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Stairs not up to code? Risks?

Discussion in 'Repairs & Maintenance' started by wylie, 5th Aug, 2015.

  1. wylie

    wylie Moderator Staff Member

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    Does anybody have an idea where we stand if we buy a house that has had stairs replaced, but the spacing of the treads is shallow? The stairs don't need replacing, but it is likely were DIY and they "feel" wrong, too shallow.

    The railings are not to code but we could easily fix this by adding battens to stop a child falling through the wide openings.

    My understanding with old buildings is that unless we renovate, there is no requirement to bring things up to code, i.e. lots of units have lower than (current) code balcony railings, but they can be left alone unless work is done, at which time anything not to code needs to be upgraded.

    I'm just concerned about insurance if someone trips up the stairs and thinks they might "have a go".
     
  2. Chilliblue

    Chilliblue Well-Known Member

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    BCA Part 3.9.1.3 – Staircase Construction

    • Your staircase must have no less than 2 risers or have no more than 18 risers without a 750mm2 landing or rest area.
    • Each tread and riser must be of the same measurement within a single flight.
    • The riser opening if your staircase is of Open Rise Construction must not allow a 125mm sphere to pass through.
    • All treads and top nosing must have a slip-resistant finish or a non-slip strip system near the edge of each tread nosing.
    • A flight must not have more than 3 winders in a quarter landing section or 6 winders in a half landing section.
    • If a door in your home opens onto a staircase a landing is required unless the floor to floor dimension is less than 570mm. If the floor to floor is less than 570mm all that is required is a zero tread.

    AS 1657 – 4.4.4 Straight flights

    • Your staircase must have no more than 18 risers without a 750mm2 landing or rest area. The staircase should have more than 36 rises without a change of direction.
    [​IMG]

    If in doubt write a clause in the contract that the stairs have to be AS compliant and then have the building inspector take a look.
     
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  3. norwoodman

    norwoodman Well-Known Member

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    It depends on when the stairs were last altered. If you do replace or modify the stairs, then they will have to be brought in line with the requirements of AS1657 and the BCA. AS1657 is changing all the time, it was only updated about a year or so ago again. Most old houses (particularly the old highsets in Queensland) would not currently with the BCA or AS1657.
     
  4. jaybean

    jaybean Well-Known Member

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    Do you have the same sort of rules sheet for railings? I'm curious about what the rules are pertaining to: height of railings, minimum space between balustrades (and whether this is different for horizontal vs. vertical balustrades).

    UPDATE: I just did some research and it looks like the minimum distance between both vertical AND horizontal balustrades is 125mm, page 6: http://www.hpw.qld.gov.au/SiteCollectionDocuments/DeckBalconyAndWindowSafetyGuideline.pdf
     
    Last edited: 5th Aug, 2015
  5. Samten

    Samten Well-Known Member

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    Generally if
    Are you talking about decks mezzanines? Generaly if height is over 1Metre horizontal railings are a no no, climbing hazard for children. This includes timber and wire.
     
  6. jaybean

    jaybean Well-Known Member

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    Na I'm talking about stair cases.
     
  7. Chilliblue

    Chilliblue Well-Known Member

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    Just google the Australian Standards
     
  8. wylie

    wylie Moderator Staff Member

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    Thanks for the replies. I am more trying to find out about cases where an existing staircase is not to the Australian Standard (fairly sure) but is sturdy and safe. The only risk I can see is someone tripping due to it being a bit shallow compared to how a normal set of stairs "feels". The wider gaps in the railing will be fixed easily and we will do that.

    I recall being told years ago (is it still the case?) that something that is now up to current building code (eg railing height and shallow stairs in 1960s built unit blocks) don't need to be brought up to code until substantial work is done.

    It seems a shame to replace a well built set of stairs due to a shallow riser. It does "feel" funny to walk up but so do many stairs in -960s built unit blocks.

    I'm not concerned for tenants' sake as they are well built and strong but more wanting to protect our son from someone who might "have a go".
    I will post up a photo later today.
     
  9. mush

    mush Well-Known Member

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    Hi Wylie, you are correct in your assumption that the staircase does not comply to current standards and also correct that there are no requirements for you to correct this unless substantial works are undertaken.
    It would be sensible to limit the safety hazard risk as you are planning to do. The only other consideration to minimise your risk of litigation would be to research current health and safety legislation and act upon their guidelines by fixing a well placed sign or taking similar,practical measures as advised by them.
     
  10. vbplease

    vbplease Well-Known Member

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    The court will definitely rule in favour of the tenant if there was litigation.. Precedence has been set. That goes for glass, risk of fall from stairs/balcony, anti-slip floor surfaces, the list goes on.

    The requirement to upgrade a particular item may only be needed for compliance (certification) when undertaking substantial works, when its your own PPOR.. but for an IP the Landlord has a duty of care to make sure the property is safe..
     
  11. Pistonbroke

    Pistonbroke Well-Known Member

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    The BCA is now available free online but you will need to pay for copies of the Australian Standards.
     
  12. mush

    mush Well-Known Member

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    Bloody hell vbplease,that was an interesting read.
    If I am correct in assuming that that case,as the latter of the two,sets the precedence then the implications are enormous!
    As a building inspector we are governed by the current Australian Standards which clearly state that pre purchase inspections are not compliance based as it would obviously be nigh impossible to relate compliance to code standards of say 50 years ago,however there is a duty to warn.
    Prior to renting a property you only need a property condition report as far as I am aware which really only covers the cosmetic side of things and certainly an expert would have to be engaged to report on items such as safety glass or to a lesser extent Wylies' stairs.
    This could be the ultimate can of worms being opened here,for instance where do landlords stand on the likes of heritage properties where the feature glass may be protected as a non removable feature.
    Possibly only certain properties may be able to be rented out and only then after meeting stringent requirements,if not it seems to be unfair to penalise landlords who are most probably unaware of the hazards and accompanying penalties.....
     
  13. wylie

    wylie Moderator Staff Member

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    We've decided to just get them replaced. It is highly unlikely that there would be a problem, but if we are going to add balusters to each side plus the small landing, we might as well bite the bullet and replace the lot, or he is spending money on something that will be replaced sooner or later.

    I've experienced the legal system. I don't care to experience it again :eek: (or put our son at risk).

    Thanks for all the replies.
     
  14. jins13

    jins13 Well-Known Member

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    I have the same issue which the inspection report said the stairs and handrails was not compliant with the regulations. In the process of replacing the stuff from bunnings for the stairs and handrail. It needed to be changed anway.
     
  15. Terry_w

    Terry_w Solicitor, Finance Broker, CTA Business Member

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    Note in that case that they had repaired the glass and the repairing didn't bring it up to standard.
    Also note that the real estate agent was made to pay 75% of the judgment. This is why it is a good idea to use an agent!

    Hunt v Roads and Traffic Authority of NSW & Anor [2010] NSWDC 88
     
  16. jaybean

    jaybean Well-Known Member

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    Why the agent?
     
  17. Terry_w

    Terry_w Solicitor, Finance Broker, CTA Business Member

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    They arranged for the repairs.
     
  18. jaybean

    jaybean Well-Known Member

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    I see thanks
     
  19. Terry_w

    Terry_w Solicitor, Finance Broker, CTA Business Member

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