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In recent years, the state of rental housing in Australia has become a growing concern for landlords, tenants, and policymakers. Reports of deteriorating rental conditions, coupled with a lack of accountability among some landlords, have raised serious questions about tenant safety and well-being.

One critical aspect that must not be overlooked is the importance of landlords having public liability insurance and ensuring that their properties are maintained and safe.

The state of rental housing in Australia

Across the country, renters face increasing rental costs, extremely low occupancy rates and unprecedented competition. Despite these challenges, landlords have a duty of care to their tenants, who have the right to a property that’s fit to live in, reasonably clean and in good repair.

As tensions rise, we’re seeing increasing public scrutiny on acceptable rental properties. In extreme cases, like this Maribyrnong rental, we’re seeing a number of safety concerns – from mould to asbestos, as well as structural issues.

Rental properties as ‘public places’

Businesses and organisations have a duty of care to ensure the safety of people. This covers privately and publicly owned spaces such as rental properties. 

School children in school uniform running

The risk to landlords

As policymakers across the country update rental laws, the risk and liability to landlords is likely to increase.

As it stands, if someone is injured on a property, landlords can be found liable if they have not kept the home in good repair. Tenants will have to prove negligence on the owner’s part, and the law takes into account whether the cause of the injury was known prior to it taking place.

For this reason, if you are a renter – it’s vital that you raise any safety concerns with your landlord or real estate agent in writing and as soon as possible. If you’re a landlord, you should ensure you:

  • minimise the risk to tenants
  • properly address any safety concerns urgently, and
  • consider landlord insurance (occupancy insurance).

Using the Maribyrnong property as an example, should the tenants have suffered an injury because of poor conditions of the property – the landlord would be liable.

Landlords have a responsibility to comply with building regulations, arrange for regular building inspections and hire certified tradespeople to undertake work on the property.

For example, we ran a case in the County Court last year where our client was a tenant. Our client was having a BBQ on the balcony of their property when it collapsed, resulting in our client suffering from serious injuries. The balcony was found to be faulty, and the landlord was found liable.

In particular, the court found breaches and negligence by the landlord relating to adequate maintenance, repairs, and adequate safety measures. Specifically, the court found that the landlord had failed to heed the tenants’ complaints about the state of the balcony and their concerns about its safety.

Related article: Do landlords need public liability insurance?

Possible remedies for injured tenants

Remedies and entitlements vary case by case; however, we often see damages and costs awarded for the following:

  • impact on quality of life
  • diminished/loss of earnings
  • future economic loss
  • medical expenses
  • pain and suffering

The need for public liability insurance

In addition to providing and maintaining safe and appropriate living conditions to their tenants, landlords should consider public liability insurance. Landlord insurance covers things like:

  • incidents involving structural aspects of the property
  • injuries suffered by tenants, and
  • accidental and deliberate damage caused by tenants.

Ultimately, public liability insurance protects landlords against civil liability claims when someone is injured on their property. The need for landlords to carry public liability insurance is an essential step towards addressing this problem and ensuring the safety and well-being of tenants.

If you’ve been injured in a rental property, you should immediately seek medical treatment and report the incident to the real estate agent. We also recommend contacting a lawyer to see what rights and entitlements you may have.

Talk to one of our specialist public liability lawyers today

If you've been hurt in a public place, including a sports field, rental property, path or in a store, our experienced team of public liability lawyers can help. 

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