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"Threatening" email from PM re: smoke alarms (VIC)

Discussion in 'Property Management' started by James Bond, 13th Jul, 2015.

  1. James Bond

    James Bond Well-Known Member

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    Received this communication from my PM today. 2 items of concern -

    - I am not clear on whether I am legally genuinely at risk here or whether this is another way for the PM to increase their take from me.
    - I am not clear on whether the PM can legally take my non-response as acceptance and spend this money without my permission.

    "As XXXXX Real Estate can no longer carry any possible litigation that may occur in the event of a fire, We ask you to please submit the below form, by 17th July 2015.

    NOTE: If the form is not returned by the due date, we will organise the annual maintenance on your behalf. This will not only protect you from possible litigation if a fire does occur, but it will safeguard your asset, rental income and your tenant’s lives.

    This is all inclusive $99 fully tax deductible, with unlimited visits throughout the year and inclusive of any alarm replacement with photoelectric alarms, when alarms are expired, faulty or malfunctioning (Inclusive of electrician labour for hard wired alarms).

    This is Highly recommended for you to participate in this service and service reports will assist with your landlord insurances and duty of care.

    In Victoria, The VBA states this is the Landlord's responsibility to ensure smoke alarms are installed and kept in working condition.
    "

    JB
     
  2. Terry_w

    Terry_w Solicitor, Finance Broker, CTA Business Member

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    There are laws against these sorts of things...Here is my offer, if I don't hear from you i will take it you have accepted... stuff.

    Write back to your agent and say
    "I was alarmed by your recent email regarding smoke alarms. I therefore have decided to move agencies but am willing to stay if you reduce your charges by 50%. If I have no heard back from you by 5pm today I will assume you accept."

    Also amend your agency agreement so that they cannot enter these contracts on your behalf.
     
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  3. WestOz

    WestOz Well-Known Member

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    ? Doesn't appear threatening or a money grab to me, they have a duty of care, advising their situation, you have a right of reply, if they don't like not having the service both parties have a decision to make.

    If its a legislated requirement in Vic $99pa seems reasonable for peace of mind provided the service provider is genuine and not covered by T&Cs if something goes wrong, saves organising something else.
     
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  4. OC1

    OC1 Well-Known Member

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    Yes it is i believe.
     
  5. wombat777

    wombat777 Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    Agree with @WestOz, it is a duty of care situation. The PM could have been more polite about it though.

    Many PMs would use boiler-plate correspondence templates that could do with some fine-tuning to make them more polite.
     
  6. Beelzebub

    Beelzebub Well-Known Member

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    The 'if you don't respond we take it as acceptance' would have definitely got my back up. i like Terries idea?
     
  7. WestOz

    WestOz Well-Known Member

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    Yep, possibly formatted by a 16yr old receptionist doing her best to please, or English 2nd language.
    I considered this however having been on both sides of the fence;
    The agent has initiated, the client has a right of response.
    The right person responsible either does or doesn't receive the correspondence, wife may not have relayed etc.
    Very busy when reading it, put it aside for later, forget all about it.
    Many other scenarios....
    Down the track something unfortunate happens and the client is asking why it wasn't followed up, why they weren't reminded etc.
    When employed/contracted to act in someone's best interest "Sometimes" within reason its better to just do, followed up with completed correspondence, statement etc.
    If the relationship can't work that way ??
     
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  8. S.T

    S.T Well-Known Member

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    I'm not selling anything
    If an agent gave me this letter, I'd be taking my business elsewhere.
     
  9. LATS

    LATS Active Member

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    My VIC PM sent me similar letter & form, for gas heating services. I haven't respond back.

    I understand it's the owners responsibility to ensure safety but is there a clause that says I must do annual check and provide cert? Any VIC PM on this forum who could pls advise?

    In NSW I've arranged these $99 per year checks and replacement service for alarms but haven't evcounter gas heating/cooking ones before until I got my VIC property (which says $99 per item!).
     
  10. wylie

    wylie Moderator Staff Member

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    If you don't respond would it mean the PM agency takes on some of the risk in the event of a tragedy? If so that would explain their need for a "yes" or "no" answer. It should be worded better though.

    it has always been our job as self-managing landlord to check (and document the checking of) smoke alarms (and onus still is ultimately on us I believe) and this is one job we decided to outsource due to insurance concerns.

    I guess property managers can get it wrong (like we did) insofar as we did all the checks, dragged ladders to properties to change batteries (PITA really having to take a ladder) but still didn't realise some alarms had passed their use by date.

    That oversight by us was found by Smoke Alarm Solutions at the initial check and made me realise we may have dodged a bullet. All my care and regular checks and I didn't know to check the use by date on the alarm. We could have lost everything if there had been a fire as I believe our insurance would likely have declined to pay if the alarm failed due to being out of date (even though regularly tested).

