The current Health and Safety legislation imposes requirements on the landlords of rental property.
There is the overarching requirement to identify any hazards that may exist at the property and then eliminate or minimize those hazards. For landlords, this means that faulty electrical wiring, loose or dangerous flooring, plumbing hazards or any other risky fault should be repaired or rectified as soon as you know about it.
The latest H&S legislation also creates the identity of a Person in Charge of a Business Unit. A PCBU can be either a business entity or an individual. If you are arranging for work to be carried out at your rental property, you automatically become a PCBU for the duration of that work.
The obligations imposed on the PCBU include a duty of care to ensure the health and safety of everybody involved with or affected by the work as far as is reasonably practicable. This includes tenants, workers, neighbours and the general public. The landlord cannot contract out of the risk or rely on the contractor to manage the H&S risk. There are a range of penalties that can be imposed on a PCBU for non-compliance.
In practice, this means that a landlord should ensure that any tradespeople that they hire to carry out work on their property are competent, trained and (where necessary) possess the appropriate licence for the work they need to do. They should also possess and use the appropriate equipment for the job, for instance utilizing scaffolding rather than depending on ladders where that is the safer option.
The landlord should also advise the tenants of the extent of the work, how long it is expected to take, and what steps they should put in place to ensure their own safety and that of their families.
However, when the work has been completed, the landlord ceases to be a PCBU, as when the tenant is living undisturbed in the property it is no longer defined as a workplace. The landlord is not responsible for the actions of the tenants. Should the tenant, without advising the landlord, carry out work in or on the property the owner would not be liable for any injury.
Peter Lewis, VIce President APIA and NZPIF Executive Committee Member