All landlords are responsible for ensuring their property meets health and safety legislation.
Landlords must also provide and maintain locks and all other security devices to ensure the property is reasonably secure.
These are part of every tenancy agreement. Landlords who do not comply are breaching their property management obligations and contract.
Tradespeople entry to property
It is illegal for landlords to stop tradespeople from entering their property to carry out maintenance or repairs required for health or safety reasons. If they do, they risk discontinuing their gas, electricity, water, and telecommunications supply.
Pest and vermin
Who is responsible for the removal or extermination of pests or vermin? It all depends on whether:
- pests or vermin were present when the tenant moved in
- an issue with the property has allowed pests or vermin to enter and infestation to develop
- the tenant’s upkeep of the property contributed to the problem.
Landlords are generally responsible for pest and vermin issues at the start of the tenancy. It is part of a landlord’s responsibility to provide a clean, habitable property for a tenant to reside in.
Tenants are responsible for getting rid of pests and vermin if the issue arises after moving in and if the issue is caused by the tenant’s activities or lack of cleanliness. Does the tenant keep pets on the property? Have they removed rubbish? Any of these factors can attract cockroaches, ants or mice.
If a tenant believes they did not cause an infestation due to their lifestyle or cleanliness, they may not be held responsible for pest eradication.
The property’s history is another factor that could determine who is responsible. Were previous issues recorded in the condition report? Are these factors beyond the tenant’s control? If there is a dispute over who is responsible for pest removal, landlords and tenants can seek a dispute resolution service.
Mould can cause respiratory illness and serious health problems.
Wet or moist areas lacking adequate ventilation are breeding grounds for mould. Common places for it to grow are wallpaper, walls, ceilings, bathroom tiles, insulation material, carpets, and wood.
If moisture accumulates in a structure, mould will grow. There are many types of mould, and all have the potential to cause health problems.
One of the minimum property standards for a residence to be considered fit to live in is adequate ventilation.
Who is responsible? It depends on how the mould developed:
- If moisture built up because the landlord did not repair a defective window in a reasonable timeframe or a property did not have adequate ventilation, then the landlord is responsible for fixing the problem.
- The tenant might be responsible if mould developed during the tenancy because the tenants never opened any windows or used ventilation fans in the bathroom.
If mould develops around the start of the tenancy, it may be considered pre-existing damage. All condition reports should contain a dedicated section on mould which should be noted by all parties within the report.
Even if mould appears on the condition report, landlords must ensure they keep the property in an otherwise good condition.
Tenants must notify the landlord or agent immediately if they see any signs of mould or damp developing during their tenancy.
If the mould causes a danger to the health of tenants or other occupants’, this is considered an urgent repair.
Working smoke alarms are crucial for alerting people to fires in their homes.
Landlords must ensure they install at least one smoke alarm in a hallway outside a bedroom on each floor of a rented home. Smoke and heat alarms must be working and cannot be tampered with.
Tenants must notify their landlord or agent immediately if they discover a smoke alarm is not working, even if the battery needs changing.
For more information on fire safety and fire escape plans, please visit Fire and Rescue VIC
The Australian Gas Association stipulates that all gas water heaters should be serviced regularly by approved service agents. Landlords should also ensure:
- bathroom and kitchen heaters have unobstructed ventilation
- flue pipes are free from obstructions and holes
- there is no evidence of soot deposits from heaters
- there is no discolouration on or around the heater & flue.
You can contact the Master Plumbers Association for further information.
Windows and balcony safety
In Victoria, all residential buildings must be fitted with safety devices to ensure a maximum window opening of less than 12.5cm.
These window safety devices need to withstand a force of 250 newtons. This is equal to 25 kilograms of force. If the safety device can be unlocked or easily disengaged, the landlord must fit it with a child-resistant mechanism. Landlords are also obligated to monitor or enforce the use of these window safety devices.
Swimming pools and spas
If a rental property comes with a swimming pool, landlords need to meet the Swimming Pools Act 1992, which requires most pools to be surrounded by a fence that separates the pool from the house.
When signing the agreement, the landlord or agent must provide a valid certificate of compliance or occupation certificate. It must have been issued in the last three years. However, it is not required if the property is in strata or a community scheme with more than two lots.
Locks and security devices
Landlords are obligated to provide and maintain locks to ensure the property is safe and secure. They must maintain any security devices. What is deemed reasonably secure will vary in different situations.
A landlord or tenant may alter or add locks and other security devices during the tenancy. However, the other party must consent unless it is a reasonable excuse to do so.
The following constitutes a reasonable excuse for altering, removing or adding a lock or other security device without consent:
- in an emergency
- in compliance with order via the Victorian Civil Administrative Tribunal (VCAT)
- where a cotenant’s contract has been terminated
- where a tenant or other occupant is prohibited from accessing the property by an Apprehended Violence Order (AVO), in this case, a copy of the changed lock or other security devices must be given to the remaining tenant within 7 days.
Changing security devices or locks without consent or a reasonable excuse is an offence and is in breach of the tenancy agreement.
Likewise, tenants must communicate their intention to change the locks with their landlord or agent before doing so. If they do, they must pay for the cost of the new locks.
