According to the latest census, renting is on the rise with about 1.8 million people renting homes in Queensland, equating to about 34 per cent of Queensland’s population. However, a far less significant percentage actually understand tenant’s rights.
The current rental climate isn’t making it any easier. Our state is experiencing the effects of COVID-19 and seeing an influx of interstate arrivals which is driving rental prices through the roof, pushing locals out of homes and forcing renters to fear complaining about or reporting faults to their landlords out of fear of retribution or eviction.
In fact, Tenants Queensland reported that there has been a significant increase in demand for advice and assistance from renters experiencing housing stresses. So, it’s more important now than ever to know your rights as a tenant, especially when it comes to living in a rental property without any unnecessary safety risks.
So, what are your rights when you’ve been injured by a building fault at your property?
Who’s responsible for injuries sustained in a rental property?
Findings from a 2019 report produced by the Australian Government Productivity Commission found that 42 per cent of renters’ homes were in need of repairs.
In Queensland, the owner or property manager is responsible for providing a safe and habitable property for a tenant to live in. According to the Residential Tenancies and Rooming Accommodation Act 2008 (Qld), a landlord owes a duty of care to correct any hazards within a reasonable time to keep tenants and other people entering the property safe at all times.
If they fail to do this and someone gets hurt due to a building fault, they may have a public liability claim to deal with. However, the liability of landlords for injuries on rental properties depends on how it happened. Was the injury sustained due to negligence? Was the hazard identified? Did the landlord know about it?
In order to claim injury compensation from your landlord or agent for injuries sustained at a rental property, you need to show that they were somehow negligent. Negligence occurs when someone fails to take reasonable care to avoid a foreseeable risk of injury - like if a landlord refuses to fix a faulty staircase and you fall through it, or like this Sunshine Coast resident found out, if there’s a leak in the roof that hasn’t been fixed and you slip over.
Things that landlords can do to ensure their property is always to the highest standards and discharge their duty of care:
- Arrange for regular building inspections to be conducted;
- Perform repairs promptly when required;
- Hire appropriately qualified tradespeople to perform the work; and
- Perform regular smoke alarm maintenance.
When is a landlord liable for an injury on rental property?
Essentially, if a reported hazard goes unresolved causing injury to either a tenant or visitor, a landlord may be liable. A landlord is also liable if they employ an unqualified tradesperson to resolve the issue.
Other common situations resulting in landlord liability include:
- The premises being in a state of disrepair;
- Mould and moss accumulating on outdoor surfaces;
- Building standards are not met; or
- Fire safety standards are not met
When is a landlord NOT liable to an injury on rental property?
In most cases, a landlord is NOT liable if they don’t know about the hazard. If someone enters your rental property and injuries themselves because of a hazard you knew about, but didn’t report to the real estate or landlord (like a loose staircase), negligence may fall on you. Or if someone injures themselves on any common household hazard that shows obvious foreseeable risks, such as slipping on wet floors from mopping, you as the tenant will be liable. Remember, you also have a duty of care to yourself and others that visit your home.
How to report issues with your rental property to your landlord
If there is a defect or condition at your property that you feel is unsafe or could cause an injury, it’s important to inform your rental agent or landlord as soon as possible. If you fail to do so, and it does cause an injury, you may not be able to claim compensation. Remember, it’s best to provide notice in writing, so that you can keep a record of what you told the landlord and when.
What to do when you’re injured in a rental property
So how should an occupant proceed after an injury? The first point of call is tending to your injuries - your doctor’s assessments will help create grounds for legal action taken against the landlord. Then you must notify the landlord of the injury.
We also recommend seeking legal advice. You must prove injuries, loss of income, loss of enjoyment of life, medical bills, property negligence, proof of notification, the list goes on. So, it’s best to handle the matter with extreme caution and professionalism.
There has been recent movement for rental reform in Queensland, which would see minimum standards introduced. Smith's Lawyers Principal Lawyer Greg Smith said it was about time.
“The Queensland Government’s plan to introduce minimum standards for rental houses is an important step in protecting the rights of tenants, and we applaud this move," he said.
"Too often, we see lessors and landlords take shortcuts on critical repairs and maintenance which leaves unsuspecting tenants vulnerable to serious injuries. No Queenslander should have to put up with substandard safety in their rental home."