When it comes to keeping your rental property safe and healthy, repairs and maintenance have a major role to play. There will always be things beyond your control, such as storms, lightning strikes and earthquakes. The key thing to remember is that it’s not about trying to control the uncontrollable—it’s about reducing risk.
It is, therefore, your responsibility to look at what you can control and influence.
A landlord’s role in health and safety
The Health and Safety Act 2015 now classifies landlords as a PCUB—a Person Conducting or Undertaking Business. As a landlord selling a service to others, you have duty of care for the people who live and work in, or visit your property. A large part of your health and safety responsibilities revolve around keeping your property in a reasonable state of repair. You must also ensure any repair or maintenance work is undertaken safely, for example, using qualified tradesmen to do any gas, water or electrical work.
What if my tenant decides to do repair work?
If your tenant decides to take it upon themselves to do repairs and is injured as a result, you are not responsible. However, you are responsible for organising the repairs to be done.
What if my property is part of a body corporate?
If you own a unit or apartment that is part of a body corporate, the body corporate will manage the repairs and maintenance of common property, assets owned or used in connection with common property, and any parts of the building that serves more than one unit (e.g. a roof of a block of units). The cost of this maintenance and repair work is paid for through your body corporate fees.
However, you will still need to maintain the inside of your property, which could include:
Carpet cleaning or replacement.
Mould control and/or removal.
Minor repairs* (e.g. blocked toilet, leaky faucet).
*Important! Any repair or maintenance work you do cannot affect other properties. Shared walls and ceilings are common examples. For example, if you have a leaky pipe in a wall you share with your neighbour, you and your tenant may need to go through the body corporate to get the issue fixed.
A tenant’s role in health and safety
In the case of tenants, they have three key responsibilities when it comes to health and safety:
Alert the landlord of any repairs required.
Make sure the property is safe while work is being done on it.
Follow any reasonable instructions from a PCUB working on their property (such as an electrician).
Part of the government’s push to better health and safety has brought in the new Test and Tag regulations. Under these, both commercial and residential property owners must make sure their electrical appliances and outlets are maintained and periodically tested for safety.
The old saying 'she’ll be right' is no longer appropriate when it comes to health and safety—and the penalties can be severe. In 2016 alone, companies and employers in Waikato racked up $880,000 worth of work health and safety fines and reparations. Under the Health and Safety Act, fines can range from $50,000 for an individual failing to comply with health and safety, to $600,000 and a five year prison sentence for a PCUB found guilty of reckless conduct.
While a lot of this may seem obvious, ignoring the health and safety rules for landlords can have serious consequences, from fines—like one Wellington builder got—to jail time or death. Remember, if it looks dangerous, it probably is. Use common sense, qualified tradesmen and take the right level of precaution. That way, you and your tenants will stay safe—and on the right side of the law.