HEALTH & SAFETY FOR LANDLORDS
At Pukeko Rental Managers, managing Health & Safety is just part of our job as property managers. But good Health & Safety practices are a team effort so this blog is to help inform NZ landlords of their responsibilities, the risks and what they can expect when something goes wrong.
On April 4th 2017, the new workplace Health & Safety laws came into effect. The act is a reform focused on trying to reduce work-related injuries and deaths in NZ, and it is administrated by Worksafe NZ.
This effects landlords. Why?
Because they are considered a person conducting a business or undertaking. (By Worksafe) This means they have a responsibility to ensure the Health and Safety of tenants, and any workers or tradies they hire when taking care of their property.
As a rental management business, we take on this responsibility for the properties we manage and work with our landlords to ensure all guidelines are met. But it is still important landlords understand the risks, and what is involved.
So, let’s look at what is expected in a little more detail…
When a landlord or property manager organizes work on a property, they have a duty of care to ensure the health and safety of everybody involved. (Including others effected by the work, like tenants) The law goes a bit further using the exact phrase "so far as is reasonably practicable". (Word meaning - Practicable versus Practical)
But what does 'so far reasonably practicable" mean? What is considered “reasonably practicable” will depend on the circumstances. Factors to be considered include:
- The likelihood of the risk or hazard occurring;
- The degree of harm that might result from the risk or hazard;
- What is known, or would be reasonably expected to be known, about a risk or hazard;
- How to eliminate or minimize the risk and the costs of doing so.
People affected include tenants, members of the public, and contractors that have been employed.
An example of 'so far as reasonably practicable' may be that the landlord decides to do some renovations so directly employs a qualified builder to carry out the job. In this instance, the landlord has control over engaging that company and is responsible for making sure they have Health & Safety policies & practices in place.
The best way for an owner or landlord to meet their responsibilities, is by making sure they contract a certified reputable company with transparent health & safety policy documentation and practices.
Any risks created by a sub contractor or tradie while carrying out the job are up to them to manage. However, if you as a landlord know about a risk on the property (eg: difficult access, a dangerous dog or a sinkhole), then it is the landlord or property managers responsibility to let the contractor know.
What about tenants?
Tenants must also be informed of any work underway so they can protect themselves. To reduce the risk, consider keeping them offsite during any major renovation project or doing the work between tenancies. The last thing you need as a property owner is a tenant harmed while you complete renovations on their home. Property owners should keep this in mind before they decide on a little DIY project in their rental while it is still tenanted.
So, in summary? All Landlords will need to acquire and keep up-to-date knowledge of the health and safety management matters for their properties. Ignorance of what is happening at ‘ground level’ will be not be a defense.
The penalties for not complying with the Act are significant - up to $600,000 and/or up to 5 years imprisonment for an individual, and up to $3,000,000 for anyone who owning rentals is their main business! (Corporate Body)
Recent history has shown us that cost is often blamed for disasters that can be avoided. But using qualified electricians, plumbers, and gasfitters to do a specific job rather than using an unqualified contractor may not only save a life, limb or property, but ensure you are protected legally.
A Rental Property Gas Leak Causes Injury And An Investigation.
On the 7th of July 2017, the NZ Herald ran a story on a gas leak explosion in a rental property. It was a horrific scene as a young couple lost everything in their home and were rushed to hospital. The gas leak may have had nothing to do with any work done on the property… but then again it might have. The investigation will determine the exact cause, and hold anyone to account that needs to be. It is a terrible situation for everyone concerned and we wish the couple a speedy recovery. It is also a timely reminder for landlords and property owners of the responsibilities they have when it comes to managing their properties, and keeping their tenants, and any others working on a property, safe. (The couples GiveALittle page)
How can property owners ensure they are complying with the Act?
If you are going it alone and not using a rental manager, then you need to make sure you are 100% up to date with the current law and your responsibilities. Check out the Worksafe NZ Website for resources and other information.
If you have a rental manager, then talk to them about their policies and practices to manage health & safety for your property. Make sure they know the law and you collectively understand who is responsible for what, and where the lines are drawn. And PLEASE use a property management company that is reputable and can provide assurances they know what they are doing. (Like us!) And when a rental manager next suggests using a professional to get some work done on your property, understand that this is in your best interest as a property owner and it provides greater protection when it comes to your Health & Safety responsibilities.
If you have any questions regarding Health & Safety practices for your rental property, we invite you to contact your local Pukeko Rental Manager to find out how we can help you with Health & Safety.