    Perhaps the insurer would not do that, but my experience with insurers tells me otherwise and it is not a risk I want to take.

    In such a case, is the PM is put at risk of being sued (or the agency) I can see why they want to refuse to take the risk.
     
    Last edited: 14th Jul, 2015
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  11. Chilliblue

    Chilliblue Well-Known Member

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    Smoke alarms must be installed in all Victorian homes, units, flats and townhouses. Landlords are responsible for fitting smoke alarms in rented properties.

    Legislation that you must adhere to are:
    Building Code of Australia (BCA)
    Australian Standard AS 3786-1993
    Australian Standard AS1670.6-1997
    The Residential Tenancy Act 1997 and
    Common Law (Responsible Stewardship/Duty of Care) – Manufacturer’s Instructions & State Government Recommendations.

    On saying that, the agency has taken a bog standard letter from the contractor that they use (and receive an % of fees from) to undertake the testing and if that arrived at my doorstop my answer would be to take my business elsewhere.

    No agency can opt you into any program/works/systems without your prior approval and to give you only 3 days yo respond is not professional.

    As Terry said, write to the licensee who issued the correspondence and inform them of how you feel as a client of theirs.
     
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  12. Gockie

    Gockie I'm an ISTP-A female, so I might be a bit quirky! Premium Member

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    Smoke alarms going out of date? I didn't know that was possible. All I note is that they recommend changing batteries like you change your clocks for daylight savings. That's a scary thought for landlords.
     
  13. wylie

    wylie Moderator Staff Member

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    It isn't a "recommendation" though. It is a requirement. And for an IP it could put a landlord at huge risk if forgotten or ignored.
     
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  14. WestOz

    WestOz Well-Known Member

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    We can only make assumptions, we all lead busy lives, I've certainly received in the past;
    "Dear ____, we first contacted you regarding (this matter) 3mths ago on the __/__/__ with no reply, we again attempted to contact you via phone and in writing 4 weeks ago on the __/__/__ with no response, blah blah blah...

    In the end the agent has a duty of care etc, perhaps they recently realised they've overlooked this important issue which they now consider a must to rectify, not only for themselves but all involved, their client/s, tenants young and old.
    Perhaps using the one outsourced service provider streamlines administration/efficiency, provides greater certainty that legislative requirement is covered.

    I'm sure the agent would have something in place that if the owners wish to arrange their own professional inspection/certification all they require is updated docs (evidence) for their file.
     
  15. Chilliblue

    Chilliblue Well-Known Member

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    If I remember correctly, smoke detectors expire after about 10 years or 87,000 hours of service.
     
  16. Hanison

    Hanison Well-Known Member

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    Smoke alarms have a 10yr life expectancy from manufacture date.
    You will usually find the replacement date in the small print on the back of the unit.

    In QLD in recent years there has been multiple house fires where entire families have lost their lives due to inadequate or not in use smoke alarms.

    I'm in no way affiliated with smoke alarm companies but as a landlord I would hate to think of what the repercussions would be if a property I owned burnt to the ground along with everyone in it and it was found that none, or inoperable smoke alarms were installed.

    $99 pa is cheap mitigation I believe.

    For the record I think the OP's letter is a generic form sent out by the smoke alarm testing companies to PM's. Who then pass it on to non conforming clients.

    I received the exact same word for word a few years ago for a couple of my properties.
     
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  17. Gockie

    Gockie I'm an ISTP-A female, so I might be a bit quirky! Premium Member

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    Good to know its 10 years
     
  18. Perp

    Perp Well-Known Member

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    Would the agency have a valid come-back if they have an agreement authorising them to undertake repairs/maintenance of this magnitude ($99) without even having to discuss with the landlord?

    I was thinking that they wouldn't have a leg to stand if the individual management agreement requires authorisation for all repairs/maintenance at this level... but even then, I've had my PM email me saying "The tap is leaking. We're going to go ahead and send a plumber if we don't hear from you within 24 hours". Is that acceptable in the context of already having a management agreement in existence?

    If not, then my PM was naughty!

    If so, then how is this - the smoke alarm situation - different?
     
  19. SeafordSunshine

    SeafordSunshine Well-Known Member

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    Your smoke alarm will have a use by date printed on it, you can see the date when you change the batteries,
    Seriously though, I think it is good practice to get a sparky in annually, and if you have gas annually , that as well, personally I don't go in for companies who 'check' other licensed trademan's work, (Unless its a new development.)
    I hope this helps
     
  20. Pistonbroke

    Pistonbroke Well-Known Member

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    Most of the legislation relates to the installation of a smoke detection system only, not maintenance. The lease (NSW) provides that the owner must replace batteries at the start of the tenancy agreement.

    In Victoria there is also the requirement for carbon monoxide detectors/testing where gas appliances are fitted (I don't cover Victoria).

    Ionising smoke detectors have a replacement date, optical detectors don't expire but are more expensive.