Residential Tenancies Regulation 2019

Submission cover sheet

  • Name of organisation or individual making this submission

    Detector Inspector Pty Ltd

  • Authorised delegate/contact person

    Belinda Ristevski

  • Position

    HR Business Partner

  • Organisation

    Detector Inspector Pty Ltd

Questions on possible options

  1. Is a 2 December 2019 commencement date for the proposed Regulation and Amendment Act reasonable for industry participants to adjust to the changes? If not, why?

    Yes

  2. Is a mid-2020 date appropriate for commencement of the new minimum standards for rental properties? If not, why?

    Yes

  3. Are there other terms in the proposed Regulation that should be defined so that their meaning is clear?

    This question is not applicable to our submission.

  4. Does the new standard form of tenancy agreement clearly define the rights and obligations of both landlords and tenants?

    We submit that more clarity is required with respect to landlords obligations for the installation, maintenance and repair of smoke alarms. Further detailed below.

  5. Are there other ways that the standard form of tenancy agreement can be improved? If so, how?

    This question is not applicable to our submission.

  6. Are there any other terms that should be prohibited from being included in a residential tenancy agreement?

    This question is not applicable to our submission.

  7. Do you agree that these terms should not be excluded or modified by a fixed term agreement of 20 years or more?

    This question is not applicable to our submission.

  8. Are there other terms in the Act that should not be excluded or modified in fixed term agreements of 20 years or more?

    This question is not applicable to our submission.

  9. Do you think that the proposed condition report is easy to use?

    This question is not applicable to our submission.

  10. Should any other features be included in the condition report to help accurately describe the condition of the premises?

    This question is not applicable to our submission.

  11. For the material fact listed under clause 8(f), are there other instances where a landlord could become aware that the property has been used to manufacture drugs?

    This question is not applicable to our submission.

  12. Are the prescribed timeframes for disclosing each of the material facts listed under clause 8, still appropriate? If not, why?

    This question is not applicable to our submission.

  13. Are the proposed material facts listed under clause 8 too broad or too narrow? If yes, why?

    This question is not applicable to our submission.

  14. Are there other types of material facts that a landlord or landlord’s agent should disclose to a prospective tenant?

    This question is not applicable to our submission.

  15. Are clauses 9, 10 and 11 still appropriate? If so, why?

    This question is not applicable to our submission.

  16. Are there any other charges that should apply to social housing tenants?

    This question is not applicable to our submission.

  17. Are there other water efficiency measures that should be prescribed? If so, why?

    This question is not applicable to our submission.

  18. Is the newly drafted clause 13 appropriate? If not, why?

    This question is not applicable to our submission.

  19. Do the requirements appropriately balance tenant safety with administrative costs to landlords and agents? If not, why?