Did you know that 40% of house fires in Victorian homes each year are caused by electrical faults and faulty electrical appliances?
Any electrical fault in a rental property before or during a tenancy would be considered an urgent repair. Tenants must notify their landlord or agent immediately to make timely repair arrangements.
A property condition report must include:
* visible electrical hazards (e.g. damaged electricity outlet sockets, loose live wiring or sparking power points)
* a tally of safety switches and their functionality. Only tested devices will determine this.
Please visit the Electrical Safety page on the VIC Government website for further information.
Five holiday security tips for landlords and tenants
You might already know that most burglaries happen during the holiday period.
According to the VIC Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research, Christmas Eve is the peak time for property offences, including burglaries and break-ins, with 9 am and 6 pm the peak time for violations.
If you plan to go away during the holiday period, ensure your home is protected. Here are our top five holiday security tips for landlords and tenants:
- HOLD OR REDIRECT YOUR MAIL
Do not leave a stack of parcels on your doorstep or an overflowing mailbox. This shows you are absent. To reduce any chance of theft or burglary, suspend regular deliveries, like newspapers and magazines and put a hold on or divert your mail to a trusted person for the duration of your holiday.
- CONCEAL YOUR VALUABLES
Did you know most burglaries aren’t pre-planned? Before you go away, conceal your valuables. Thieves may be tempted by jewellery, cash, gifts and electronics, so keep them out of sight.
Be careful of how you dispose of gift and appliance packaging. An empty TV box outside your home may signal that there’s a new television inside your house.
- CLEAN UP THE YARD
Remove items such as ladders and crowbars that could be used to break in. These should all be stored securely in a garage.
Additionally, overgrown hedges and trees create perfect hiding spots for burglars, so keep them trimmed and sparse. A tidy yard will also give your home a lived-in look, indicating that the property is occupied.
- LIGHT IT UP
There’s nothing burglars hate more than being under a spotlight. Well-lit areas and motion-activated lights around your home’s exterior are great burglar deterrents. As for the interior of your home, try to purchase and set timers on internal lights and clock radios to create an illusion that you are home.
- KEEP YOUR TRAVELS OFF SOCIAL MEDIA
It’s common for celebrities to have their homes broken into based on their social media coverage and presence. It’s no different for the rest of us. Don’t let burglars select you based on your posts informing your followers that you are away.
Remember these five holiday security tips for landlords and tenants:
- Hold or redirect your mail
- Conceal your valuables
- Clean up the yard
- Light it up
- Keep your travels off social media
How to Ensure Your Tenants Are Safe
Just as a landlord expects their tenants to pay their rent, they expect a landlord to provide safe housing. This is not just security against the threat of a break-in but also the integrity of the property structure along with home maintenance. Certain safety features are required by law, and showing your tenants that their safety is a priority helps build trust. Here are our top tips for ensuring your tenants are safe and secure while living in your property.
Deter potential criminals from breaking in with adequate external lighting. Install motion-sensor lights at the front and rear. Porch lights are also a great idea. Adequate interior lighting is just as important because having functional lights inside the house helps illuminate places an intruder may hide. It also allows tenants to see where they’re walking to avoid potential falls or injuries and legal implications.
Ensure all doors, including main and screen doors, are fitted with locks. Deadbolts on main doors are an added precaution to avoid a break-in. Solid doors made of wood or steel rather than hollow doors or doors with glass that are easily broken are preferable. Chain locks, peepholes and intercom systems are other preferable ways to increase safety and security around home entrances.
Criminals can always find a way inside a multi-story structure or a ground-level home; it doesn’t matter. All windows must have working locks as well as external security screens. Mesh fly screens are easy to rip and remove, so replace them with newer, more secure screens.
Installing a security system may seem excessive, but it is the most effective way of deterring criminal activity. The choice of DIY security devices is infinite, but choose one that’s easy to install and remotely accessible. Like every fixture on your premises, you should regularly check alarm systems.
Remove obstructions from entrances
Trees and overgrown gardens are great for privacy but poor for safety and may put your tenant’s safety at risk. Bushes offer a place to hide, so consider removing any large shrubs or unnecessary structures around the doorway.
Fully functional smoke alarms are one of the most important home safety features to install. Aside from being a good idea, it is a legal requirement in every rental home. Smoke alarm compliance and maintenance services are readily accessible. An expert can come to the property twice a year to test, clean and replace any smoke alarms while supplying a Certificate of Compliance. This confirms that the smoke alarm compliance company is responsible for the risk, protecting you and the tenant from any liability.
Structural and appliance maintenance
Along with protection against crime, home maintenance is equally important for safety reasons. Conduct routine safety checks on all internal and external structures, and ensure any repairs are addressed promptly. For damage and structural integrity, you should examine ceilings, roofs, walls, floors, stairs, verandahs, and landscapes. Permanent appliances like ovens, power outlets, light fittings, heaters and dryers must also be checked and maintained. These are all potentially hazardous if not kept incorrectly functioning.
It is wise to keep records of every safety inspection, including any notes, dates or photos. Every person has a right to feel secure in their home. As a landlord, some of this responsibility is on you to uphold.