Child lock laws in New South Wales are due to commence on 13 March 2018. This law requires that all owner’s corporations will need to have installed child safety locks on all upstairs apartments in strata complexes by that date.

This week we received an interesting question from one of our regulars. They have a landlord who has three buildings which he lets out to tenants. Although approved for strata, they have never been made strata because he does not intend to sell any of the units.  Therefore, he is not caught by the Strata Schemes Management Act 2015 or the provisions as they relate to strata. Additionally, his buildings were built before the Building Code of Australia was changed to require child safety locks.

We are back at the balustrade problem in the case of Amira vs the Dominican Fathers. We have a building that complies and is not violating any laws but is essentially unsafe for children in upstairs balconies.

It got me thinking; How does this apply to normal property management issues for townhouses, two story houses or those apartments which sit over the top of shops. Well, there may not be any specific laws, but if an accident occurs, the landlord will still be liable.

It is obviously a risk analysis for the landlord. The landlord will have to determine if the risk outweighs the cost of insuring that all the child locks are installed in windows on upper floor apartments. Obviously, we need to be sensible with this approach and make sure the child locks are on the windows where danger is realistic. It may mean that property managers also need to have a look at the balustrades and other safety items in a property.

Most owner’s corporations and community associations in NSW have a simple strategy of advising the owners corporations of their obligations. At most annual general meetings, a motion is placed to recommend that a Work Health and Safety report be gathered for the building. Owners then make a decision whether to take the advice and the information of the strata manager or accept the risk associated with unsafe balustrades etc.

We wonder if it is now a good idea for property managers to make certain that landlords are advised of their obligations in relation to balcony balustrades, staircase balustrades and child locks. Maybe suggesting that landlords obtain a safety report regarding their property to ensure their liability is a good idea. Knowing landlords, they will probably knock you back. If the property manager has taken the step to suggest a safety inspection and the landlord knocks it back, the landlord inherits all liability.

Complying with building standards doesn’t mean that your building is safe. If you don’t take care of safety, the laws won’t take care of you. Property is a great investment, don’t let it be your greatest depreciation.

This article was written by Bailey Compton, Principal Solicitor & Director at Leverage Group.

To get in touch with Bailey, please email info@leveragegroup.com.