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Injuries in a rental property: Your rights as a tenant

If you are one of the millions of people in Australia that rents a property, you have the right to a safe, secure and maintained rental property that you can call home for the duration of your rental agreement.

Who is responsible when a tenant is injured in a rental property, due to non-repair or major building faults? What rights and responsibilities do tenants and landlords have? The outcomes of different court cases show the vast differences between where negligence has occurred and how it can impact everyday life for those injured.

Who is responsible for the tenant’s safety?

By law, landlords are required to take reasonable steps to ensure the safety of a property and its tenants. Before you can make a compensation claim, you must prove:

  1. The property is in some way defective according to the requirements of the Building Code of Australia; and
  2. The landlord knew or should have known about the defect or refused to repair defects repeatedly.
  3. No timely or reasonable action was taken by the rental agency or landlords to prevent the risk of injury.

What to do if you’re injured

As a tenant (or visitor to a rental property), you may be able to make a public liability claim if you incur injuries in or around a rental property. For a successful claim, you must be able to demonstrate you sustained a physical or psychological injury due to someone else’s negligence. Following an accident, you should seek medical treatment for your injuries, and notify your landlord as soon as possible of the incident.

Tips for tenants to avoid injury in rental properties

  • Avoid creating hazards by your own actions.
  • Always let your rental agency or landlord know of safety issues in and around the property as soon as possible and always in writing.
  • Ensure there is adequate, working lighting around the property at all times and report any outages.
  • For those tenants that work from home regularly or run a business from their rental property, written permission should be obtained from your landlord. There may be extra insurances you need to take out to protect yourself and your business.

Landlord responsibilities

Landlords have a duty of care to ensure the safety of all tenants and any visitors are safe from harm due to poor building maintenance or major defects. Landlords must ensure the property is safe by different means. These include ensuring that installations like gas and electricity are working, and maintaining the safety of appliances. Another ongoing responsibility; landlords must ensure smoke detectors/alarms are installed and have them safety checked regularly. Landlords should always act on requests for urgent repairs that need to occur to ensure that tenants are not exposed to unnecessary danger or risk of injury.

Different cases, different outcomes

At Shine Lawyers, we have been able to assist a lot of tenants with varying outcomes due to their landlord’s negligence. Claims of this nature can encompass both tenants and visitors to rental properties.

Landlords not adhering to tenant requests for repairs

Our client Dylan*, was a painter and decorator by trade and rented a property in Far North Queensland. The front of the house was paved but the pavers were uneven and wobbled. On numerous occasions Dylan reported the issue of the pavers to his property manager, it was mentioned in inspection documents months before the incident occurred but no action to fix them were taken.

One evening Dylan was walking out of the house carrying his son, he stepped on a paver that sunk down and caught his foot on the edge of the adjoining paver as he tried to walk forward. He fell injuring his lower back.

Due to Dylan’s profession, an injury to his back was detrimental to his ability to be able to continue as a painter and decorator. He still had another potential 10 years of working life left in him; he attempted to return to work as a painter and decorator for a few months but was unable to continue due to his injuries.

Visitors at rental properties sustaining injuries

Mary* was visiting her friend at their rental property when she fell down external wooden stairs. We were able to ascertain that poor lighting in the stairwell area contributed to Mary’s fall and subsequent injuries. A further finding also came to light that the tenant had also fallen down the stairs before Mary’s fall and she had reported the broken lighting to her rental agency at the time of her fall.

Mary injured her wrist and shoulder in the fall and was not able to work as a Residential Care Worker for quite some time until her injuries were better.

Shine Lawyers - Get in touch

If you have been injured in a rental property due to negligence from the letting agent and/or the landlord, get in touch with Shine Lawyers' public liability experts. We can assess your situation and advise you of all your available options under the law.

*Names have been changed to protect our client's privacy.

Written by Shine Lawyers. Last modified: April 29, 2020.

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