    It is our main submission that the proposed Regulations do not go far enough with respect to ensuring tenant safety. Specifically, the new Regulations should provide even greater safety measures with respect to prescribing responsibility to landlords for the installation, maintenance and repair of smoke alarms than currently exists, or than has been proposed. There are a number of Coronial Inquests with findings and recommendations relevant to the topic of smoke alarms installation, maintenance and repair in residential buildings. The proposed Regulations would appear to ignore some of these findings. For example, relevant to the NSW jurisdiction is the Inquest into the death of Miata Jibba, findings dated 6 July 2018. In her findings, Magistrate Harriet Grahame, Deputy State Coroner, made various recommendations, which basically summarised herein provides for the following: 1. That the Residential Tenancies Regulations be amended to require landlords to replace batteries in smoke alarms at the beginning of each tenancy, or at least annually. 2. That consideration be given to introducing a system whereby a Compliance Certificate is provided as part of the residential tenancy agreement for all residential dwellings, certifying that the rental property has a valid smoke alarm(s), which comply with the current regulatory requirements. Her Honour stated that the certificate should include details to the effect that the smoke alarm(s): - has been properly installed in the correct location - has been tested and cleaned in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions - is working effectively - contains an attachment with a diagram of the location of each smoke alarm inside the rental property. A number of other highly relevant recommendations were made by Her Honour, however we will address these two for now as they are arguably the most basic to implement immediately, and provide at least a basic level of safety for tenants. The proposed Regulations address Her Honour’s first recommendation in part, and only address the second recommendation in so far as including a section in the Condition Report for smoke alarms. We submit that the second recommendation needs to be addressed in the Regulations themselves, making it mandatory that smoke alarms be checked and serviced at least annually. Our experience in servicing smoke alarms in rental properties for close to 15 years provides us with unique insight relevant to the matters above. Detector Inspector commenced providing an annual smoke alarm maintenance service to landlords (engaged through property managers and real estate agencies) in 2005. Today, we have more than 190,000 properties nationally enrolled in our annual service. We submit that legislation needs to be more prescriptive in relation to requiring landlords to be responsible for the installation, service and repair of smoke alarms in rental properties. Otherwise, in our experience, landlords ignore their duty of care, or do not carry it out as frequently, or as diligently, as would reasonably be required to keep tenants safe. Reviewing our own client statistics, in states such as NSW, Victoria, SA and Tasmania, while all landlords are offered our service, just under 50% choose to take up annual smoke alarm servicing. The problem we have found is that, on the very first visit to a property newly enrolled into our smoke alarm service, about 33% have non-compliant smoke alarms. A smoke alarm can be non-compliant for a number of reasons other than the alarm itself, or battery, not working. Reasons include where it is located (according to the National Construction Code); failing a decibel test; or being an out-of-date alarm. Additionally, we find properties that do not have smoke alarms fitted in the required space that would allow a sleeping tenant to be woken and safely escape from a fire. In Queensland, where the legislation is more prescriptive and the onus on landlords clearer, our client statistics indicate a much higher take-up rate of service to over 80%. (As we are only new to the Queensland market, we defer to anecdotal evidence from our Queensland competitors, which puts this figure at over 90%). From our experience and evidence two things are clear. First, that the legislation needs to be more prescriptive in ensuring that landlords are meeting their responsibility to install smoke alarms in residential accommodation or premises in locations that would allow a sleeping tenant to be woken and safely escape from a fire, and to maintain and repair smoke alarms, on a regular and ongoing basis. Specifically, that residential accommodation or premises should be fitted with working smoke alarms, on or near the ceiling, in the following locations at a minimum: (a) in each bedroom (we suggest this in additional to current regulatory requirements); (b) on any storey containing bedrooms: (i) between each part of the dwelling containing bedrooms and the remainder of the dwelling; and (ii) where bedrooms are served by a hallway, in that hallway, and (c) any other storey not containing bedrooms.  Further, that all such required smoke alarms should be checked to be working correctly and serviced at the commencement of each new tenancy and thereafter annually, including the annual replacement of any removable non-lithium batteries. Her Honour also wrote (at 68): "Various jurisdictions have also examined the way the responsibility for installing and maintaining alarms is managed in rental properties and amended legislation accordingly." It would appear to be the perfect opportunity for the NSW jurisdiction to implement these clarified responsibilities with the new Regulations. In late May this year Victorian Coroner Rosemary Carlin also released finding calling for stronger rules for the installation and maintenance of smoke alarms in rental properties, following the tragic deaths of two children. (Court Reference: COR 2018 4614) It is heartbreaking that many of the deaths subject of coronial inquests into house fires have been children, even more so that the findings so often are that the deaths could have been prevented had there been operational smoke alarms. Changing a smoke alarm battery once per year does not go far enough to ensure that smoke alarms are, and remain, operational.

  20. Are there other circumstances where repairs to a smoke alarm should be carried out by a qualified professional? If so, why?

