Raise the standard of rental housing

The problem:

  • Electrical safety switches and window-limiting devices save lives – but not all premises are required to have them.

The solution:

  • Require electrical safety switches and window-limiting devices, like smoke alarms are required.

Under current tenancy laws, rental housing is supposed to be provided in a clean, habitable and secure state, and maintained in a reasonable state of repair, considering the rent payable and the age of the premises.

These are sound general standards, but more needs to be done to raise standards in specific ways. The law should be reformed to address the following matters specifically:

  • Electrical safety switches, or residual current detectors (RCDs), save lives by cutting off electric current in the event of an earth fault. Since 2000 RCDs have been required on new wiring – but many older properties are not required to have RCDs installed.
  • Window-limiting devices are keyed locks, strong screens or bars that prevent people – particularly children – from falling from windows. From 2018, window-limiting devices will be required on high windows in strata buildings. However, the requirement will not apply to non-strata buildings: for example, detached houses, and apartment blocks owned by a single landlord or a social housing provider.

The successful reforms in 2005 that required smoke alarms in all dwellings in New South Wales should be used as the model for requiring RCDs and window-limiting devices.

Further reading

TUNSW Report: 5 Years of the Residential Tenancies Act 2015

Residual current detectors: briefing paper

Children and Window Safety Consultation Paper: submission