win, no pay" lawyer and have to defend yourself, all to save $2K.

    I'd be doing it.
     
  5. bread_boy

    bread_boy Well-Known Member

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    can't argue with that
     
  6. Marg4000

    Marg4000 Well-Known Member

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    What the previous owner did is irrelevant.

    You have been advised of a problem, and have two choices.

    One is to do the repairs.

    The other option is to have someone qualified certify that the steps and railings comply with current building requirements. This SHOULD protect you, but do you want to possibly fight a court case?

    Your insurance will not cover you if you choose not to act on a known issue.

    And from what you say, yes, the PM is trying to protect you. Those front stairs look dangerous to me.
    Marg
     
  7. wombat777

    wombat777 Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    Ensure that you have railings put on both sides as well.

    Building codes have changed since the house was constructed so whilst it would have passed years ago, it wouldn't now.

    Whenever you buy an older property you should be budgeting for work of this nature.

    Make sure you get a depreciation report done or adjusted. It will help with covering the cost (admittedly over many years).
     
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  8. Terry_w

    Terry_w Solicitor, Finance Broker, CTA Business Member

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    The agent has pushed the blame solely on you now. If a tenant gets injured because of your negligence in not repairing some fault that you openly know about then your insurance will not cover you so you will wear the full costs of someone suing you.

    A case where the tenant tripped on some frayed carpet resulting an injured back ended up with a $800,000 judgement against the owner.
     
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  9. Ghoti

    Ghoti Well-Known Member

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    Numbers for the government are different then for individuals, with governments generally "self insuring". The cost of rectifying 1000 sets of stairs may exceed the costs of a couple of injury claims, whereas for you I doubt $2k would go far in yhe event of a claim...
     
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  10. markson

    markson Well-Known Member

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    I had a similar issue when purchasing a house. Building Inspector advised me of a trip hazard on the front stairs. Basically I could of let it go but because of the paper trail with evidence that I was advised of the issue if I didn't fix it I could be held liable.

    Think about this way... how would you feel standing up in court and being asked why you didn't fix a safety issue that was brought to you attention. All this while a little old lady sits in a wheelchair with a broken hip counting the small fortune she is about to get $$$


    EDIT -> for the record... I fixed the trip hazard. Little old ladies are safe
     
  11. Joynz

    Joynz Well-Known Member

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    Legally, it is likely compliant regarding the building code under which it was assessed. It doesn't have to be brought up to modern standards because it was compliant when built.

    You can actually check it against the building code (NCC) yourself. It is freely available online. I think maximum gap between balusters is 150mm and the NCC sets this out, along with requirements for rails. Usually a balustrade is required over a metre high.

    If it were your own popr then you would likely leave as is. However, imagine if a child got its head stuck or fell down the side without a railing.

    It's not just about the money, it is about the human cost.
     
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  12. bread_boy

    bread_boy Well-Known Member

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    All valid points. Thanks everyone. Everyone has made it simple for me.
    Saving me alot of $$ and what's left of my sanity also.

    Virtual drinks for all! :D

    drinks.PNG
     
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  13. Joynz

    Joynz Well-Known Member

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    So, what's the verdict? Are you going to fix it or not?
     
  14. bread_boy

    bread_boy Well-Known Member

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    Yep, gonna go ahead and fix it. PM is already holding funds for half the job. Just have to wait until the contractor is free.
     
  15. Luke T

    Luke T Well-Known Member

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    Good choice !
    Once you have had a building inspection too ,once a claim is made against you -they can go back to this ,and if you were told they are not to code ,you are liable .Its sometimes pretty harsh ,but worth covering yrself.BTW-get both sides done at the same time
     
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  16. Miss_D

    Miss_D Active Member

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    Hi bread boy,
    Awesome you are fixing it. I can understand why your pm is concerned and why they were pushing to be fixed.

    There was a case from 3-5years ago where a child fell through a deck and died at yeppoon, near rockhampton qld. Im pretty certain There were new laws and recommendations brought in, in qld via the coroner, in order to prevent more deaths, because this was a rental situation and the tennant had advised the owner of the deck. So this is the why your pm wanted it fixed.
     
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  17. Joynz

    Joynz Well-Known Member

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    In that case, the father was holding the seven week old baby, his foot went through a board on the deck and he fell forward. The baby fell over the balcony two meters to the tiles below and died.

    This was a case where the deck had not been maintained, though some work had been done in response to the tenants complaints on a small part of the deck.
     
  18. JenW

    JenW Well-Known Member

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    Oh my god, that's horrible Joynz :(
     
  19. wombat777

    wombat777 Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    I very much question the morals of any landlord that wouldn't pay the cost of properly implemented repairs. Partly fixing an issue or doing a bogey repair is as bad as not doing a repair.
     
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  20. Marg4000

    Marg4000 Well-Known Member

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    Sadly, it is landlords like this that contribute to generalisations about ruthless landlords and support tenant vs. landlord hostility.

    If there is a genuine problem, it is a legal and moral obligation to have it fixed promptly.
    Marg