Health and Safety in Residential Property Investment
Healthy and Safety | Reading Time: 3 Minutes | March 2021
Health and safety in residential property investment
The Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 came into force in April 2016. Under the Act, landlords are responsible for ensuring the health and safety of anyone who is involved with or affected by work undertaken on their investment property.
Why does the Act affect landlords?
The Act covers all types of businesses, and every residential landlord owning an investment property is considered a business or ‘person conducting a business or undertaking’ (PCBU).
The obligations imposed by the Act are also imposed on company directors, trustees, people holding positions comparable to company directors and anyone else who held a position that allowed them to exercise influence over the management of the PCBU. Simply put this means that not only the landlord, but family members, solicitors, accountants or anybody else listed as a director or trustee for the business could be held responsible for breaches of the Act.
What penalties could landlords face under the Act?
Should a landlord/business fail to meet their obligations under the Act and face prosecution the maximum fines or penalties are now up to $3 million for a PCBU and $600,000 or five-year imprisonment for an individual or officer of a PCBU. Ignorance of the law is no defence. The Act also prevents PCBUs from insuring against fines, so while indemnity insurance may cover any court costs the actual fines must be paid by the PCBU or the individual.
How does the Act work in practice?
In practical terms, the landlord is required to ensure that the property provided a safe and healthy environment for tenants and as far as reasonably practicable the health and safety of workers engaged in work on the property. This means that every time a contractor is sent to the property they must be informed of any Health and Safety issues that are present at the property, such as a dangerous dog, or difficult access. It also means that landlords have a duty to ensure that the contractor undertaking any maintenance is competent and appropriately qualified to do that work.
The end of DIY maintenance?
The Act greatly reduced situations where a landlord can safely ‘DIY’ in respect of maintenance, unless the landlord or person carrying out the work is fully qualified for that job and their qualifications are current.
Another aspect of the law for landlords to take note of is that when they have been made aware of issues at a property, they must have taken all reasonably practicable steps to deal with issues in a competent manner. For example, if they notice at a routine inspection or a tenant notifies them that some boards on the deck are rotten, they will not be able to simply put cones around the boards so no one stands on the rotten wood.
As PCBUs, landlords and property managers owe a duty of care to ensuring the health and safety of their tenants, contractors and any other people affected by work on their property.