No one denies that safety is of paramount importance when it comes to our homes and the properties we manage. But where does the duty of care fall? If a tenant was injured due to hazardous wiring or faulty appliances, who is responsible – the tenant, the property owner or the managing agent?
Amador Garcia, founder of Safety First Electrical, worked as a self-employed electrician for 25 years, and saw time and time again non-compliant and hazardous electrical installations. He posed the question about duty of care to his real estate customers and noted many agents believed it was solely the responsibility of the property owner, while others were not entirely sure.
“So I did some research,” says Amador. “I uncovered an Australian legal case from a number of years ago where a 12-year-old girl suffered an electrical injury and a $640,000 fine was distributed – 60% to the managing agent and 40% to the landlord. I was surprised that a managing agent could be considered more responsible for the injury than the person who actually owned the property.”
“Considering all the unsafe and dangerous wiring I’d seen across my career, I thought there had to be a better way for property managers to protect their tenants and consequently themselves from litigation,” continues Amador. “So that’s how I came up with Safety First, which I liken it to a ‘roadworthy’ for properties. We offer property managers and owners a regular power, smoke and gas compliance audit of their properties to ensure safety concerns are rectified before they become a problem.”
Amador believes the main issue for property managers is they cannot see an electrical or gas problem, even if it is staring them in the face, and neither should they – only a qualified electrician and gas technician has the appropriate skills and training to identify faulty wiring and gas appliances, etc., and then make the necessary repairs to deem the property safe.
In particular, gas is a silent killer with rising carbon monoxide levels undetectable to the nose. In 2010, the tragic deaths of Chase and Tyler Robinson in Shepparton, Victoria, aged eight and six respectively, highlighted this issue and incited calls for mandatory testing of gas appliances in properties.
“We have found that 95 percent of owners undertake the rectification works when they choose our audit service,” admits Amador, indicating that duty of care is not lost on property owners. “The property owner has protected their investment, the agent has protected their business in accordance with the Residential Tenancies Act, and the tenant and their families are also protected. It’s a win for all involved.”
Amador’s research concluded that safety in property can be a minefield of complications and litigation but it does not have to be with the right preventative measures in place. For busy real estate agents and property owners, this is definitely a case of handing over the responsibility to someone who knows, and then resting easy at night.