In light of a recent incident of the near strangulation of a toddler in a rental property, Western Australia’s Department of Commerce has asked landlords to be aware of their obligations and responsibilities.
Unsecured blind and curtain cords or chains, particularly those with loops or the ability to form a loop, pose a significant risk to children. Children do not understand a cord or chain wrapped around their neck can tighten and strangle them in a few minutes if they sit down, roll around or climb down.
Landlords must be aware of their obligations under sections 42(2)(c) and 43(1) of the Residential Tenancies Act 1987 to comply with all building, health and safety laws, and their responsibility to arrange for urgent repairs to avoid exposing a person to the risk of injury.
As a landlord, you have a duty to protect the safety of all tenants and visitors to your rental property. If a child dies or is injured in the rental premises, you could be sued for negligence.
As a matter of best practice when inspecting your rental properties, landlords are advised to check all internal window coverings are as safe as possible for children.
A mandatory safety standard for blinds has been in place since 2004. The most recent standard, which was introduced in 2010, requires blinds and curtains to have the necessary installation instructions, warning labels and tags and any components specific in the instructions as necessary for cord safety.
If the blinds or curtains were purchased prior to 2004, or there are long cords that children can reach, landlords should alert the tenants to the potential hazard and advise them to immediately tie the cords out of reach and move any furniture that children might climb on to reach the cords.
Tenants should ensure they:
– If possible, remove looped cords by cutting the cord and installing tassels. As well as taking immediate steps to reduce the danger, a more permanent solution is needed.
Landlords should ensure they:
– Secure any looped cords required to operate the blinds or curtains are kept out of children’s reach by with either tie-downs (cleats) or tension devices that enclose cords and chain loops; and
– Securely affix the tie-downs or tension devices to the wall or window frame to prevent a child from removing them.
A tenant may also ask for permission to install curtains or blinds in their rental premises. If you provide permission, it would be advisable to inform the tenant in writing they need to install blinds or curtains as required by the mandatory safety standards.
Alternatively, you may wish to specify only curtains or blind without cords or chains should be installed.
Preventable child deaths are unacceptable. Landlords should be proactive ensuring they’re aware of the dangers presented by blind and curtain cords.
Safety checks of the window coverings should be incorporated into the property condition inspection reports, in order to protect the tenants as well as your interests.