    In our experience, adequately trained non-qualified technicians can service non-detachable smoke alarms, and also 240v smoke alarms except where such alarms are faulty and need to be replaced. It would be too onerous to require an electrician exclusively to service all types of smoke alarms, given the number of properties and alarms.

  21. Are any of the smoke alarm repair requirements unclear? If so, why?

  22. How much notice should a tenant give a landlord to carry out repairs to a smoke alarm, given the need to repair it urgently?

    48 hours

  23. Do you agree that the prescribed list of minor alterations is reasonable? If not, why?

    This question is not applicable to our submission.

  24. Do you agree with the list of alterations where consent may be conditional on having the work carried out by a qualified tradesperson? If not, why?

    This question is not applicable to our submission.

  25. Are there other types of minor alterations that should be prescribed, including measures to further improve accessibility for elderly or disabled tenants?

    This question is not applicable to our submission.

  26. Do you agree with the list of exceptions? If not, why?

    This question is not applicable to our submission.

  27. Are there any other situations where clause 17 should not apply?

    This question is not applicable to our submission.

  28. Do you have any suggestions on how the wording and layout of the declaration form could be improved?

    This question is not applicable to our submission.

  29. Should the exemptions provided for in clauses 19-26 continue to apply? If not, why?

    The only comment we have to make in relation to the exemptions is that all residential tenants, residing in the types of accommodation or properties provided for in clauses 19-26, should continue to be entitled to the same protections and safety measures afforded all other types of tenants, with respect to the installation and maintenance of smoke alarms. Specifically, the residential accommodation or premises should be fitted with working smoke alarms, on or near the ceiling, in the following locations at a minimum: (a) in each bedroom; (b) on any storey containing bedrooms: (i) between each part of the dwelling containing bedrooms and the remainder of the dwelling; and (ii) where bedrooms are served by a hallway, in that hallway, and (c) any other storey not containing bedrooms.  Further, that all such required smoke alarms should be checked to be working correctly and serviced at the commencement of each new tenancy and thereafter annually, including the annual replacement of any removable non-lithium batteries.

  30. Is the new exemption provided by clause 27 appropriate? If not, why?

    This question is not applicable to our submission.

  31. Is the new exemption provided by clauses 28 appropriate? If not, why?

    This question is not applicable to our submission.

  32. Is the new exemption provided by clause 29 appropriate? If not, why?

    This question is not applicable to our submission.

  33. Is the new exemption provided by clause 30 appropriate? If not, why?

    The exemption is only appropriate if a tenant is to be afforded the same protections and safety measures with respect to the installation, maintenance and repair of smoke alarms if they reside in a premises subject to a strata scheme, compared to one that is not. If the new exemption provided for by clause 30 creates an inequity for tenants residing in residential premises subject to a strata scheme, then it should not be included. As we argue that the new Regulations should provide even greater safety measures with respect to the installation, maintenance and repair of smoke alarms than currently exist, it would not be appropriate in our submission to include this exemption.

  34. Is the exemption provided by clause 31 appropriate? If not, why?

    This question is not applicable to our submission.

  35. Are the timeframes for making applications to the Tribunal adequate? If not, why?

    This question is not applicable to our submission.

  36. Is the jurisdictional limit set for rental bond and other matters adequate? If not, why?

    This question is not applicable to our submission.

  37. Are there any unintended consequences in prescribing a cumulative amount where an order is made with respect to both a rental bond and another matter?

    This question is not applicable to our submission.

  38. Should an interest rate on rental bonds still be prescribed? Why?

    This question is not applicable to our submission.

  39. Are the prescribed savings and transitional provisions appropriate?

    This question is not applicable to our submission.

  40. Are any other savings or transitional provisions required?

    This question is not applicable to our submission.

  41. Are the changes to penalty amounts in the proposed Regulation appropriate?

    This question is not applicable to our submission.

At our discretion we may remove parts of submissions because of length, content, appropriateness or confidentiality (privacy) reasons.

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