Effectively handling maintenance to avoid injuries & legal claims

Effectively handling maintenance to avoid injuries & legal claims

Staying compliant with relevant legislation and delivering a great customer experience in property management can require a fine balancing act. Andrew Cox from Maintenance Manager delivered a practical session at the REIQ Summit in March that showed how you can tick both boxes and retain more customers in the process. Here is a summary of his session…

When it comes to property maintenance and repairs, situations can escalate from urgent to life threatening rapidly. There are a number of simple steps you can take, aided by technology and best practice methodology, to avoid potentially severe impacts, from landlords exiting to tenant injuries or deaths and legal claims. This will ensure you are compliant with relevant legislation and deliver great customer service, leading to stronger retention and referral rates.

Property Maintenance – who’s responsible for what?

It is the agency’s responsibility to:

  • Ensure there is a documented property maintenance procedure in place,
  • Ensure audit trails are completed, and
  • Provide a safe work environment.

Overall, the business owner (agency) also has a duty of care to landlords, tenants, trade professionals and all staff on the team.

The property manager is responsible for performing the following functions in relation to property maintenance in a timely manner:

  • Accurately recording the process of events,
  • Warning the tenant and landlord of any defects/dangers on the premises,
  • Following up the matter of any defects/dangers with the landlord,
  • Seeking help when necessary, and
  • Documenting all actions in relation to each matter.

However…

Neither the business owner nor the property manager is qualified in building and safety matters. So how could you possibly be expected to identify a potential danger on the premises if it isn’t obvious?

The answer is to outsource tasks to qualified professionals and educate landlords that you are doing so because you are not a builder or a property safety expert.

What are the ramifications of failing to act on maintenance issues?

There are a number of documented legal cases in Australia that demonstrate what can happen if tenants are not promptly alerted to any potentially dangerous defects in their home and landlords are not actively followed up to attend to the maintenance issue. Not only could the tenant or a visitor to the property become injured (or worse) but there is also the very real potential for legal claims to be made against the agency and/or the property manager.

The minimum housing standards component of the new rental reforms have been welcomed by the REIQ. Queensland Minister for Housing and Public Works, Mick de Brenni, said in relation to the property safety and security component of the reforms, “We have considered evidence of some truly harrowing stories of safety issues in rental properties” in creating the new standards.

In short the new standards will force landlords to undertake necessary maintenance on their rental property. But why wait for the legislation to commence to adopt a suitable safety strategy and protect tenants, landlords and your agency? Why not be proactive and lead the way now? As property managers you have the power right now to change your maintenance strategies and create safer housing for tenants. Failing to properly address safety risks in the property because you failed to identify them will not stand up in a court of law should someone get hurt.

At the end of the day property safety is everyone’s responsibility. A PropertySafe Inspection Report completed by a fully qualified safety inspector, combined with Maintenance Manager (free when you recommend landlords have a PropertySafe inspection report done) will make being proactive on property safety easy and fail safe.

Benefits:

  • Saves lives and reduces injury to tenants, visitors and your team.
  • Educates landlords about tenant safety and why it is their business to be concerned about this.
  • Recommends how to solve any safety issues identified by outsourcing the work to a qualified trade professional.
  • Automates the audit trail of your correspondence, which will stand up in a court of law.
  • Reduces your agency’s risk of legal action.
  • Demonstrates best practice.

Furthermore, surveyed tenants said they would pay more in rent for a safer home.

You can download a copy of the presentation slides here or contact the team at PropertySafe on 1300 350 000 to learn more.